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Providing you with the inside word on the newest and most exciting luxury travel experiences around New Zealand and the world, along with keeping you informed of our updates, travel tips, and upcoming events.

Muriwai Estate Wellness Retreat

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A wellness weekend with The Luxury Network, Hyoumankind and Touch of Spice

This Spring The Luxury Network New Zealand sent out special invitations to a number of lucky ladies giving them the opportunity to escape reality for a night and get away with Touch of Spice and new wellness brand Hyoumankind. Photographer Tatiana Skorik came along and snapped some beautiful shots of us enjoying champagne on the deck overlooking the ocean, dinner cooked by Des Harris and Hyoumankind's beautiful new wellness products.

Muriwai Estate – an escape to end all escapes, just a stone's throw from Auckland

The night away from the hustle and bustle of city life took place at Muriwai Estate – part of The Residence Collection by Touch of Spice – a portfolio of exclusive use luxury homes across New Zealand. Muriwai Estate is just a 40-minute drive or 15 minute helicopter ride from Auckland City Centre. It is the dream location for multi-generational getaways, product launches, photoshoots, filming or events for up to 100 people.

Our partners at Hyoumankind

Guests were met by a glass of champagne by Jacqui Spice, Sofia Ambler from The Luxury Network and Steph Wyborn from Hyoumankind – a wellness company who have recently launched their pioneering set of pillows that help you get the most out of life – both whilst awake and whilst you are resting.

“Asleep or awake, when your body is supported and comfortable you are poised to get the most out of life.”

Hyounmankind started with the aim of helping you to sleep soundly, wake up feeling fresh and ready to get the most out of your day, every day. Hyoumankind combine design with science to build the best shape for you to rest your head and relax. Their range extends from smaller travel sized pillows to specialist support pillows for different areas of your body.

Dinner with Hunting Lodge Chef - Des Harris

After time to relax, unwind and shake off a week of work, the ladies were treated to a seasonal al-fresco three course dinner cooked by Des Harris – ex fine-dining chef and Head Chef at the nearby Hunting Lodge Winery. The food was incredible!

Breakfast and morning yoga overlooking the wild west coast

After a quiet night of rest, the wellness break concluded with a morning yoga session overlooking the wild west coast of New Zealand and a delicious breakfast. A little escape from city life just a stone's throw from Auckland!

It was brilliant partnering with our friend Sofia Ambler at The Luxury Network New Zealand and we can’t want to see what Hyoumankind has in store over the coming years. Having tried one of their pillows, we’re sleeping better already!

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Our guide to Christmas Day in Queenstown 2019

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Forget the Christmas carols and letters to Santa, get the sun cream and bucket list at the ready; The Holidays are coming!

We do Christmas a little differently here in Queenstown – when most are sitting around the fire with a glass of mulled wine, we’re sipping mimosas under the sun and filling our day with adventures of a lifetime!

Imagine waking up in a luxurious home from home, the sun is shining, brunch served with a side of mountain views and instead of unwrapping the usual gifts, you get to tick some of Queenstowns top experiences off that bucket list.

Whether you’re already booked up, looking for some last-minute Festive Availability or planning for 2020, our Travel Designers will do all the gift wrapping for you giving you a family Christmas you’ll be talking about for years to come.

So here it is, our gift to you - Our guide to Christmas Day in Queenstown. Treat yourself, t’is the season after all.

1.     The Classic TSS Earnslaw

2.     Get your adrenaline pumping – Skippers Canyon Jet

3.     Christmas lunch on a peak – Fly to Milford with Glacier Southern Lakes Heli

4.     Dine in luxury with a private chef

5.     Lord of The Rings Discovery with Nomad Safari

The TSS Earnslaw

An iconic day when visiting Queenstown. Sail across the stunning Lake Wakitipu in the traditional 1912 TSS Earnslaw steamship. watch as the coal is shovelled into the giant steam engines before making your way to the on-board bar for a glass of bubbles to sip from the top deck. Watch as the mountains float by, their scale making you feel like a pin prick in the lake, before arriving at Walter Peak Farm. Take a tour of the high-country station by horse back or bike, indulge in a gourmet BBQ dinner and say cheers to a very merry Christmas under the sun. Sail back across the lake to finish your day trip and prepare for your next adventure with the family.

Skippers Canyon Jet

What would a visit to Queenstown be without blasting through the rivers on a jet boat? Get that ultimate adrenaline fix on the Skippers Canyon Jet Boat. Start with a scenic drive down one of the world most dangerous roads, Skippers Canyons, through the rich gold mining land and stunning scenery. Getting there is half the adventure! Once on the boat, hold on tight and get that adrenaline high as you blast through the canyon walls at 80kmh with 360-degree spins along the way. Blast past some Lord of The Rings sights before making the drive back to Queenstown. A Christmas gift for the full family.

