Just seven minutes' drive from New Zealand’s adventure capital, you'll find jaw-dropping, view-flashing Queenstown hotel Matakauri Lodge. With 11 luxurious rooms – all with majestic alpine and lake views – this boutique beauty is blessed with flawless natural assets. Immaculate service, uncontrived dining and light-filled interiors by Virginia Fisher add to the wow factor.
Majestic alpine and lake views
Warm but professional service
Skiing, trekking and boating beckon
A gourmet picnic hamper for two
In the know
Also need to know:
A minimum stay of two nights applies during peak season (15 November to 31 March).Matakauri's spa serves up a seductive menu of holistic, tailormade and temptingly named therapies, such as the Cocoon Bliss and Glacial Facial. For a uniquely Kiwi experience, the Pounamu (greenstone) Pebble Pedicure is our top tip. Babor and NZ's Evolu Botanical Skincare products are harnessed here, and naturally, both treatment rooms have gorgeous views – a beautifully soothing note with which to begin and end a session.
They don't call Queenstown, in the heart of the South Island, NZ's adventure capital because folk like to crochet. Bring kit for your sport of choice, whether skiing, sailing, cycling, trekking, golf or more high-octane thrills are your poison.
Smart, casual chic with a sporty spin is how it rolls here during the day; be as elegant as the cuisine at dinner.
Mr and Mrs Smith reviews
As someone incredibly wise and well-liked (probably me) once said, ‘You have to go to Queenstown.’ Most people don’t know the second half of the sentence is, ‘And make sure you do it properly.’
Properly, we discover, is Matakauri Lodge.
Mr Smith and I arrive at the boutique luxury retreat at 9pm after driving for what seems like 468 hours, and valiantly electing not to purchase crisps at the petrol station so as to maintain our (titanic) appetites. We share a deep, grateful sigh as we pull up, the kind that comes when you know a weekend of enormous robes the colour of celebrity teeth and pre-dinner scotch awaits. A smiling angel in fetching white slacks manifests at the top of the steps leading down to the lodge, and greets us by name. And so it begins.
The angel (Claire) kindly indulges us as we stumble from the car and stare at what lies before us. Our glazed eyes can barely comprehend the brain-bending view: dense pines cuddle the sides of glassy Lake Wakatipu, the sun (yes, sun – southern New Zealand in January has a penchant for very late nightfall) illuminates the formidable Cecil and Walter Peaks, and shadows of soft, cartoon-shaped clouds glide across the Remarkables range. Risking our reputation as totally suave luxury cats, we quietly request a photo.
Jittery with excitement – and low blood-sugar levels – we devilishly decide to head straight to dinner, until Claire artfully tells us there is a dinner jacket dress code. To the room! She leads us through the neat grounds to our Deluxe Suite, one of six that are detached from the main lodge. It sits above a wild drop to the lake, directly facing Cecil Peak.
The suite instantly reminds me how many stars (13 or so) I am dealing with at Matakauri Lodge, and that contemporary design needn’t be code for clinical. To my enchantment, I find myself in one of the chic interior design magazines I optimistically buy each month. Bursts of orange and burnt yellow against muted greys, creams and white give the suite a fresh feel, and the layered textures, cushions and rugs inject warmth. It’s cosy but uncluttered. And so smart. Mr Smith is very impressed by the massive black TV hidden behind a painting and the switch-operated fireplace; I like the separate toilet (a small but critical point when ensuring a truly romantic weekend).
Also, there is a bath, if by ‘bath’ I mean ‘magical aquatic recreation area’. This tub is set in a lavish double bathroom, perched against a window offering vistas of one of the most breathtaking natural landscapes either of us has ever witnessed. Said tub will later become the scene of an indulgent two-hour soak and a bottle of Moët & Chandon, but that’s its fault. It was asking for it.
Back in the small, elegant lobby, which boasts the kind of view hotel websites have to doctor to make look that good, numerous and attractive young staff float around politely. We are informed we’ve been given the library to dine in, a cosy room upstairs from the main dining area and with a very romantic feel. Delightful! I inhale moreish, miniature Japanese tempura prawns with tapenade, while Mr Smith sinks his teeth into butter-soft pork belly and local fish. We slurp on dazzling Otago pinot noir, all the while fretting that we should’ve tried the chardonnay or pinot gris – it’s terrifying choosing The Right Wine when you are in one of the world’s best-known and most impressive wine regions. Not surprisingly, staff members know their grapes, and together we (OK, they) make an excellent choice.
