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Author: Megan

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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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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Central Otago Wine Tour

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A couple of weeks ago myself, Sammy and Will were picked up from our office by Lee from Alpine Adventures for a Central Otago Wine Tour.

We started the day heading through the Valley of the Vines towards Cromwell, a quick drive in Lee’s luxurious Land Rover where he kept the banter flowing as we all got excited about tasting some beautiful local wine.

First stop: The Shed at Cloudy Bay

On arrival at Cloudy Bay we were met by Marine who took us on a tour of the cellar door before escorting us to the private tasting room. Marine oozed passion and knowledge for the wine – I would have believed her if she had told us that she made the wine herself! She guided us through the Cloudy Bay Pelorus range – a stunning sparkling wine from Marlborough, the New Zealand famous Sauvignon Blanc to the beautiful Central Otago Pinot Noir - we all found our favourites.

I could imagine returning here with friends, sitting by the fire, grazing on a platter of local cheese and meats whilst sipping amazing wines and admiring the stunning scenery. The Shed is a dreamy spot with the cellar door and the private tasting rooms beautifully enhancing the whole experience.

Next up: Mt Difficulty

Next on the agenda we made a quick stop at Mt Difficulty cellar door at Bannockburn. Overlooking the magical views of Bannockburn’s dramatic rugged rock and thyme landscape, it was a truly special place to visit. On arrival we were met by the entertaining Ness. With great passion, Ness catered to all our tastes before finishing the tasting by converting us all to dessert wines, pouring us “the nectar of the Gods”. Visit the cellar door and taste this delight for yourself.

Final stop: Mt Rosa

On our way home we squeezed in one last visit to Lee’s personal favourite - Mt Rosa. Overlooking the vines, we tasted a beautiful Pinot Blanc, an unusual variety for Central Otago but none the less it was amazing, along with some great Pinot Noirs which the region is renowned for. We finished the wintery day off with a lovely surprise of rose mulled wine – now this is one to check out this winter for sure!  

It was truly wonderful day spent with Lee and the passionate staff at each of the cellar doors – I’m already planning my return to the region to sip, sample and savour more of the local and international favourites.

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An evening at Amisfield Bistro & Winery

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It's simple – great ingredients make great food...

This week I was lucky enough to be invited to experience the degustation dinner at Amisfield Bistro. Set just beyond Queenstown (about a 15-minute drive) on the way to Arrowtown you can find the truly beautiful Bistro and Winery of Amisfield.

With a glass of bubbles on arrival, the venue came to life

Floor to ceiling windows framed the vineyards and the crackling of the wood burning fireplace reminded you of the wintery evening outside. From the 24-seat private dining room to the courtyard and main dining area, the high ceilings and open space had a rustic charm that oozed finesse.

The trust was in the chef and the menu was set

The seven-course menu was paired with a selection of Amisfield wine – each beautifully crafted to really showcase the best of the best in New Zealand. As each course was served, the pairing between the food and wine really started to come to life. The Paua Pie, the Amisfield signature, was named New Zealand dish of the year for 2017 and 2018 - and wow was that a standout! Between the buttery pie, the hidden truffle dug out of edible soil and the Cardrona Valley lamb shoulder, it was a real taste of sea, land and earth of the highest quality.

As the evening flowed, the surprises kept on coming

The eye was in the detail from start to finish with every course delicately constructed with flare. I wouldn’t want to give them all away but… have you ever seen truffle butter that looks like a rock? Better yet, have you ever tasted truffle butter that looks like a rock? As each dish and wine was presented to the table, the knowledge of the staff really came out - passion flowed through the food, to the waiters and into the venue leaving you feeling like you’d caught the Amisfield buzz.

An evening that will be hard to top

As three small desserts were served (the deer milk ice cream was my personal favourite) with a beautiful 2018 Amisfield Lowburn Terrace Riesling, I can safely say I felt utterly spoilt. An evening of delicious dishes, a passion for produce and amazing company left me planning my return before I’d even finished my wine.

Thank you again Amisfield. I'll be seeing you again soon!

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Hop Skip & Jump from North to South

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We believe time is one of the last true luxuries.

With festive season fast approaching, it’s all about spending more time with the family and exploring as you do it.

With the launch of Ataahua in our Residence Collection, our team of Travel Designers have been getting excited about this unbelievable family home and all the bespoke experiences in the area.

Which got us thinking…

What better way to get the family hyped up for a festive getaway than the thought of hopping from the beaches in the north to mountain top lakes in the south?

And here we have it!

From Ataahua in Bay of Plenty to The Dacha in Wanaka – seven days that are rare to find and impossible to forget.

Day 1: Arrive at Ataahua - Relax, unwind and enjoy a chef prepared meal in the antique dining room.

Day 2: Rise and shine with an espresso on the terrace. Fly to White Island and hike an active volcano before white water rafting in Rotorua. An adrenaline fueled day for the whole family.

 

 

Day 3: Explore Mount Maunganui and experience a fighter jet flight along the coast. Back at the villa, share a pizza with the family and get those marshmallows toasting on the outdoor fire.

Day 4: Enjoy the villa in the morning – yoga, in-house massage or game of tennis perhaps? Fly to The Dacha in Wanaka for a family al fresco dinner prepared by a chef.