Milford Sound Extended with Glacier Southern Lakes Heli

Take off from Queenstown and be transported into a land of discovery in Milford Sound. Fly the length of Milford Sound past sheer cliffs and gushing waterfalls, out to the Tasman Sea where you will land on a wild West Coast beach. In Milford, enjoy a short nature walk and gain that iconic Mitre Peak Shot before enjoying an exhilarating flight past spectacular rivers, valleys and mountains with blue-green ice falls.

Looking for something more? Enjoy your Christmas Lunch on top of a peak with your pilot preparing a gourmet platter served alongside a glass of bubbles over-looking the vast valleys and glacial lakes – a Christmas feast you won’t forget.

Dine in luxury with a private chef

Looking for a more relaxed Christmas dinner? Spend the afternoon exploring Queenstown and perhaps work up an appetite on the Queenstown Hill Track or one of the many walking tracks in the area. Return to your luxury home in the evening to a fully prepared fest from your own private chef. Sip a glass of bubbles on your terrace, let the kids wind down with a Christmas movie in the cinema or take a dip in the hot tub before dinner is served. Spend the evening with the family and let the chef take care of everything else.

Lord of the Rings Discovery with Nomad Safari

Set off from Queenstown on an adventure safari packed with breath-taking scenery, thrilling 4WD action whilst discovering LOTR filming locations. Visit the filming locations of Minas Tirith, Misty Mountains, the Pillars of the Kings (Argonath), Gladden Fields, the Ford of Bruinen and more. Travel an historic gold mining road (Skippers Canyon), following the Arrow River, stop for a refreshing afternoon picnic and take the opportunity to try your hand at gold panning – a huge part of the history of the region. Take in the spectacular panoramic views over the Wakatipu Basin before returning to Queenstown. Forget watching the movies, it’s about being part of it!

So tell us, how do you see your family celebrating Christmas in Queenstown? Whether it's this year or next, talk to one of our Travel Designers today and get into the festive spirit!

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A fun day with Funyaks

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The day began with an early start meeting my fellow group members at The Station building in Queenstown and boarding the bus to Glenorchy. No matter how many times I drive the road from Queenstown to Glenorchy, its beauty never fails to amaze me. Sitting lake-side I watched the ripples on the lake and pondered what kind of weather the day had in store for us!

On arrival to Glenorchy, we were taken into the Dart River Adventure base building and briefed on what lay ahead. We were then kitted out head to toe in wet suits, booties, thermal jumpers, a neck warmer, a coat and to finish it off, a life jacket! We were toasty and ready for the day ahead.

We boarded the bus for a short drive just a few minutes down the road to the jetty where our jet boat awaited us. Aboard the jet boat we were given our instructions to hold on and enjoy the ride and that’s exactly what we did! Starting with a few big spins on the lake, we were then heading up the Dart River for our 50 minute jet boat ride which was full of thrills along the way. We then arrived at the totally remote beach 40km up the river in the National Park, windswept and ready to meet our guides for the rest of the day.

Here we were introduced to Morgan and Toby who would be our guides for the day and they were brilliant from start to end. Instantly making me feel at ease due to the lack of kayaking experience I had and the ever building wind which wasn’t filling me with confidence as to how easy navigating our way down the river would become! After our briefing on how to do the different strokes and navigate the boat, we were off!

The great thing about the Funyak’s is that you really can do as little or as much work as you want to do. Pair up with someone and sit in the front and all you need do is simply put in a few strokes to keep the momentum going ( the wind made sure we didn’t need much extra momentum) or sit at the back if you want the challenge of keeping the Funyak in the right direction and trust me, it is a challenge! I sat in the back and battled with the wind to keep us in the right channels along the way and I loved it!

Down-stream slightly, we were lucky enough to be able to kayak through the Rockburn Chasm which I was in ore of. The Chasm naturally formed by earthquake and then filled with water, it was beautiful and so peaceful!

Around 45 minutes after we set out,  we had arrived at our lunch spot – The Rockburn Hut. The hut belongs to the department of conversation but was donated to them by Dart River Adventures. The guides off loaded our lunch from the Funyaks and laid out a delicious spread of fresh meats, cheese, salads and lots of cake treats to keep our energy levels up!

After lunch, we were warmed and energised and we set off on our final leg of the river. As the wind had picked up by then, the guides rafted us together to navigate the rest of the river which was great (I was grateful of the rest by then!). Toby, our guide was rafted to us so we chatted to him the rest of the way down hearing many of his stories of the last 5 years working on The Dart River and just how much it has changed in that time. You can tell how much these guides love their job and why wouldn’t they!!

