Matakauri Lodge, Queenstown: Lady of the lake

Nature's embrace ... Matakauri Lodge.
Nature's embrace ... Matakauri Lodge. 

Read our writer's views on this property below

TripAdvisor Traveller rating

90 reviews

Matakauri Lodge is part celebrity hideout, part dream honeymoon spot. But, above all, it's a balm for the crazy busy, as Angie Kelly discovered.

When Chinese movie megastar Yeo Chen had her wedding here on the terrace last month, she tweeted a photo of herself against the dramatic mountain-meets-lake alpine backdrop on the Sino version of Twitter.

As the third most popular micro-blogger in the world - out-followed only by Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber - it meant more than 20 million people suddenly had this high-end hideaway in New Zealand's southern alps on the radar.

Chinese filmstar Yeo Chen on her wedding day.
Chinese filmstar Yeo Chen on her wedding day. 

Post-tweet, Chinese papps and fans arrived in Queenstown overnight, but the super-famous bride and groom's honeymoon was undisturbed thanks to security, rows of towering pine trees and its off-road, ultra-private spot on the edge of Lake Wakatipu.

Despite its newfound fame overseas, there was no danger of Matakauri losing its sublimely peaceful embrace during our visit last weekend. Though the 11-suite property was half-full, we saw just two other guests over a two-night stay, frequenting the restaurant, spa, gym, pool and bar. (At 2½ hours, the direct flight from Sydney to Queenstown makes a weekend in this jaw-dropping location entirely doable.)

It's hard to know what to love most about a location so abundant in nature's gifts. With a vista of the soaring Remarkables range wallpapering the south-facing edge of all suites and the main building, the luxe yellow and orange interiors face tough competition in commanding attention. The changing colours of the lake, the sky-high ribbons of mountain-top snow, the lavish gardens and near-perfect lawns present a natural ensemble that is lump-in-the-throat beautiful.

Inside, the decorator's touch is not exactly shabby either, with rustic tables fashioned from driftwood, richly upholstered soft furnishings, luxurious floor coverings, local woollen throws and even two Picassos adorning the bar.

My split-level suite has couples retreat written all over it. Sexy lighting, an open fire, Bose docking station, heated towel rails and a flat-screen television cleverly hidden behind an over-fireplace print, are impressive, but it all still plays second fiddle to the view.

A day bed by the window cries out for company and I settle in with a glass of local Central Otago wine to appreciate the magnificent mountain range and watch the old steam ship TSS Earnslaw as its passes by on its run from Queenstown, ferrying day-trippers to a nearby sheep station. But when it comes to scenically positioned furniture, the freestanding bath takes the crown, sitting snugly against a giant view-facing window.

Summer in Queenstown is known for its outdoor thrills (bungy, jet-boating, paragliding and heli-rafting the Shotover River) and world-class skiing in winter. However, the closest we come to an adrenalin hit on this food, wine and rest-filled weekend is the bumpy flight into town through the alps, which seem just a wing's length away from the aircraft window. Skimming the mountain tops - still snow streaked this December day - we fly over Lake Hayes and land at 3.30pm on a Friday. Ten minutes out of the airport car park, skirting the lake's edge all the way, we pull in the Matakauri. Too easy.

From the lodge you can - if the mood takes you - tackle a network of new walking trails, arrange mountain bike trips, fly in a helicopter to see the magnificent fiord land, hit the golf course or do a winery or art tour.

But once ensconced, for us, it's all about down-time, sleep, top-notch dining, books, baths and days that begin with the faint sound of waves in the distance.

The writer was a guest of Matakauri Lodge.

Trip notes

Where Matakauri Lodge, 569 Glenorchy Road, Queenstown, New Zealand. Phone +64 3 441 1008 or see matakaurilodge.com.

Getting there Air New Zealand flies direct to Queenstown from Sydney from $305 one way. 132 476, airnewzealand.com.au.

How much Summer rates start at $NZ700 ($560) plus 15 per cent GST a person a night for double occupancy of a Lodge Room; suites from $NZ990 plus 15 per cent GST a person per night. Valid until March 31, 2013. See website for winter rates.

Style statement Hampton-esque relaxed luxury.

Perfect for Celebrity weddings, couples, honeymooners

Don't forget To have the degustation dinner menu in your suite.

Shame about Too-soft pillows.

Kudos For polished and friendly staff.

Take the kids Children are welcome - a new four-bedroom, family-friendly suite is being built this summer.

Three other things to do

1 Take a trip to the former goldmining village of Arrowtown, now home to elegant furniture and homeware shops, ski-town cosy bars, restaurants and the famous Dorothy Brown's boutique cinema (currently showing the hot-right-now, NZ-filmed hit The Hobbit). Buckingham Street, Arrowtown. See dorothybrowns.com.

2 Have lunch at Amisfield, deep in the pinot-growing Central Otago region, the most southerly wine producing region in the world. Allow two hours to enjoy the signature "Trust the Chef" menu, using produce grown metres from your table. 10 Lake Hayes Road, Queenstown, see amisfield.co.nz.

3 Take a private sightseeing tour in a Bentley with Black ZQN, which provides local driver-guides who can arrange everything from garden inspections, fly-fishing trips, art tours and vineyard trips, including meet-the-winemaker tastings. Wider south island day trips are also available. See blackzqn.com.