Blanket Bay, Queenstown

When you ask people about the most luxurious lodges in New Zealand, Blanket Bay will normally be first on the list. It is the rumoured choice for stars including Taylor Swift, Tom Cruise and Bear Grylls (when he’s had enough of the great outdoors!) Just a scenic 45-minute drive from Queenstown, this idyllic escape is blissfully remote, whilst also benefitting from its close proximity to New Zealand’s most popular tourist town.

We arrived by shuttle bus, though were told most guests fly in directly by helicopter. Our bus driver fidgeted excitedly in his seat whilst taking us up the private driveway, eager to catch a glimpse of the exclusive hotel that is so often talked about but rarely seen. The calm and deserted surroundings are majestic and breathtakingly beautiful. The setting reminded me of the Scottish highlands; rugged and unspoilt. The main lodge is grand and inviting, it was a cosy retreat from the drizzling rain. Guests are encouraged to treat these communal areas as home, whether you choose to use the sophisticated games room, enjoy a cocktail at the elegant bar or relax by the roaring fire. Breakfast and dinner are also served here, in opulent and comfortable dining rooms.

Blanket Bay provides a boutique service, with just nine rooms and suites in the main building and four chalet suites found outside in the grounds, the maximum occupancy is just 26 people. This enables staff to deliver an immaculate level of personalised service, while guests have plenty of space and quiet to truly unwind. I experienced the Wyuna chalet suite located a few minutes walk from the main building. The suite was luxurious yet unpretentious, sympathetically designed and decorated to complement the stunning setting. From our window we could relish the views of the Humboldt mountain range across the lake and the Richardson Mountains behind us. The bedroom was carefully created to pamper and indulge your senses… the softest materials, warm wooden antique furniture, and concealed modern gadgets. The centrepiece fluffy bed let me sink into it, propped up by the bouncy pillows, and I was kept warm by the impressive, farmhouse-style fire, which illuminated the room.

The bathroom was indulgent and functional with a powerful shower (that doubled up as a steam room) and large bath. Toiletries were provided by the familiar English brand, The White Company. The thoughtful extras were endless… branded Blanket Bay water bottles to take home, a complimentary minibar stocked with delicious local chocolate and a varied choice of music to listen to in the room.

Complimentary pre-dinner drinks, creative canapés and a five-course a la carte dinner are included in the room rate for each guest. Order a glass of the delicious Amisfield house wine from local vineyards or challenge the barman to create you a classic cocktail. The intimate dining room is a special place to dine, with filmic views from every window. The team of talented chefs create innovative dishes using the finest seasonal ingredients. Highlights from our meal included a vibrant and comforting Farro Risotto with pumpkin and pea shoots, and a beautifully delicate Saiko Salmon Mousse with subtle seasoning from the leek and celeriac and complementing creamy yoghurt dressing. I loved the Tahitian Vanilla and Rose Bavarois dessert, a girly sweet treat with a range of enticing flavours and textures. For a more private occasion dinner can be arranged in the wine cave.

For breakfast there is an array of healthy and wholesome foods on offer, or you can choose to indulge with the a la carte menu and order pancakes with blueberry compote and maple butter, like I did! For a more hearty morning meal opt for the homemade porridge with apple syrup.

Many guests will choose to take advantage of the private grounds for their outdoor activities and hikes but the staff can also arrange exhilarating day trips to nearby natural wonders. Take a jet boat ride on the Dart River or try heliskiing in the Southern Alps. For a more cultured excursion the hotel offers a wine and arts trail around the neighbouring wine region.

Blanket Bay is renowned in New Zealand and worldwide as one of the finest lodges on offer. For a breath of the freshest air and luxury like no other, this peaceful alpine retreat will nourish and nurture your mind, body and soul.

More information and book a stay at Blanket Bay here:

Sherwood, Queenstown


Queenstown is full of touristy hostels and hotels, uninteresting accommodation options for lazy travellers. Those in the know book a room at Sherwood, a new design-conscious place to sleep, eat and drink. The hotel was previously a run down mock-tudor motor inn, until three friends with a creative vision bought the unwanted property and started an exciting transformation.

The newly renovated and revived collection of buildings offers guests and locals a range of activities and dining options. Join one of the early morning yoga classes or rent mountain bikes to explore town. Head to the bar for a cocktail, a meal or even listen to a band in the multi-purpose venue.