Once we finished the final leg, around 45 minutes later, we arrived at Paradise Beach where our busses were waiting to collect us and our Funyaks. We then had a 30 minute drive back to base where Morgan entertained us the whole way with stories of Paradise and how it came to be such a popular filming spot today!

Once we were de suited and booted, it was time for a quick drink in the old Glenorchy Pub for a catch up on all things Funyak. It really did live up to its name!

Thank you to our guides and Dart River Adventure for an amazing day out!

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Our ultimate gift wish list for 2019!

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Eschew the shops this festive season and spend more time making memories with those that matter most. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday gone by, there’s a new addition to this holiday season that we predict will be snatching up the limelight – Say hello to Travel Tuesday.

2019 is the year to give the gift of a lifetime, unforgettable memories and ultimately, happiness. Researchers have found that experiences deliver longer lasting happiness than their material competitors, something we understand all too well.

At Touch of Spice, experience is everything! We constantly have our finger on the pulse of the latest and greatest unhidden gems throughout the South Pacific. Our passion is crafting unique, once-in-a-lifetime experiences that promise to always take our guests above and beyond the norm. Which got us thinking – if we could wrap up our gifts of a lifetime, what would they be? Whether it’s something for the ultimate adrenaline junkie, foodie, wine lover or wilderness explorer, here’s our team’s ultimate gift wish-list for 2019!

(Prepare yourself - this dose of ‘Travel Tuesday’ inspiration might have you running for the airport sooner than expected!)

River Journey - Charlotte, CEO

You mention River Journey in the office and Charlottes eyes light up. This is the ultimate gift for wilderness explorers - What more could you want for than jet boating in a glacial lake, rafting down a gentle river through tropical bush land and trekking to finish at a rugged South Coast beach? Stay in DOC hunts along the way, trek through untouched forests, bird watch, share amazing stories and enjoy all types of luxury you wouldn’t traditionally find in the wild. Sip mulled wine and graze on a gourmet platter upon arriving at your hut. Enjoy a homemade feast from your private guide, matched perfectly with Central Otago wines of course, and take a private jetboat or heli out the next day to make sure you exit in style! It’s the perfect gift for that inner adventurer.

 

A day with Christchurch Heli’s - Amy, Senior Marketing & Product Manager

Any talk of Christchurch and Amy is in! Lifting off from her favourite Residence Collection property – Dancing on Moonlight, fly off for a day of discovery. With whale watching from the air in Kaikoura followed by a freshly caught and prepared seafood lunch served by an alpine tarn, it’s a day of appreciating the sights and flavours of New Zealand’s oceans. Explore the mountain tops, trying your best to spot the native birds and share stories with your guide along the way. Fly from the peaks to the vineyards and tantalise your taste buds at the famous Pyramid Valley Vineyard. Perhaps pick up a bottle or two for home and finish the day with a sunset flight home – a day for foodies and nature lovers alike!

 

Rolling around Rotorua - Sammy, Senior Travel Designer 

Sammy is a lover of the North Island. After visiting our beautiful property Ataahua Lodge a couple a months ago, Sammy discovered what Rotorua really had to offer. Start the morning at the home of zorbing, picking one of the four mountain side-tracks and placing your bets on who can roll the fastest. After finding your feet, try your hand at the rolling tracks on Redwoods famous mountain bike tracks before rolling down the rivers of Rotorua on an adventurous rafting trip. Take on the 7-metre waterfall at the end and finish the day with a splash – a gift for adrenaline junkies!

 

Wine and Dine in luxury - Lyndal, Property Manager 

Not all experiences need to include helicopter rides or adventure. Lyndal, our Property Manager, has a passion for design, interiors and local (most of the time homegrown) food and wine. Lyndal would enjoy nothing more than a glass of stunning Central Otago Wine served along side a chef prepared meal in her favourite Residence Collection property – Bob’s Cove Luxury Retreat. Start the day with a private wine tour to some of Gibbston Valleys most exclusive wineries – squeeze the grapes, sample the best and meet the wine makers themselves. Select a couple of your favourite bottles before stopping by a local farm to collect some fresh produce and returning home. Finish the day with a chef prepared meal with close friends and family overlooking stunning Bob’s Cove, and simply enjoy a slice of true luxury in the comfort of the ultimate home from home. The Perfect gift for the full family to enjoy, foodies and wine lovers – a true taste of luxury in Central Otago.

