A couple of weeks ago a few of our team were invited to spend a night at Mahu Whenua Ridgeline Estate and Eco Sanctuary, a beautiful luxury lodge located just 20 minutes outside Wanaka.
Whilst being so close to the Wanaka township, the lodge feels incredibly remote with no one else in sight (aside from the sheep!). Upon arrival to the lodge we were all blown away by the expansive views over the stunning green landscape and out over Lake Wanaka, taken advantage of by the large floor to ceiling windows in the main lodge area.
The lodge is relatively small, with only four main suites, and another kids bunk room which can be used if the lodge is taken exclusively. Each of the luxuriously appointed suites are different styles and offer outlooks in different and equally beautiful directions, our favourite had to be the Master Suite ‘Tui’, with it’s large open shower room and copper bathtub looking out over the mountains, how relaxing!
The lodge manager Anna and host Chris really make the experience fantastic, they are so welcoming and knowledgeable about the local area. The food we had for dinner and breakfast was so delicious, made with local fresh produce, and they had a great selection of local wines to go with this.
In the morning we went for a walk down to the Stables, these are a short walk from the main lodge and are the most stunning stables any of us have ever seen!
Mahu Whenua is a fantastic place to just kick back and relax, and equally a great place to get out and explore the expansive property. You can enjoy hiking from the property, or a helicopter can land right outside and take you on one of many heli hikes in the region. One thing that really stood out for us which is a great option for those active people, is that you can pick up e-bikes in Arrowtown, Queenstown and cycle to the property, there are trails the whole way.
Thank you to the team at Mahu Whenua for hosting us and creating a truly memorable experience for us on this beautiful property!
The team and I were lucky enough to be invited by Eichardt’s to enjoy their newest addition the, Pacific Jemm, over a lunchtime cruise.
As soon as we stepped on board, we were greeted by friendly smiles, and a glass of bubbles, which in my opinion is the best way to start a cruise. The weather was also on point which provided perfect cruising conditions.
On this trip we cruised the corners of Lake Wakatipu before stopping for a delicious BBQ lunch, which was served on the top deck. The food was a mixture of meats and salads, providing enough variety for everyone's taste buds.
Below deck the Pacific Jemm boasts four bedrooms all equipped with luxury linen, their own entertainment systems and bathroom facilities - the master including a spa bath.
A personal favourite of mine was the sun lounger on the front of the boat which is perfect for a spot of sunbathing and conversations with friends. Here you can also take in the amazing views that this cruise has to offer.
We cruised around Lake Wakatipu for approximately three hours before docking back in Queenstown central. This is an excellent daytime activity, especially for those looking to cruise in style while enjoying all of the luxuries that this boat has to offer.
Thank you to the team at Eichardt's for this fantastic day out!
Laucala (pronounced Lau-tha-la) Island is the latest luxury Fijian resort to join the Touch of Spice portfolio of the best luxury stays in the South Pacific.
I was lucky enough to stay at Laucala recently and experience why this particular resort is the go-to for celebrities around the world.
It’s hard to put into words how truly amazing Laucala was, but here are my top 10 reasons why Laucala is the ultimate luxury getaway!
Super Luxe Villas
The oceanfront villas are amazingly gorgeous, luxurious yet modestly unpretentious. They haven’t overlooked a thing in these Villas. From freshly roasted nuts and locally grown plantain chips served every afternoon, to delectable sweet treats baked fresh every day and a very generous selection of wines, spirits and of course Red Bull. The Villa itself was a haven that you didn't need to leave. Three brightly painted coconuts sat at our front gate used to indicate “come in” “stay away” or “clean me please!”. All of the beachfront villas have private pools and direct access to your own part of the white sandy beach.
Lush locally made bathroom amenities
The attention to detail, craftsmanship, talent, and skill of all the people involved in running Laucala Island is evident everywhere, right down to every handmade amenity. The body oils, soaps, shampoo & conditioners, body wash, bath bombs and body scrubs were perfectly crafted by the local Fijian staff using the island’s own natural resources.
