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Author: Nora

Why the South Pacific is the ideal sabbatical destination

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The idea of uplifting your family and moving to the other side of the world for 3 months used to be daunting and unrealistic. Times have thankfully now changed.

With new direct flight routes between the US and New Zealand, along with infrastructure developments allowing guests access to hi-speed internet so they can stay in top of things ‘back home’, we have seen a large growth in the number of families looking to visit New Zealand for an extended period of time.

New Zealand has long been a popular destination for family travel. It is seen as a safe place to visit, and offers such a diverse range of experiences. Families can base themselves in places such as Queenstown or Wanaka, and then explore the rest of the country on ‘getaways’.

Queenstown is particularly popular for this, and our range of private villas are ideally suited for families wanting to a ‘home away from home’ for a period of time. Local schools also allow for short-term international enrolments as the seasonal nature of the region (for example the winter ski season) often sees workers only in the area for a few months.

The time difference between New Zealand and the US also means that you can wake up, have breakfast, and then jump on a Skype call with the East or West Coast before they finish their business day. After that, how about doing a couple of hours working online before taking the family on a walk around a beautiful alpine lake?

For families that want to visit multiple countries, it’s an easy 3 and a  ½ hour flight to either Australia or Fiji from New Zealand, with fantastic family villa options in both, so why not look at an entire South Pacific experience over a period of several months.

If you have been thinking about taking the family on a sabbatical but not sure what the accommodation options are, the Touch of Spice team are here to help!

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Top 5 Luxury Stays worthy of a Royal Visit

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Meghan and Harry have officially landed on New Zealand soil!

To toast their arrival, we’ve compiled a list of our very favourite luxury stays, worthy of a royal visit.

Lodge at The Hills

With privacy and security being of absolute paramount, Lodge at The Hills’ secluded setting on The Hills golf course perfectly combines the two. Add to this its outstanding art collection, one-of-a-kind sculpture tour and range of premium inclusions and you have something very special indeed.

Alan Pye Cottage - Huka Lodge

Epitomising the sophisticated elegance of the English Art & Crafts movement, Meghan and Harry would certainly be at home in this luxurious cottage. Faultlessly designed and boasting a cosy and intimate atmosphere it’s an idyllic home to retreat to. 

Wharekauahu Country Estate

Positioned on the southern-most tip of the North Island. Wharekauhau provides the perfect base for a tour of both islands. A firm favourite for royalty, dignitaries and celebrities, Wharekauhau’s location on a 5,000 acre working farm provides guests with the ability to unplug from it all and embrace a more laid back lifestyle. 

The Cooper Residence

The Cooper Residence provides the ‘wow’ factor in every corner! Seamlessly blending luxurious furnishings with fascinating Maori artefact's and historic artwork; giving an entirely unique experience. It has jaw dropping coastal views, a private beach, and they even produce their very own wine – what more could they ask for!

Split Apple Retreat

The perfect place to relax and recharge after a long tour. This intimate luxury lodge perfectly combines premium accommodation and wellness. Guests can spend their day indulging in yoga, meditation and massages, whilst dining on gourmet Asian-Mediterranean fusion cuisine, where every ingredient has been selected for its positive contribution to health and wellness.

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Book your Queenstown Marathon Luxury Accommodation

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With the Queenstown Marathon fast arriving, if you haven’t already done so, now is the time to start thinking about locking your accommodation in. Fortunately, we still have a selection of luxury private villas ideal for your stay.

Ranging in size from two to five bedrooms, we can accommodate your ‘cheer squad’ of varying sizes. With fully equipped gourmet kitchens, create your carb-loaded, pre-race meals in the comfort of your accommodation and then after the race enjoy a soothing soak in the hot tub, complete with stunning lake views.

Last but not least, as an extra sweetener, the first six who book a stay over the Marathon weekend will receive a complimentary 60 minute massage*, ideal to sooth those post race muscles.

Just quote 'MARATHON' at the check-out when booking online or to your Travel Designer when enquiring. 

Here are our top three ‘Marathon-made in heaven’ properties:

1. KOHANGA LAKESIDE VILLA

Located right on the Marathon course, your friends/family will have no excuse for not cheering you on.  The property also benefits from Marathon worthy features such as an outdoor pizza oven and hot tub.

2. HYDE LOFT

More interested in the post-race festivities than putting your feet-up? You could not be in a more central location to take advantage of the great Queenstown nightlife. 

3. JACKS POINT LAKE HOUSE

Enjoy the peace and tranquility that this properties nature preserve location affords, together with it’s stand out range of features including hot tub, media room, pool table and ample outdoor lounge & dining.

*Subject to availability. Valid for the first six booking made for dates including 16th - 18th November 2018 and for Touch of Spice exclusive properties only. 

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Shredding under the stars - Queenstown Night Skiing

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Our Travel Designer Paivi's verdict on one of Queenstown's popular after-dark winter activities

I was lucky to be invited for a Veuve Clicquot Wednesday night ski. Considering I hadn’t skied for a few years I was a little apprehensive.

Myself and a colleague hopped on a bus from NZ Ski snow centre. We sat back and enjoyed the views. At every corner and turn we were happy we did not drive up ourselves.

On arrival we went through the rentals. Being a Wednesday afternoon there were definitely no queues there and staff was very helpful. Even the boots fitted my colleague who usually has difficulties finding boots that fit. They fitted so well that she actually went and bought the exact boots afterwards!