 

The Pods at The Lindis - Judi, Villa & Guest Experience Manager 

After staying at the stunning Lindis a few months ago, Judi has been itching to go back! And just when she thought a stay at The Lindis couldn’t get any better, they introduce The Pods. Sleeping under the stars in a private, mirrored glass pod overlooking the stunning Ahuriri Valley means star gazing at night and rising to the sun in the morning. Watch as the ever-changing weather rolls in from the luxury suite or sip bubbles in the private deck front hot tub. With the main lodge only a stone’s throw away from The Pods, dinner and drinks will be served in the main restaurant – a meal Judi still raves about. Finishing your evening with a spot of star gazing will make for a stay like never before – the perfect gift for you and your other half.

Need some more inspiration? Talk to one of our Travel Designers today and let us craft the perfect gift to give this holiday season. Let us make 2020 a year to remember!

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Our Top 5 Places to spend Thanksgiving & The Holidays

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The holiday season is about two things and two things only – Family and food! There are few joys in life as simple as digging into a feast with your loved ones, reminiscing about the year gone by and getting excited for the new year ahead. So, we thought we’d give you some food for thought, a conversation for starters and a dollop of inspiration for the ultimate dream spots to spend the holiday season in 2020 (if you can wait that long!)

1. Omaru Bay, Waiheke Island

Situated on the stunning and breath-taking island of Waiheke, Omaru Bay is the ultimate slice of paradise in New Zealand’s North Island. With seven bedrooms sleeping 18, space is of no concern. Relax into the slow pace of island life, let the kids run wild on the lawn and take that well deserved you time with a morning dip in the infinity pool. Spend your afternoons on your private beach, kayak from a private jetty and sink into the tranquility that comes with surrounding ocean views.

The expansive deck and open plan living, dining and kitchen area are the perfect spot to indulge in a feast, toast with a glass of champagne and celebrate the holiday season with those that matter most.

 

2. Ataahua Lodge, Bay of Plenty

Lined with world-class artworks, antiques and venetian furniture, fall into an Italian inspired world where family, food and beauty form the heart of the home - a natural oasis to unwind, relax and accept carpe diem. Enjoy alfresco antipasto or tear apart a pizza from the wood fired oven with the family in the expansive gardens. Feeling fancy? Indulge in a chef-prepared meal in the formal antique dining room before following the curved staircase down to the wine cellar and tasting room. Let the children wind down with a movie in the cinema while you sip a digestivo or glass of New Zealand’s finest.

 

3. Dancing on Moonlight, Christchurch

Just 15 minutes from Christchurch Airport, Dancing on Moonlight is the ultimate private sanctuary to escape with the family. A working horse stud farm with its own private golf course, stunning luxury lodge, hot tub and orchards makes for a retreat like no other. Join a private chef and forage in the orchards, serving straight from the farm to the table some of the freshest produce on offer. Feel like getting more involved? Take a cooking lesson with your private chef and serve the family a tasty homegrown and home prepared meal under the trees in the blossoming gardens. The whole place is energy positive thanks to its innovative solar power credentials – a touch of eco-luxury that everyone can get on board with.

 

4. The Dacha, Wanaka

Indulge in dinner with a side of lake and mountain side views at The Dacha. With retractable doors the length of the home, welcome the outside in as you sit down with the family for a feast. Looking for a family adventure? Join a private guide for a Hook to Fork experience – hiking, rafting and drift fishing, take the catch of the day and then let a private chef do all the hard work as you sit back and relax after a day of activities.

 

5. The Elms at Lake Hayes Collection, Queenstown

Thinking about coming away with more than just the family? The Elms at Lake Hayes Collection is the perfect spot for family and friends traveling together. This collection of three lakefront adjoining apartments gives space, luxury and stunning views in abundance. Choose from one, two or three apartments and enjoy a long lunch on the top floor balcony or a BBQ on the ground floor terrace – whatever your flavour, The Elms at Lakes Hayes will hit the spot!  

Feel like dining out? Only a five-minute walk from renowned Amisfield Bistro and Winery, treat everyone to lunch overlooking the vines or a full degustation dinner. Amisfield serve the finest local produce alongside perfectly matched wines – a taste sensation that should be on every holiday bucket list.

Need some more inspiration? Chat to one of our Travel Designers today and get excited for what the 2020 holiday season could serve up!

 

 

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The Top 5 Places to stay for Queenstown Marathon Weekend

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Whether you’re taking part or cheering on from the side lines, the Air New Zealand Queenstown Marathon is one of the most exciting and active weekends in Queenstown's very busy calendar. Set amongst the natural wonders, dramatic valleys and mountain ranges that give this magnificent town it’s worldwide recognition, runners from all over the world will be coming together for the challenge of a lifetime. With challenge comes reward and what better way to treat yourself than some R&R in some of Queenstown's most exclusive homes.

So here it goes, our top 5 spots that you’ll be sprinting across the finish line for.

