Last week I was invited to experience the ultimate in ice driving at the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds (SPHG).
Having recently being awarded "international proving ground of the year" verifying their status as a world leading testing ground, I knew I was in for a real treat! And fun fact - top automobile manufacturers secretly go here to test their cars!
‘Let the drifting begin’ I said!
Feeling very excited (but in a butterflies floating inside me kind of way) I drove up to the site to be met by stunning views of the valley and sheets of snow. We were each thrown a set of keys that unlocked a luxury Audi that was to be slid across the immaculately groomed mountain environment. The moment of truth.
Luckily, I wasn’t completely left to my own devices though. Via radio, we received expert tuition from industry leading race car drivers talking us through challenges such as the giant slalom and snow drift circle – it truly was an unbelievable experience!
It’s an adrenaline must do, the feeling of being in a Fast & Furious movie set is unbeatable… and I have the videos & photos to prove it all.
And yes, I did ask but and you can’t take the Audi home.
For spectacular scenery and wine look no further than Marlborough, in the north-eastern tip of the South Island. Our Travel Concierge Jill went on a recent visit there to sample the ‘best of the best’.
Where to stay:
The experience of staying here starts from the minute you drive through the gates, with a winding path taking your through perfectly manicured gardens and streams. On arrival I was met by Peter, the general manger. He made me feel at home and his knowledge of the area and the historic lodge was very insightful. Originally a nun's convent, it has been transformed to a Lodge with 10 luxurious suites.
I was shown to my suite on the second floor and enjoyed the huge bath and garden views. The guests all dined together and the food was some of the best I’ve ever had!
Marlborough Lodge is located just 7 minutes from Blenheim airport and is the perfect spot stay to experience the wine region!
Bay of Many Coves
I was lucky enough to take the stunning heli flight from Marlborough Lodge to Bay of Many Coves in the Marlborough Sounds. Kim greeted us and showed us around the grounds. Each suite felt private and had perfect views. We enjoyed a degustation meal in the relaxed dining area and had breakfast the next morning outside while watching the sunrise.
The in-house hot chocolate is a must!
Where to eat: Hanz Herzog Organic Winery
A trip to Malborough wouldn't be complete without getting to sample this dining experience. Hanz Was a fantastic host – the food, the wine and the setting were excellent in this boutique winery!
What to do: Wine tour
Boasting nearly 80% of New Zealand’s wine industry, you can’t visit Marlborough without sampling their wines. With so much choice available a wine tour is a great way of trying the very best in the region. Favourites include the family run Waipara Hills, methode specialists No 1 and the world renowned Cloudy Bay.
Hidden treasure: Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre
The biggest surprise of the trip was Omaka! I couldn’t believe this huge museum full of Peter Jacksons planes and historic collections were in Blenheim! I’m no aviation expert but it is a definite must for every visitor to Blenheim!
Earlier this month several members of the Touch of Spice team had the pleasure of partaking in Wildwire’s Via Ferrata and if you don’t know what exactly what Via Ferrata is, don’t worry, we hadn’t a clue either!
Via Ferrata is basically a protected climbing route originating from Europe – think rock climbing but with iron rods acting as your steps.
The day started with a drive to the climb’s location by Twin Falls, approximately a 20 min drive from Wanaka.
Before we embarked on our climb our guide pointed to the spot where we would be heading up to, and jaws proceeded to drop. It felt so high that nightfall would be more likely to arrive before we made it up there!
However, 2 hours later we made it to our destination and along the way we got to experience an activity like no other. Our ascend included climbing, not only on the iron rods but on sheer rock faces, traversing across bridges and tight ropes and getting up close to the spectacular Twin Falls. The experience concluded with lunch at the peak of our climb, right by the waterfall and views like no other.
Our experience was made all the more enjoyable by our guide for the day, Pedro. They often say that it’s the people that make the place and in this instance they couldn’t be more right. His enthusiasm together with ability to gauge our weaknesses provided us with the encouragement to challenge our fears and get a real sense of accomplishment.
Wildwire advise that if you can climb a ladder, you can do this – and they’re not wrong. The only thing stopping you is your mind! If you find the courage to embark on this activity you will be awarded with awe-inspiring views and real sense of achievement.
The adrenalin buzz lasted the entire evening and we all couldn’t wait to share this Wanaka treasure with everyone.
Over the weekend TeamSpice with partners, husbands and kids in tow were lucky enough to have a chance to check-out New Zealand’s first gravity-fuelled mountain carting adventure at Cardrona Alpine Resort.
