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Look beyond Queenstown’s reputation as a destination for thrill-seekers and you’ll find the perfect spot for rest and relaxation.
Queenstown’s showstopping scenery is the backdrop for numerous international films, and its world-class facilities make it a top destination for celebrities and rich-listers, as well as being the ‘Home of Adventure’.
But this isn’t to say that Queenstown isn’t for New Zealanders. Queenstown and the wider Otago region is the perfect destination for experiences you never thought possible, and for self-discovery and the transformative effect that travel can have.
It’s a pilgrimage for the weary in search of respite and wellness, for wholesome and unpretentious food and world-class wine, and for reveling in the breathtaking sights. You’ll return home feeling refreshed and renewed, having fallen under Queenstown’s spell.
Bungy jumping and white-water rafting can wait. There’s nothing like a relaxed day out where you can soak up your surroundings and appreciate every turned corner.
From lake cruises to garden tours, hot air ballooning and wine and art trails, there’s an option for everyone. We chose to glide up and down the pleasant paths of the Queenstown Trail on e-bikes – because why make wine tasting difficult?
The network itself offers over 130km of tracks to explore – days worth of traversing the vast beauty of Central Otago.
Central Otago is Aotearoa’s highest – and the world’s most southerly – wine region, producing 3-4 per cent of New Zealand’s wines. Subject to cold winters, and hot and dry summers, these challenging conditions produce many award-winning wines.
A good place to start is Gibbston’s ‘Valley of Wines’, renowned for its fruity and robust pinot varieties thanks to the hot summers and an abundance of nearby Cromwell fruit. The valley is home to an ecosystem of unique wineries with a strong sense of community.
Hire your e-bike from Gibbston Valley Winery and embark on your tasting adventure via the Gibbston River Trail. Glide over bubbling streams, past lavender bushes, and stop at the lookouts to glimpse the astonishingly turquoise blue of the Kawarau River.
Peregrine Wines is a family-owned producer of premium wine. As well as a hands-on, holistic approach to their organic winegrowing, Peregrine’s respect for the land and environment extends to its partnership with the Department of Conservation on projects such as a trapping programme on Resolution Island.
Wine pick: 2014 Pinot Noir – Inhale the smoky divine aroma of this spicy, smooth drop. Available at the cellar door and select restaurants.
Mt Rosa Wines takes its name from the valley’s distinctive peak, and it’s worth a visit to savour the gorgeous aromatics and enjoy the company of #bazthewinedog.
Mt Rosa has a vested interest in maintaining the land’s quality and the vineyard for future generations’ enjoyment. Wine tasting is accessible and unpretentious and, hopefully, you get to meet the vineyard’s memorable owner Guy Boanas (he may have been my favourite person on the trip).
Wine Pick: 2019 Off Dry Pinot Gris. With gorgeous notes of nectarine, citrus blossom and wet stone aromatics, you’ll fall in love with this wine’s richly textured palate.
Coxs’ Vineyard: A labour of love for owners Simon and Leah Cox, the Coxs’ Vineyard Cellar door opened in November 2019. Impressively, the vineyard’s pinots come recommended by wine master Bob Campbell, who described them as “seductively silken and surprisingly complex wines that exhibit power with commendable finesse”.
Wine pick: 2018 Pinot Gris. A warmer than usual season has produced a gorgeous wine, where the rich stone fruit characteristics are balanced with gentle acidity.
Gibbston Valley Winery is committed to grape-growing and winemaking practices that protect the environment. Its Home Block Vineyard was recently certified organic by BioGro New Zealand.
Gibbston Valley uses traditional and time-tested techniques, including handpicking whole bunches of grapes to macerating fruit by foot.
Wine pick: Vintage 2014 Rosé Methode Traditionelle. The gorgeous and vibrant layers of berry fruit make this drop a delicious choice.
The Winery (Arrowtown and Queenstown): If you don’t have the time to traverse the valley, or you’d prefer to taste your way through the region while staying put, The Winery is a must-do. It’s an innovative way to explore wines from the region: with the simple push of a button, you can serve yourself wine, Champagne, sparkling wine, whisky, port and sherry – by the taste, half or full glass. I could spend hours here, and I know I’ll be back again.
Rest and respite
It’s hard to beat a stay in an eco-minded residence that also looks out for your wellbeing. Gibbston Valley Lodge & Spa will have you enthralled with its expansive valley views and impeccable decor.
Sustainability is at the heart of everything here, from designated areas for local wildlife to enjoy human-free habitation to the chef’s organic edible garden and bedding made from recycled plastic bottles. The hypoallergenic and biodegradable soap in the bathrooms is sourced locally from Queenstown Soap Co.
There are plenty of activities on offer here: visit the wine cave, sample the Cheesery & Deli’s delights, take a walk among the vineyards or along the river, or chill and enjoy a glass of wine at sunset around the fire pit.
When you’ve worked up an appetite, choose between dining at the exquisite Gibbston Valley Winery Restaurant or the newly opened Fumé Wood-Fired Kitchen. The former’s seasonal menu features ingredients that reflect local flavours expertly matched with wines – and the service is second to none.
Before you go, try a facial tailored to your skin’s needs at the spa, or go for a vinotherapy treatment, which uses different grape and vine parts to benefit the skin. Afterwards, soak in the outdoor hot tub and relax in the sauna.
For those inspired to make this spot their permanent home, the upcoming Gibbston Valley Resort development could make that dream a reality. Built on the ecological ethos of ‘Green Architecture’ and responsible development, the Gibbston Valley Resort will offer families a little piece of paradise for future generations to preserve.
Eichardt’s Private Hotel is a Queenstown lake-front icon with views so beautiful you may never want to leave your luxurious king-sized bed.
Should you venture out, you’re in for a treat at The Grille by Eichardt’s – leave the choice up to chef and go for the Taste of the South menu. The team regularly forages in the Otago region and procured hard-to-come-by banana blossom during our stay.
Along with the foraging, Eichardt’s steps up for sustainability by implementing energy- and water-saving measures throughout the hotel, supporting local conservation trusts and volunteering for clearing projects with Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group (WCG), an organisation that controls introduced trees threatening native forests and tussock grasslands.
In between the resting and eating, I recommend a full-body massage at Eichardt’s Vault Spa – you can thank me later.
Onsen Hot Pools
Provisions of Arrowtown
Pedro’s By The Lake