1. Bob’s Cove Luxury Retreat

Only 15 minutes from the heart of Queenstown, Bob's Cove Luxury Retreat is a slice of lakefront paradise - the ultimate spot to relax after the run. Sink into the fur lined bean bag on the lawn or into one of the many sofas, whilst a private chef prepares a well-deserved feast to enjoy, with a side of glassy Lake Wakatipu views. Sleeping ten and featuring five-bathroom suites, there’s enough space here for you and all your cheerleaders to sit back, relax and enjoy the tranquillity of the surrounding mountains.

2. Ladena

Next up we have Ladena on Queenstown Hill. Wake up to stunning panoramic views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables Mountain Range and feel inspired about the challenge coming your way. Take a well deserved soak in the hot tub after the race and feel the buzz from the town centre as the runners cross the finish line. Relax around the outdoor fire in the evening and embrace the feeling of ultimate achievement!

3. Stelvio

Located in the heart of Queenstown Hill, a stay at Stelvio is guaranteed to be a winner. With stunning views over Lake Wakatipu, room to sleep ten, a private gym for any final pre-race day training and a terrace hot tub for the ultimate post run soak, let your muscles relax, put your feet up and say cheers to you and the view from Stelvio.

4. The Elms at Lake Hayes Collection

Based on the edge of stunning Lake Hayes, The Elms at Lake Hayes is a collection of three adjoining apartments, each oozing luxurious lakefront views and space for the full team. Choose from one, two or all three of the apartments and rest assured that everything you need is on hand. Watch as the race goes by your windows, cheer on from the balcony hot tub and enjoy the buzz from beyond the town centre – the ultimate spot whether you're watching or running.

5. Cascata

Now this was a tough one but our champion stay has to be the entertainers haven that is Cascata. Overlooking the Frankton Arm and on the back on Queenstown Hill is the home with everything. Wake up to views only most get to dream of, warm up in your private gym and get pumped with surround sound music throughout. Cross the finish line and cheers a glass of bubbles from one of the two roof top terraces, take a dip in the hot tub and let everything go with a session in the sauna. Relax in the evening with your feet up in the media room and let a private chef prepare a feast fit for a champion – you’ll deserve it!

Good luck to everyone running in 2019 and if you're thinking about taking part in 2020, we recommend getting in touch to book your accommodation sooner rather than later. Get in touch with one of our Travel Designers to get their bespoke recommendations for you. We challenge you to find more luxurious places to stay! 

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Skippers Canyon: Our loot of memories

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The day started like many, running slightly late and in dire need of coffee, but the beauty of a private guide means there’s no such thing as having to work to a timetable. So once the coffees were procured thanks to Franks Eatery, we set off with our private guide, Lee from Alpine Luxury Tours. After a quick stop to pick up his guiding partner, history extraordinaire and gold panning expert Paul, we started our adventure into Skippers Canyon.

A drive to remember

Skippers Canyon is regarded as one of the most breathtaking roads in the world. I’m not entirely sure when Mercedes designed their Sprinters they thought the luxury vans would traverse such a road. Yet, the transport was perfect, sitting high to maximize the views through the mountains, canyons, and down to the turquoise rivers below. The 360 degree visual smorgasbord enhanced by Paul’s stories of ‘bus scratch’ corner, and the ‘retirement home’ one of the pioneers built in the late 1800’s to be closer to town (still would have been an overnight by horse into town), and the last remains of the Halfway Hotel, that gold miners would overnight before heading further into the remote Skippers Canyon. Skippers Canyon is certainly one for the senses – the scenery like no other and the sound – utter peace.

Lunch was at the old school house, lovingly restored with artifacts and photos to understand the life of the families that lived in some of the most remote parts of the greater Queenstown basin.

A golden day for everyone

On the way home we stopped midway at Deep Creek, where Paul taught us how to pan for gold. The children loved it and the adults too! Everyone but me was successful at discovering gold with each pan. I tried to reason that my pans of river shingle didn’t have any gold in them, yet statistics would suggest given everyone else was successful multiple times it might in fact be my lack of: a) technique b) deft touch and c) patience. While our loot would struggle to earn a six pence, the little jar of gold that my god daughter took as a keep sake (and didn’t let it go the rest of the weekend), the memories and experience – all priceless.

Given we had no time constraints, we basked in the sunshine with a rather competitive stone skimming competition across the Shotover River, everyone involved, including Lee and Paul. At times it turned into straight out rock throwing to watch and hear the plop of the rocks in the pristine water to the delighted giggles of the kids.

An end to the day that was as sweet as honey

As with any perfect private guide as we headed back into Queenstown the discussions turned to what next. We finished the day at Buzzstop to sampling the honey and experiencing honey spinning. I had a bee nibble honey from my finger while also learning that bees have five eyes. Who knew? Thanks to Nick and Rosie for showcasing a great experience and a perfect way to finish a fantastic day for young and old.