After checking in at the ticket counter we were fitted out with helmets, gloves, goggles and personalised overalls featuring the names of racing greats, fictional and historic. Some of our favourites were Shake and Bake, Knight Rider, Mad Mike, and Nicky Lauder.
Following a short transfer and a brief safety briefing it was time to be fitted out with our carts. Designed for performance, comfort and safety, the 3-wheeled, alpine specialized carts are imported from Europe and the only of their kind in New Zealand. A few of our more hesitant riders were thrilled that the hydraulic disc brakes were really responsive, and the carts were comfortable for all shapes and sizes.
The friendly Cardrona team load the carts straight onto the lift and off once you arrive at the top, and in between you can enjoy watching the downhill mountain bikers tackle the trails. Side note: Cardrona is also home to the home to New Zealand’s highest mountain bike park offering 345 hectares of lift-accessed terrain for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders as well as private lessons.
The mountain cart trail is over 3km long & spans all the way out to Captain's Basin. Our crew got in four laps in the two-hour window, with a few speedsters knocking out five.
The verdict: we all loved this 3-wheeled fun!
We were lucky enough to get in on the last day of the summer season, and now all eyes are on Winter. Cardrona will once again host the Audi Quattro Wintergames and we’ve all got our fingers crossed for plenty of snow!
We’ll be partnering with Cardrona this winter to develop a package were our guests can purchase their ski passes directly through Touch of Spice without the need to stop into the ticket off in town or on the mountain. Combined with in-home ski and snowboard hire and fittings, guests can breeze direct from their luxury accommodation in Wanaka (we recommend Sunrise Bay, Ridge Retreat or The Dacha) and hit the slopes for first tracks. Transportation or a luxury hire 4WD can easily be included, as can private chefs, in-villa massages to soothe those tired muscles, baby-sitting services and private lessons.
Hit us up today and get those winter plans in motion, the snow will be here before we know it!
With a residential population of 8,500, Waiheke Island swells to an almighty 30,000 in the summer! So we thought it was about time we’d share with you just what makes this small island so special.
Where to stay: The Boatshed. This boutique hotel sits just above the white sandy beaches and is designed to work completely with its nautical location. Open the louvered shutters and enjoy the sea breezes from the sun lounger on your private deck – bliss!
Can’t stop thinking about: Frenchmans Hill Estate. This adorable vineyard is enveloped in lavender and exudes relaxation. The owner Luc is a man of many talents - a winemaker, viti-culturist and vineyard producer. He will have you in awe of the cellar worthy wines, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, all created on-site.
Favourite meal: A trip here wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Oyster Inn, and whilst most would rave about the oysters, I would highly recommend their fish and triple cooked chips (yes triple cooked!)
Where to drink: With its welcoming bean bags and vantage point looking out to the waters and into the beyond, Cable Bay is the place to people? watch and be seen.
Insider’s Tip: Enjoy a coffee and cake at the Annex. This quaint 1920’s cottage has been transformed into a boutique café offering the most delectable sweet treats.
Surprising fact: Did you know that there are no streetlights on the island, so on a clear night the stars are breathtakingly clear.
Overall impression: As soon as you step off the ferry the vivid colours from the water and trees feel like you’ve stepped into complete and utter paradise.
It’s easy to see why over 2,000 residents commute from here to Auckland each day, just to be able to call Waiheke their home.
Jacqui shares details of her stay at this iconic New Zealand gem...
Recently I had the opportunity to sample one of the best luxury lodges in New Zealand with my husband Josh. I have long admired the manicured grass lawns at Otahuna Lodge and its beautiful estate and dreamed of what it would be like to stay there. Thankfully I was lucky enough to find out!
As we pulled up to the great house we were greeted by Hall and Miles, the owners and hosts, as well as their team who were there ready to whisk away our bags and our car so we could head inside for a very welcome glass of wine. Hall took us for a very educational wander through Otahuna Lodge telling us story after story about the original owner Sir Heaton Rhodes who built the house for his wife as a wedding gift all the way back in 1895. Otahuna has been beautifully restored and clearly meticulously maintained by Hall, Miles and their dedicated team. And I say dedicated because pretty much all the staff we spoke to have been there for at least a decade. That’s pretty impressive in the day and age where Gen Y jump from job to job as quickly as they snap chat!