 

 

Day 5: Take to the air and fly into the depths of the Fiordlands. Why not land on an alpine peak for a family picnic lunch before going back at The Dacha to unwind with a movie in the cinema with the children.

Day 6: Today is about adventure! Explore the adrenaline capital of the world, Queenstown. Bungy, jet boat, or SUP on a mountain top lake – the sky is the limit! Rest easy on your last night in The Dacha – watch the sunset over the lake before the stars come out.

 

 

Days 7: Depart wondering when you can come back and do it all over again

Get a step ahead and go beyond this Festive Season. Contact our Travel Designers to find out more.

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Pulling Pines and Pints

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During the month of April our team spent a couple of afternoons pulling wiling pines on Queenstown Hill. After a breathtaking ride up the Queenstown Gondola and a short walk on the Ben Lomond track, we find the Touch of Spice plot that we take care of each year to make sure the Douglas Furs don’t take over our beloved mountains.

Why pulling and not planting?

Normally you would think environmental sustainability would be about planting trees, not pulling them out of the ground, but in this case, the pines self-seed and grow wild. Not only do they take over the mountains, once the non-native trees form a thick canopy, nothing else can survive, threatening many New Zealand species. A recent article in Stuff provides a more detailed overview of the threat to our biodiversity.

Pulling pines literally consists of us scrambling over our plot on the mountainside, pulling out little seedlings by hand (protected by gardening gloves of course) or for larger pines, using some loppers flexing our gym formed muscles to get rid of the offending pine.

Together we can do so much

Not only is an afternoon pulling pines a great way to support our wonderful community and help to sustain the beauty that is Queenstown, but it’s a fantastic way for the team to spend some time together out of the office, in our high vis vests. This year, the sun was shining both afternoons, and of course the backdrop is spectacular. Our patch is now looking rather clear of wilding pines, but they will be back, so here’s to Autumn next year for another go at pulling pines.

A special thank you to Tom who we arrange our yearly trips with. Tom has the fun job of using the chainsaw on the larger trees and even taught us how to enjoy the variety of coprosma berries (for those brave of us to try).

Pines to pints

And of course, what better way to finish off an afternoon of hard labour, than a well-deserved cold pint at Frank's Eatery (a second home to some of the team here at Touch of Spice).

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Private Villa Collection Autumn specials 2019

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Autumn spice is in the Queenstown air

Indulge in a luxury getaway at one of our exclusive properties this Autumn and get one night free for every four you stay. 

Stay for four nights and pay for three all the way through until the end of June 2019.

Choose from a wealth of pristine properties - book directly with us via phone, email or through our website and let our Travel Designers redefine your autumnal stay in Queenstown. 

Where is your dream stay?

Te Kohanga Rua | Sleeps 4 across 2 bedrooms - 1x queen, 2x split king|1x bathroom | $350 per night.

Hyde Loft | Sleeps 4 across 2 bedrooms - 1x super king,1x king|2x bathroom | $1,150 per night.

Falconer Rise | Sleeps 6 across 4 bedrooms - 2x queen, 2x single, 1x bunk |2x ensuite, 1x bathroom | $700 per night.

Taimana | Sleeps 6 across 3 bedrooms -1x queen, 4x split king |2x ensuite, 1x bathroom | $1,150 per night.

One @ 25 Belfast | Sleeps 4 across 2 bedrooms - 1x queen, 1x split king|2x ensuite, 1x bathroom | $525 per night.

Arrow Cottage | Sleeps 6 across 3 bedrooms - 1x queen, 2x split king |1x ensuite, 1x bathroom | $600 per night.

21 Lakefront | Sleeps 8 across 4 bedrooms - 1x king, 3x split king|4x ensuite, 1x guest bathroom | $1,250 per night.

25 On The Terrace | Sleeps 8 across 4 bedrooms – 1x king, 2x queen, 1x split king|3x ensuite, 1x bathroom | $900 per night.

Alpine Retreat | Sleeps 10 across 4 bedrooms – 1x king, 2x split king & 1x king, 2x single in a self contained unit|1x ensuite, 2x bathroom | $1,100 per night.

Fifteen | Sleeps 6 across 3 bedrooms – 1x king, 2x queen |1x ensuite, 1x bathroom | $1,050 per night.

Casa Vista | Sleeps 4 across 2 bedrooms -1x queen, 2x single|1x bathroom | $450 per night.

Highview | Sleeps 6 across 3 bedrooms - 2x queen, 2x single|1x ensuite, 1x bathroom | $525 per night.

Kohanga luxury Lakeside Villa | Sleeps 8 across 4 bedrooms – 1x king, 1x queen, 2x split king|2x ensuite, 1x bathroom | $1,200 per night.

Ridge View | Sleeps 8 across 4 bedrooms - 3x queen, 1x split king|2x ensuite, 1x bathroom | $800 per night.

Penthouse on Hallenstein | Sleeps 7 across 4 bedrooms – 1x super king, 1x king, 1x queen, 1x single|1x esnuite, 2x bathroom | $875 per night.

The (not so) small print

Terms and conditions apply: Stay for 4 nights and pay for 3. This offer is valid for bookings between now and the 30th June 2019. Only valid on direct bookings over the phone, via email or through our website. All bookings are subject to availability.

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