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The Fiordland Jewel

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Last weekend the Touch of Spice team were lucky enough to head out on the Fiordland Jewel – the luxury yacht built by Fiordland Discovery specifically designed to offer guests the opportunity to explore Milford Sound in the comfort of high-end accommodation.

Our driver Hal picked us up in Queenstown to start the beautiful drive down through southland and into the Fiordland National Park. Upon arriving at the boat were greeted by the happy, smiling crew ready to welcome us on board.

A wonderful welcome

After a short welcome we were invited to tuck into a delicious platter of snacks as the boat headed out towards the west coast. We were underway for around five minutes when we decided to brave the elements and head up to the top deck (complete with heli pad) where we were greeted by a stunning view of a rainbow.

Onboard accommodation

The onboard accommodation was better than any boat we have been on. With a mixed group of couples and friends between us we were able to test out the Endeavour Cabin (2 x king singles), Captain Cook suites (Queen bed) and last but certainly not least we were lucky enough to stay in the Governors Suite that occupies the full top deck of the boat. All cabins had ensuite facilities and brilliant showers – perfect for warming up after our dip in the fiord later that afternoon!

Chasing waterfalls

As we meandered our way along the side of the fiord we were wowed by the scale of the mountains that surrounded us as the skipper pointed out a waterfall three times’ the height of Niagra Falls! We got up close and personal with a few and went out on to the bow of the boat from where you could really appreciate the full scale and feel the spray as the glacial cascades hit the waiting water – quite the spectacle to behold!

Water sports and swimming

Having been out to sea and felt the swell of the Southern Ocean it was time to head back into our home for the night – a private mooring in Deep Water Bay. Here the team got out the kayaks and encouraged us to go exploring. This was probably our favourite part of the day as the sun decided to poke it’s head through the clouds and beam down on us as we paddled our way along the fiord. After this a few of us decided it was time for a dip – the sun was our after all! A number of the team jumped straight off the helipad on the top of the boat – a heady mix of adrenaline and glacial water meant they resurfaced gasping but with a huge sent of achievement and smiles from ear to ear.

Delicious three-course dinner

After showers and warming up it was time for our well-earned (or so we felt) three course dinner. We sipped on Wet Jacket rose to accompany our fresh Crayfish served with a curry crayfish bisque. This was followed by incredible blue cod and a delectable gluten free brownie. For the entire duration our dietary requirements (and we had a few) were accommodated with ease.

Unrivalled knowledge & sustainability

After dinner we were treated to a talk and a show about what the Fiordland Discovery do when they don’t have guests on board. This is a lot of exploration, diving, exploring and discovering of new species living in Milford Sound that aren’t known anywhere else in the world! The team had endless knowledge that kept us enthralled.

Winding down on the top deck

After this it was time to wind the evening down in the hot tub on the top deck. As we sat, sipping local bubbles from Quartz Reef, chatting to our shipmates (a multi-generational family all the way from Sydney, and the Grandparents Portugal) we all agreed there would be no better way to explore Milford Sound. The next morning we were treated to a brilliant breakfast on the way back to the dock, ready to start our unwelcome journey home!

Thank you, Fiordland Discovery team, for having us on board! If you have any questions about heading out on the Fiordland Discovery overnight cruise, or even one of their longer excursions down to Stuart Island, get in touch with one of our team who are now experts!

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A river journey adventure with New Zeal

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‘Adventure’
Noun
An unusual and exciting or daring experience.

Last weekend, myself and five others from the Touch of Spice team embarked on an adventure of a life time – a River Journey with the amazing team from New Zeal. Usually a team focussed on glitz and glamour, we were more than sold on a new kind of luxury – getting away from it all!

With weeks of planning gone by - all from Paul, our lovely guide from New Zeal (our only worry was packing warm socks!) we were an office of giddy children eagerly awaiting our trip into the wild by late Friday afternoon. 

By the time Paul arrived at our Queenstown office we were amped to go. Rolling through the door with what looked like giant Santa sacks, we were given a very quick lesson in packing only the essentials – some struggled with limiting her glamourous wardrobe but Paul clearly knows when to pick his battles! After packing, it was time for our first team briefing and Pauls energy oozed into the room and you could feel the buzz in the air. We had a run through the plan of the weekend – jetboats, rafting, DOC huts and native bush were all on the agenda.

 

‘Adventure is out there!’ – Charles F Muntz (Up)

We were greeted by our second guide for the weekend Dan who helped up pack up the two Land Cruisers, split the team in two and hit the road heading south. With Queenstown in the rear-view mirror, car snacks at the ready and (sometimes questionable) music lined up, our adventure was underway.