After a luxurious bath, which is my favorite thing to do when I can find a bath (and the time) we ventured into one of the beautiful drawing rooms for canapés and pre-dinner drinks. After chatting with some of the other guests who had just experienced their “best day ever” with a private guide encompassing the Tranz Alpine, hiking, and a picnic on the beach with a bottle of wine, Josh and I had a very romantic dining experience in one of the many dining spaces located throughout the Lodge. It was beautifully set up just for the two of us and we truly felt like Lord and Lady of the manor.
The food was outstanding. Starting with a delicious prosciutto with peach and buffalo mozzarella dish the courses just kept coming and we didn’t hesitate to keep eating. We sampled everything from fresh prawns to salmon to lamb rack and braised shoulder, finishing off with the most divine desert. Each course was matched with a beautiful selection of New Zealand wines. With very full stomachs we managed to roll into our big comfortable bed and sleep soundlessly through the night.
As with the dinner, breakfast is made on premise and being real foodies we again made the most of it. I love homemade breads and while I know it’s not great for the waistline I couldn't hold back on the freshly made walnut sour dough and 5 grain with my perfectly cooked organic egg omelet with king salmon and goats cheese. It was a good thing we managed to squeeze in a 30-minute run before breakfast or I am not sure I would have fit my jeans as we left the building!
With the holidays just around the corner, you’ll be thrilled to know that you can easily give the gift of Otahuna. I also highly recommend “The Best of North and South Package” where guests can enjoy 3 nights each at Otahuna Lodge and Wharekauhau Country Estate, another award-winnning luxury lodge on the North Island, and pay for only 5 nights.
It all begins late afternoon when you and your partner are collected from the grounds of your villa by Heli. The outlook from above fills you with excitement as you look out over city hustle, down past mountain ranges and over dazzling blue lakes. You are on your way to a secret location, where a glam, pop-up restaurant for two has been built especially for the occasion. Your private chef prepares a five course, delicately crafted degustation, each plate somehow more delicious than the last and all individually wine matched.
The show continues and you’re chauffeured by a champagne stocked limousine, though more Lord of the Rings-esque scenery. Your final stop is the Dark Sky Reserve, where you’re greeted with canapés before entering the observatory for a private night of comets, planets and constellations.
How does it end? Surely with a proposal, but we’ll let you decide.
Five of New Zealand's best million dollar views.
1. 50 Aspen Grove - Queenstown
The view from the infinity pool is impressive, to say the least.
Panoramic windows throughout the house allow the glassy lake and snow-capped mountains to surround you at all times - whether you're cooking up a storm in the kitchen or gazing out to the starry sky from your bed.
2. Princes Wharf - Auckland
Princes Wharf is the ultimate in urban luxury, with its premium location in the heart of the city.
Large, glass sliding doors bring an open-air, seaside ambiance and let the view right into the apartment, and the balconies continue along the entire exterior - nothing comes between you and your million dollar view.
3. Rahimoana, Eagles Nest -Bay of Islands
Set atop its own private peninsula overlooking the spectacular Bay of Islands – this 75 acre estate definitely makes the most out of these awe-inspiring location.
Rahimoana, Eagles Nest’s flagship villa, is the epitome of luxury in New Zealand and offers guests some of the most outstanding views in New Zealand from its private horizon edged infinity pool.
4. Blanket Bay - Central Otago
If it's fresh country-air, views of glassy lakes and alpine peaks which stir you, Blanket Bay has generous measures of all three.
It is widely heralded as one of New Zealand's very best luxury accommodations. You'll find it difficult not to slow down, breathe deeply and enjoy the majestic surroundings of Lake Wakatipu.
5. Treetops Lodge - Bay of Plenty
Views from the suites here overlook the forest canopy, which is a stunning sight of endless green folds and tumbles across the many valleys in front of you.
There's something incredibly therapeutic about being surrounded by all this green and nature, listening to a chorus of birdsong and feeling like you're on the top of the world.
With the arrival of the spring shoulder season, the influx of international tourists has slowed, and you have a rare opportunity to explore the beauty of New Zealand without the crowds. Here are my top picks:
1. Private boat charter in the Marlborough Sounds
Shake off those winter blues in stunning Marlborough Sounds, where the mountain meets the sea. Relax in luxury, swim with the dolphins or go diving. It's an opportunity to create memories even greater than the views!
Stay: Bay of Many Coves. Reward your tired limbs with a tranquil soak in the spa pool overlooking their private jetty and the surrounding hills.