Once we were geared up we headed for the lifts. There was some delay at Coronet Express and queue was building up. We decided to head for the Greengates and I am glad we did as it was the last run of the day at Greengates. Greengates runs are not lit up and the natural daylight was fading.

The snow as good, the temperature was comfortable and it wasn’t too windy. I was skiing down the mountain with a big smile on my face. I was enjoying it more than I thought I would after so many years. They say it is like riding a bike and that it comes back to you and yes that’s exactly how it was!

We did about 6 runs before we headed to the Peak Club for some Veuve Clicquot and nibbles. We also heard about the new products Coronet Peak offers this winter:

  • Veuve Clicquot Wednesday night ski. Avoid the crowds and hit the slopes Wednesday afternoon from 4pm until 9pm. This is a new addition to the usual Friday and Saturday nights. 
  • Heidi’s Hut Dinners. This special dining experience is limited to 40 seats only every Friday & Saturday night during August & September.
  • Peak Club Day Pass. Coronet Peak’s Ultimate Luxury Product is the Peak Club Day Pass. Includes VIP parking, Peak Club Lounge Access including meals & drinks and a Lift pass including First Tracks & Night Ski.
  • Twilight Pass. The Twilight pass is perfect for late-risers wanting to get a full day of skiing and experience the fun of night skiing at Coronet Peak.  Twilight Passes are valid from 12.30pm to 9pm at Coronet Peak only, Wednesday, Friday and Saturdays until early/mid-September. Same price as regular day pass – perfect after a night night out in Queenstown!

After the Veuve Clicquots warming us up we did a couple of more runs before jumping back on the bus to Queenstown. We had such a great night and I am glad I got the opportunity to enjoy it!

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The ultimate scenic Milford heli experience

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Touch of Spice Travel Designer Jolene Wood experiences Milford from the air with Glacier Southern Lakes

One of the best things you can ever do in the South Island is see it from the air.

I arrived the Glacier Southern Lakes office on a beautiful Monday morning  to be greeted by the friendly team, taken through the safety brief and was introduced to the group I would be flying with which happened to be a honeymoon couple from London and a young lady from Australia and Trish who works for Glacier Southern – all of which had never been on a helicopter before. Needless to say we were excited and it was cool to meet people from outside of Queenstown.

I was even more excited when I was shown we were flying in the brand new  Airbus H130 which is super luxurious and feels like you are truly flying in style. I had my own leather seat and sat facing two other people which was really cool to interact with each other and see everyone’s reactions to the surroundings.

As we took off and headed high above the mountains towards the Tasman Sea the views were incredible! It was a beautiful sunny day, the lake was a turquoise blue and the mountains were covered - truly stunning! The pilot talks through your surroundings and points out the lakes you are flying over while beautiful relaxing music plays through you headphones which is lovely.

We arrived in Milford and were given the option to do one of the nature walks or go for a coffee and some food. I decided to relax and enjoy the views and was treated to a coffee by the lovely Trish and spoke about how amazing the flight was. 30 minutes later we were ready to take off again.

We switched seats this time so we could all experience the views form a different perspective which was great that we had that option. The walk back to he heli around the lake gives you the opportunity to see it all again but from a different perspective and a great opportunity to take some beautiful photos.

We flew back past Milford with its amazing waterfalls and so much greenery in the forests so you are constantly surprised by the ever changing scenery and the animals in there natural habitat. I saw a herd of wild deer stop and stare at us whilst we flew over which was pretty cool and as we flew over the beach for our beach landing, the pilot highlighted their were some seals below us.

The pilot hovered above the seals and tilted the heli down so close that we literally couldn’t get any closer. We then landed a little further along the beach and had the chance to get out and take in the sounds the sea, the amazing scenery and collect some greenstone which is dotted all over the beach if you are lucky enough to spot it!

We took off again and in less than 5 minutes I was standing on one of the highest glaciers in the world. This is one of the most surreal moments I have ever experienced, to be on a beach one moment then on a glacier surrounded by white powered glistening snow the next was just, wow! It was so peaceful and beautiful and a very memorable moment.

On the flight back over the valleys and mountains with the tunes of Coldplay's song ‘paradise’ playing through my headphones I  felt like I was a million miles away from my everyday life, and also remember thinking I am so lucky to live here.

It was a truly memorable experience  and one I highly recommend to everyone as you really cannot be disappointed! 

Thanks to Glacier Southern Lakes for the experience.

Jolene.

 

 

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The best luxury stays in the South Pacific

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The prestigious Residence Collection by Touch of Spice is a hand-selected portfolio of the best of the best in luxury villas available throughout New Zealand and the South Pacific. Stays in The Residence Collection can be all-inclusive with personal chefs and on-site staff or tailored to the guests needs.

Many of these residences feature unique on-property experiences such as art & sculpture tours, golf on private golf courses and wine-tastings in on property wineries. All have their own heli access, or a private landing nearby and we can assist you in arranging customised activities for guests right from their doorstep. 

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Falling in love with Marlborough

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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: 

Marlborough Lodge

   

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! 

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Wild about Wildwire!

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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.

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CATEGORY : Summer, Wanaka

Wild about Waiheke

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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. 

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Jacqui's happy days at Otahuna Lodge

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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. 

Keep an eye on special deals for Touch of Spice clients at Otahuna Lodge on our Facebook page and Instagram feed.

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