After a three-hour drive and a quick pit-stop in Mossburn for dinner we arrived at Lake Hauroko – in complete and utter darkness! We were met by the amazing Roffy from Wairaurahiri Wilderness Jet who was ready to throw us into the deep end (although we’re glad this wasn’t literally) with a jet boat ride across the lake. If you’ve ever been Jet boating before, you know the thrills – but have you ever jet boated in complete darkness, on New Zealand’s deepest lake (1km deep) with only the moon and milk way to guide the way? No? We have! A once-in-a lifetime experience where I think my solid laughter and fit of the giggles kept everyone entertained.

30 minutes later and with a great level of skill Roffy docked the boat and we began to unload all our gear. Base for the night was a quintessential DOC hut – being from Scotland, I was excited to experience my first ever hut! Paul already had the fire roaring and drams of whisky poured as we got to the hut with our bags – it felt like a touch of Scotland in the New Zealand wilderness! We relaxed, chatted and enjoyed some nibbles before bunking down for the night.

‘Rolling down the river’ – Tina Turner

What’s the best thing about arriving in the dark? Waking up in the morning in absolute awe of the mountains around you. I’ve never seen snow capped peaks beside lush tropical forests and just to make it even more mesmerizing, a rainbow stretched across the lake with nature being the pot of gold at the end.

Paul cooked up a feast for breakfast, we prepped lunch, packed the rafts and got ready to rock and roll. We paddled across the lake to the mouth of the Wairaurahiri River learning the tips and tricks of rafting - Paul got a little too excited and before we knew it had managed to tip Pete and himself overboard. Within seconds they were back in the raft and managed to stay in for the rest of the journey – I think Pete was glad about that!

Being one of only a handful of groups to ever raft this river, it was an experience I’m sure none of us will ever forget. The bumpy rapids kept us on our toes but in between we got lost in the tranquillity, silence and depths of the native bush lining the river. It’s not very often in todays world that your head can feel completely empty - turns out my place of Zen is on a raft in the wild. 

 

As we came around a bend in the river Paul decided it was lunch time. We pulled the rafts to the side to the river, to the bottom of a steep cliff face. Bit of a random place to stop I thought but before we knew it we were clambering up the rock face following a rope tied around a tree. When we finally made it to the top, we found a slightly creepy hut – that was out lunch spot! After warming up around the hut fire, a cup of soup and some delicious wraps (good job Stephanie!) we were ready to get back to the boats. As we wandered through the bush to get back to the river I was in awe of our surroundings – silver ferns (which I’d never seen before), glowing moss and everything you could imagine for a tropical forest – luckily no creepy crawly’s (that we spotted anyway).

We continued down the river challenging each other with our most mind-boggling riddles, dodging and diving under tree branches, bird watching and smelling the fresh ocean air coming up the river. By the time we reached our second DOC hut we had been on the river for nearly 5 hours. We unloaded the rafts and just as we finished pulling them onto the side of the bank we were greeted with a glass of mulled wine and a delicious gourmet cheese platter – with Touch of Spice there’s a slice of luxury even in the wild.

‘Adventure is not outside of man, it is within’ George Eliot

After drying off, warming up and unpacking we set off on a walk through the bush. First challenge – an insanely thin, patch worked, swinging wire bridge over a fast-moving river – “just don’t look down” became the moto. Once over the river we discovered all the native plants as we wandered towards the southern coast. Living in Queenstown but being the biggest beach lover, I couldn’t wait to see the ocean and wow was the journey worth it. We walked along the coast, found the perfect spot and took a moment to revel in the adventure gone by and the beauty in front of us. In the sound of the waves and fresh ocean air I think we all felt a feeling of achievement, team spirit and all-round happiness – simple luxuries!

 

Back at camp we settled in for the night, enjoyed some beautiful Central Otago Wine that Paul and Dan had carried along the way that was paired beautifully with a delicious home cooked dinner. With freshly hunted venison on the menu (caught and prepared before leaving Queenstown), fresh seasonal vegetables and chocolate filled bananas for dessert, it was a feast I think we all deserved! We spent the evening chatting, saying multiple cheers and most importantly, laughing. As the night slipped away we bunked down for our final night in the wild.

We woke up to clear blue skies and I took the chance to enjoy my morning coffee by the river – a moment of calm to really take it all in. After another delicious breakfast, we packed up our bags and took one last walk to the beach. The sun was on our faces and as we stood on the beach in the far south of New Zealand, we could spot Stewart Island off in the distance – wow did we come far!