2. Hawke’s Bay wine tour
Have a highly experienced guide take you off the beaten track to discover some stunning Hawke's Bay wines and meet the people with the passion who create them, providing you with an exclusive experience that most visitors will never get.
Stay: The Lodge at Craggy Range. The perfect retreat for foodies, featuring a chef’s kitchen, open fire-place dining and an in-lodge sommelier service.
3. Horseback riding through the lupine blossoms in Glenorchy
For about 4-5 weeks at the end of each year, the middle of New Zealand’s South Island bursts into colour — purples, pinks, blues and yellows sprout up along lakesides and in riverbeds, making the already stunning views even more incredible.
Stay: Wyuna House and wake up to some of the world’s most outstanding views.
4. Heli-fishing in Rotorua
Catch the season opening buzz from 1st October in the Maori heartland and trout fishing capital of the world. There isn't a more satisfying meal than when you've caught and cooked it yourself.
Stay: Treetops Lodge and enjoy access to seven streams, on-site trout fishing, four lakes, and over 70 kilometres of adventure trails.
5. Golf in style around Central Otago
There's dramatic scenery, lush greens and world class facilites to see! So have a heli-chauffeur guide you to all the premier courses, from mountain-top tees with biodegradable balls, to exclusive member only grounds with art collections. It’s an experience to remember!
Stay: Jack’s Point Lake House. On the doorstep of Queenstown, this ultimate luxury play pad boasts modern furnishings, a spa pool, pool table, cinema room and unparalleled views.
CATEGORY : Luxury Travel
Our winter hiding spots & exclusive adventures
The ski season is just kicking off in New Zealand, one of the world’s premier snow sports destinations. But we aren’t talking about any old skiing here. Soar to the top of jagged peaks for some daredevil heli-skiing, zoom down the best off-piste terrain, venture into the backcountry for some cat skiing, and end our adrenalin-fuelled days relaxing in luxury at the finest villas, chalets, and lodges in New Zealand.
Offering plenty of sunshine, majestic lakes, snow-capped alpine beauties, and an unrivalled selection of activities and attractions, it comes as no surprise that Queenstown, New Zealand, is as popular a winter destination as it is a summer one.
Queenstown is nestled in the Alps close to four ski resorts and fabulous backcountry terrain. Typically the ski season starts on piste by mid-June with helicopter access to the Southern Alps being mid-July through to October. We can offer exceptional skiing and boarding on exclusive terrain with untracked, virgin snow. On and off-piste, the extensive range of activities has been designed to suit everyone’s ability and desires.
To help you out further, we can offer professional in-house ski ftting when renting equipment, free chains and GPS with Thrifty car rentals for the month of August, and complimentary value-add recommendations such as spa upgrades, two-for-one offers and complimentary drinks.
Accessible only by helicopter, this luxury chalet offers unparalleled accommodation and a spectacular base for those seeking the ultimate alpine adventure in an exclusive location—high in the mountains on the edge of Mt Aspiring National Park. It sleeps eight in four bedrooms with four bathrooms.
This is one of the few places in New Zealand with ski-in, ski-out mountain access, which makes for the ultimate ski experience. With striking natural beauty in every direction, your photo-posting on social media will make you the envy of all your friends. From here, you will be helied onto exclusive untracked virgin snow, be taken on 10–12 runs, and then led back into the chalet for morning tea, gourmet lunch, and après-ski drinks.
You can completely tailor the chalet experience to suit your requirements, from a short day trip with a relaxing lunch and a glass of wine on the balcony to multi-night accommodation with action-packed alpine adventures. Whatever you choose, you’ll have a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime experience in this secluded mountain paradise.
Whare Kea Chalet starts from NZD$2,000/night.
Kumanu is a faultless luxury retreat in rural Queenstown, with stunning views across the Wakatipu Basin and beyond. Being at the centre of Queenstown’s three elite ski resorts, you have the opportunity try a field each day. With the perk of huge lawn space, heli-skiing is an obvious choice.
Kumanu sleeps eight in four bedrooms with fve bathrooms. Every room provides a feeling of serenity and calm yet draws you in seamlessly to the landscape. From the airy dining room with its ambient open fireplace, to the magnificent chef’s kitchen, which adjoins a cosy lounge. It is well equipped and appointed for winter with its large spa pool, ski storage, Cinema room plus indoor & outdoor fires.
Kumanu starts from NZD$2,000/night.