During my tour of New Zealand I visited Sherwood for a few nights stay. The retro red and white alpine lodge exteriors are a surprising contrast to the modern minimalist bedrooms. Inside, the stylish but functional furniture and features instantly reminded me of the successful Ace hotel brand. The simple and bold design is appealing and satisfying: exposed light bulbs, utilitarian enamel kitchenware and specially made Sherwood branded blankets on the beds. In the basic bathrooms there are complimentary ‘The Woods’ toiletries for guests to use. From the bedroom windows we were lucky to have views of glorious Lake Wakatipu.

The restaurant at the Sherwood is fast becoming a foodie destination in its own right. Queenstown residents flock to try the delicious weekend brunch dishes, or spend their evenings enjoying cocktails and comfort food. We spent an evening at the chef’s table, and relished the opportunity to question chef Ainsley Thompson about her dishes and the food scene in the area. The food was comforting with a creative twist, accompanied with clever wine pairings. Highlights included the addictive creamy polenta with smoked tomato salsa, sensational crispy pressed pork shoulder with fennel & orange and a subtle elderflower and strawberry jelly for dessert. Also memorable was the beautifully light Tempranillo Rosé from Central Otago, which they buy by the barrel and bottle in house.

Breakfast is very much a casual affair, served in the same dining room, with a gourmet buffet selection during the week and a lavish brunch menu on weekends. Coffee fans will be pleased to discover the ‘Supreme coffee’ shop, where I ordered my daily flat white. Try to visit on a weekend so you can head to an Awakening Power yoga class and then relax afterwards with a Chorizo and green pepper tortilla or French toast with strawberry and red currents.

The Sherwood team continue to explore all the possibilities, so they can make the most of this exciting space. I loved spending a few days exploring and experiencing the Sherwood brand, and I got the feeling that there is much more to come from this brilliant boutique concept.

More information and book a room at Sherwood here.

Minaret Lodge, Wanaka

After a few days exploring the very wet West Coast I was pleased to arrive in picturesque Wanaka, a sunnier town in one of New Zealand’s most famous wine regions. Driving in past the wondrous sapphire-blue Lake Hawea, you can see why this area is a favourite with tourists year round. In summer, visitors flock to taste wine and hike in the sunshine, whilst the winter brings regular snowfall for keen skiers. Queenstown is just one-hour drive away and the popular Siberia experience is also nearby.

Minaret Lodge is a charming bed and breakfast on the outskirts of Wanaka town. It is owned and run by Gary and Fran, a hospitable couple who transformed their holiday home in 2001 to accommodate travellers looking for a little luxury on their trip. Without the formalities of a hotel, this boutique option will make you feel immediately relaxed and at home.

minaret lodge

There are just six chalet suites, located in the garden, each with one or two bedrooms, a living area, kitchenette and bathroom. They are cosy and well designed with every amenity you could need. For Lord of the Rings fans, the Barliman’s room (which opened in 2002) is a unique option. The cabin has been carefully designed inside and out to pay homage to the iconic New Zealand films, and features oversized furniture, Lord of the Rings books and memorabilia and quirky round doorframes just like the homes in Hobbiton.

I enjoyed a stay in the Wilkin room, named after one of the rivers that run into Lake Wanaka. The room had a farmhouse chic feel, with plenty of natural light and lavish soft furnishings. I loved the bed, which was particularly wonderful, with plenty of plump pillows and an indulgently warm blanket. The petite bathroom was kitted out with a powerful modern shower and Koha Spa toiletries were provided.

The main house is used for complimentary canapés & wine tasting each evening and in the morning guests are invited in to enjoy a communal gourmet breakfast, prepared by Gary. It was all delicious… roasted vegetable frittata, freshly baked bread, juice and coffee.

Sadly I only spent one night at Minaret Lodge so couldn’t take advantage of all the included extras. With each stay guests are offered complimentary laundry, mountain bike hire and use of the wood fire sauna and spa jet pool. For additional cost Gary and Fran can arrange a massage with an experienced masseuse or a three-course dinner including local wine pairing. I was pleased, however, to accept the kind free pick-up and drop-off service to town.

Minaret Lodge is a relaxing haven in a beautiful part of the country, and it was the personal touches that make a stay at this luxury bed and breakfast so memorable.

More information and book a stay at Minaret Lodge here.