Glaciers and fjords, skyscraping mountains and verdant plains, subtropical forests, a volcanic plateau, pristine coastlines – nature’s every variation awaits you on New Zealand’s South Island. First stop: Matakauri Lodge in Queenstown.
A road trip in New Zealand, or Aotearoa (Māori for “Land of the Long White Cloud”), is a parade of breathtaking surprises. The natural surroundings possess unrivaled beauty, as the landscapes of South Island are among the best preserved on the planet. Much of New Zealand’s land is protected in national parks, meaning there are thousands of miles of outstanding hiking trails. But that’s not all: Come nightfall, South Island boasts one of the most star-studded skies in the world. Here is where nature reveals all her glory.
Queenstown is without a doubt one of the most spectacular places on earth: majestic surroundings, serene beauty, all in an ideal location on the shores of gorgeous Lake Wakatipu, ringed by mountains. Truly one of nature’s marvels. We take to the road and stop to grab a bite (a burger from the famed Fergburger is a must) before making the quick 10-minute trip along the lake that separates us from Matakauri Lodge.
Stretching across just under nine acres of pristine grounds, Matakauri Lodge has awe-inspiring views of the lake and Cecil Peak, Walter Peak, and the aptly name range The Remarkables. With only twelve suites, the lodge is intimate and private. The dimensions of our quarters are generous, with the bedroom on the mezzanine and an extraordinary view of the mountains. We’re particularly pleased with the super-sized bathtub with a lake view and windows that can be opened to let in the fresh mountain air.
Matakauri Lodge opened in 2010, founded by New Yorker Julian Robertson (who originally hails from North Carolina). The year 1978 was when Julian fell in love with this country while vacationing here. Since then, he has built three magnificent luxury properties in New Zealand: Matakauri Lodge on South Island and Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs on North Island. Today, at the age of 86, Julian remains very involved in the day-to-day operations of each of his hotels. The man is passionate about art: His personal collection is displayed in the property’s various buildings – from original Picassos to an authentic canvas by Sir Mountford Tosswill Woollaston. Julian created Matakauri to offer a place where anyone could feel truly at home – and he has succeeded swimmingly. Emanuel Grosch, the establishment’s warm and impressive Maître de Maison, provides a caring, laid-back welcome that sets the tone for a stay that promises to be divine. Here, luxury is relaxed and comfortable. There are no dress codes, the staff address you by name, and all meal times are very flexible. What’s more, you can dine in the location of your choice, from the Library to the Dining Room and from the Remarkables Patio to the Courtyard to the Lounge (or even at a private table for two at end of the pier!). Everything can be tailored to suit anyone’s wishes.
Chef Jonathan Rogers joined the establishment in 2011, a year after it opened. His menu changes daily, always featuring the best local and seasonal ingredients, all produced within a two-hour drive. Jonathan has a small vegetable garden on site, but his priority is supporting local producers and farmers. Ten chefs work beside him in the kitchens (for up to 32 clients) to compose the five-course menus. The dining room is astounding, with enormous picture windows framing the views of the lake and mountain peaks.
The interior, created by famed New Zealand interior designer Virginia Fisher, is sumptuous, rich in subtle colors; it features mostly glass, stone, and wood, with ample fireplaces and bay windows showcasing the beauty of the water and surrounding summits. The main lodge has four suites; the others are nestled elsewhere on the grounds, on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, with splendid mountain views.
The Owner’s Cottage, which opened in 2014, is the quintessential cocoon for traveling groups or families. This incredible, light-drenched, four-bedroom villa is luxurious, private, and spacious. It, too, is decorated by Virginia’s artistry. Guests can enjoy the services of a private chef, while the terrace Jacuzzi offers a sumptuous perspective on the lake. The Cottage’s privileged guests also have a private jetty at their disposal and Matakauri can arrange arrival by boat, if so desired.
We enjoy a relaxing treatment in Matakauri’s small spa overlooking the pool and Jacuzzi. For the “Back Specific Mud Treatment,” a layer of self-heating mud is applied to the back to relieve muscle pain and tension. An indescribable experience.
Around Moke Lake, not far from Matakauri Lodge, you can take a beautiful hike that loops through the meadows, with mountains at every turn. The landscape is superb and you can relish a dazzling view of the lake. If you’re feeling slightly more ambitious, the hike to Sam Summers’ Hut is definitely worth doing. This three-hour loop takes you into another era, offering a peek of a gold digger’s life. Sam prospected the area for 30 years and the cabin itself was built around 1930. It now provides shelter for hikers and is maintained by the Department of Conservation. It’s an incredible trek for nature lovers.