Homeward bound

From the beach front we once again met with our jetboat driver Roffy. He had come down the river just for us as it’s the only way to get out of the area – that’s how remote we really were. After packing up the boat and strapping everything down we set off upstream. It was amazing to see everything we’d seen the day before from a different perspective and speed. We bumped our way up the rapids like we were in a James Bond movie, ducking under a few tree branches and taking it all in for one last time.

As we blasted our way around the last bend in the river to the opening of Lake Hauroko, the snow-capped mountains were back in view and our adventure was nearing an end. The trip across the lake was bumpy to say the least – you know to prepare to get wet when even the driver stops to don his industrial waterproofs! We rolled with the waves on the choppy lake, everyone thankfully staying aboard, and appreciated the mountains around us.

Once at the jetty where our adventure began, we unloaded the boat and had our final team debrief before the drive home. Our adventure had started with excitement, laughter and a want for adventure and I think we can all say we got that and so much more. It was team building, relationship building and character building to an extreme. It was adventurous, empowering and inspiring but most of all, it was a once-in-a lifetime experience that will stay with every single one of us forever – a weekend of true happiness, ultimate smashing of bucket list goals and really, a weekend of the simple true luxury of getting away from it all!

Thank you again to Paul, Dan and New Zeal – I can’t wait for another adventure into the wild!

 

 

 

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Alpine Wine Tours - Progressive Dinner Tour

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Last weekend the Touch of Spice team were lucky enough to experience a brand-new concept dinner tour brought to life by Lee and Emma from Alpine Wine Tours. These unique dinner tours aim to take in some of the top eating and imbibing experiences from Queenstown through to Arrowtown and the Gibbston Valley in one brilliant evening of food and paired wine.

A Trio of Entrees at Canyon Brewery

We began our evening with a cocktail at Sundeck Rooftop Bar where we met with Lee for a brief catch up before the tour began. From here we met our wonderful guide for the evening Rob who swiftly got us off to our first stop - Canyon Brewery. Sitting by the fire we sat down and were immediately greeted by the drinks that we had pre-ordered. Being a brewery for this stop we could choose from either paired wines or beers to accompany our delicious first course (a trio of goats cheese Bellini, mystery wonton and crispy pork banh bao bun). I opted for the wine which included some of the areas finest tipples from Quartz Reef bubbles to begin, through to Mount Difficulty’s famous Roaring Meg Pinot Noir.

Main Course & paired wine at Kinross Winery

The next stop saw us touring through the valley behind Arrowton through to the Gibbston Valley and our next stop at Kinross Winery. As well as producing their own wine Kinross works with local wineries that don’t have their own cellar door to offer tastings of their wine to visitors. Tucked up in the alpine chalet style dining room we sat and chatted whilst our wonderful host poured us a selection of wine from these wineries. Valli Pinot Noir was a favourite, as well as Kinross’ own ‘Liquid Gold’ Pinot Gris. All but two of the group had opted for the pork belly which went down extremely well. A new seasonal addition to the menu was the blue cod which I will certainly be trying on our next visit!

Delectable dessert at Aosta

Last, but certainly not least on our terrific tour was the newest addition to Arrowtown’s buzzing food scene – Aosta. Marrying local produce with cooking techniques from the 45th Parallel in the northern hemisphere (which happily happens to be northern Italy) Aosta has created a truly unique dining experience.

We were thrilled when we found that the tiramisu many of us had opted for was going to be made at the table. In a truly theatrical fashion we watched, mesmerized as our host carefully wrapped the base and scoop of ice cream in a cream as the dessert span on a spinning plate. The dessert was then hollowed out as real espresso was poured to soaked in. The worst part was watching and waiting before we got dig in – but we certainly weren’t complaining as we sat, watching, waiting with bated breath to see if it tasted as brilliant as it looked.

After Aosta it was back into Queenstown we went! What a brilliant night.

What did we think, and would we do it again?

This is a truly brilliant concept that means if (like many) you only have a short time in Queenstown you can squeeze three completely different dining experiences into one evening. Usually this would be too much and involve all sorts of logistical challenges you wouldn’t want to think about on holiday. Happily, Lee and the team make it incredibly easy, with simple pickups, convenient drop offs and pre-ordering that means the whole evening flows without a hitch.

It’s not very often you can say you started with beers and wines by the fire at a brewery, before dinner with three paired wines from three different vineyards, before finally being treated to a theatrical show and one of (what must be…we suspect) the best desserts in town. It is certainly something we would consider doing again, even as locals for a birthday, celebration or get together with friends. It would also be a brilliant option if you have friends visiting and want to showcase the regions food and wine all in one evening without having to lift a finger yourself!

Thank you to Rob and Lee for a brilliant evening and showing us what it is all about. Thank you to Canyon Brewery, Kinross Winery and Aosta for putting on a brilliant evening. It is safe to say the Touch of Spice team may certainly be back!

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