Ask for pancakes at breakfast if they’re not on the menu; when I do the following morning I’m rewarded with perhaps the finest blueberry hotcakes in modern history. Lunch is a delicious array of choose-your-ingredients sandwich and salads – it sounds modest, and it is, but the food works hard and is thoughtfully created. And there is something marvelously decadent about eating a cheese and chutney toastie in such a luxurious setting and with such a phenomenal view. (Accompanied by a glass of irresistible Amisfield riesling, of course.)
Despite being spectacularly happy lazing about our lakeside home, we figure we should see the town before we become floppy, hopeless post-massage victims, and drive the five minutes into Queenstown.
Although it’s summer (a scorching 15 degrees; it’s all relative), the town is busy hosting masses of bungy-jumpers and river-rafters, and expertly hiding all of its hip bars and eateries in tiny alleys. We have dinner at the Bunker after hearing rave reviews from gastro-snobs. It is a triumph, especially the bar upstairs, and more specifically its Old Fashioned.
We watch the choppy lake lap at the pier wall and have a coffee and world famous cheesy roll at Vesta, because one cannot eat enough toast and cheese in NZ, then head back to the hotel for deep-tissue massages. The spa, gym and pool are modest, but like the menus and the lobby, size is irrelevant when the service is exceptional. And it is: we emerge from our rooms (there is no couples room, which is sad until we realise we’ve become a couple who prefers massages in couple’s rooms, and then it becomes embarrassing) dazed and wiping drool from our mouths. Susan, my therapist, is masterful. Definitely ask for her.
Despite having only opened in August 2010, as the younger sister of the Farm at Cape Kidnappers and the Lodge at Kauri Cliffs (both consistently perched at the top of Condé Nast and Travel + Leisure’s ‘World’s Best’ lists), we don’t expect to find many teething problems, and we don’t. My only constructive piece of criticism is that an air conditioner in the bedroom wouldn’t go astray.
Matakauri Lodge excels at stealth wealth, bursting with convivial staff, terrific food and discrete luxury. And as there are only 11 rooms, it felt incredibly private. We rarely see other guests, and despite our room being under another, we don’t hear them either.
People come to Queenstown for the movie-set style views. This isn’t news. But you do not find views like this in town – uninterrupted, expansive, lake-edge vistas complemented by authentic serenity. You arrive and feel an irrational need to write a novel, or some terribly clichéd poetry. It is awesome, in the true sense of the word.
I’ve resented the eerie, disorienting 11pm New Zealand nightfall my entire time here, but at Matakauri Lodge I find myself clinging to daylight like a filthy wretch clinging to her last shiny coin. Or cheese toastie.
Farrycroft Row, 569 Glenorchy Road, Queenstown, South Island, 9348
11.9 mi / 19.2 km from city centre
- Valet parking
- Aerobics instruction
- Exercise gym
- Internet services
- On-Site parking
- Room service
- Onsite laundry
Executive chef Dale Gartland, originally from Shrewsbury in England, is a proponent of maintaining balance and stylish simplicity in the Modern European fare he prepares at welcoming restaurant the Dining Room. He views Matakauri as an extension of a guest's home, so you don't have to eat off the menu and can order tailormade dishes if you fancy something different. With a menu that changes daily, there is already ample variety, but Dale will happily source New Zealand’s finest seafood or game on request. He works with a sous chef and pastry chef and the team not only shines at dinner; they will get your day off to an impressive start, too. Mouth-watering dishes include truffle-flavoured risotto, blue cod from the Foveaux Strait and fillet of Hereford beef.
Take a window table for breakfast and sharpen the senses with those crystal-clear views. Matakauri also excels at private dining: you can eat on your suite patio, in various cosy nooks around the lodge or down on the jetty at sunset.
The dining room kitchen closes at 9pm – after a day of adventuring, you probably won’t be up much later.
Available 7am–9.30pm, with a daily-changing menu mirroring what is served in the dining room. Chefs will try to accommodate your requests if you'd rather go off piste.
The bijou bar is located in the light-filled lobby area and seats about four people, but the restaurant is where most quaffing and sipping goes on. Pre-dinner drinks are served from around 6pm in the upper lounge – a chance for guests to gather and swap views on the views. Matakauri stocks most local Central Otago wines (the house wine), a region that is renowned for producing award-winning Pinot Noir and setting new international benchmarks in quality. If in doubt, wine choices will be expertly guided in the dining room and bar, and your palate preferences will be recalled by staff the next time you ask for a drink.