The Epic Pool
The massive lagoon-style pool that sits at the heart of the resort is a masterpiece. Divided into three areas, the pool includes tropical manmade islands as well as Laucala’s iconic 25-metre-long glass cube. The swim-up-bar serves all day cocktails, my favourite being freshly made chili Margaritas!
Over 400 staff maintain this 1400-hectare piece of tropical paradise to service a maximum of just 80 guests. Absolutely nothing is too much trouble true to the reputation of Fijian hospitality.
Anything is possible!
Anything can be done at Laucala at any time – even a midnight massage is doable! No reservations are ever required and so whether it be a romantic dinner for two, a last-minute decision to go for a dive, golf lessons with a golf pro, or urgent laundry and dry cleaning. You can take your holiday at your pace and find your own “island time”. Stays at Laucala include all food and beverages so you can indulge from dawn till dusk at your leisure.
The Rock Lounge
With its roof-top-treehouse design, uninterrupted never-ending ocean views and the most spectacular sunsets, The Rock Lounge is where I spent 50% of my daylight hours! With cloud-like lounger chairs, delicious finger food and gins coming without even asking, I never wanted to leave.
The Farm Tour
As one of the largest Fijian Islands, Laucala is passionate about sustainability. All the organically grown crops and farmed animals on the island provide the majority of products provided and I mean all the way down to the limes in my margarita.
The Butler Trays at Plantation House
Occupying an elegant colonial-style mansion, Plantation House served the best array of breakfast treats I’ve ever encountered in all my travels. The Butler’s Trays can’t be missed with three different trays to choose from, my go-to had to be The Healthy Tray which included; Wholemeal Waffles with Agava Syrup, Rye Flour Crepes with Laucala honey & tropical fruits, Fresh Herb Cream Cheese & Crudites, an assortment of energy balls and Yogurt & Fruit Coulis. No better way to start the day! Alongside this is a complete choice of breakfast options, a heart-stopping array of freshly baked goods and an amazing selection of freshly squeezed juices using fruit straight off the island.
The devil is in the details
On my first night the staff had noted that I’m partial to a gin & tonic, and by the time we arrived back to our suite post massage, the gin decanter sitting in our bar had been filled with extra just in case we were to run dry.
If traveling by private charter or jet, the island has the added convenience of its own runway, avoiding any necessity for transfers from the mainland. Another upside is that the island has its own air and maritime exclusion zones, meaning the island is truly off limits to prying paparazzi.
For Laucala Island reservation inquiries, please don’t hesitate to get in touch through firstname.lastname@example.org
Representing the very best in luxury stays in the South Pacific requires a very thorough understanding of what is on offer inside and out - which is why I came up with the clever idea of combining celebrating my wedding anniversary with a visit to the stunning Kokomo Resort, Fiji. (Lucky me)!!
Kokomo Resort recently joined our Touch of Spice “Residence Collection” portfolio of luxury stays which is a handpicked selection of the very best luxury accommodation available throughout the South Pacific region.
“The Residence Collection” was formed in late 2017 to meet the increasing swell of high net worth visitors to our part of the world. This leading collection has attracted all sorts of international guests such as well known celebrities and diplomats, through to acclaimed entrepreneurs and royalty.
So it was imperative that I fly to Fiji to Kokomo Island to research all it has to offer, from the cocktail menu to the bathroom amenities to make sure it delivers a guest experience of the calibre expected from Touch of Spice guests.
Kokomo Island is an hour’s flight away from Nadi. You can get here by Kokomo’s very own Sea Plane (a twin otter) or by Helicopter – we opted for the Helicopter.
Landing on the top of the island, General Manager (Martin Persson) greeted us with a golf cart at the ready. He whisked us quickly down to reception taking us past the resort pool complete with waterfall, kids club, teenagers hang out and pizza oven, past the Yaukube Spa Sanctuary and a couple of very large 5 bedroom Residences, down through to Reception where we received the traditional Fijian welcome by the resort staff. While listening to their incredible voices we were given fresh coconut water (served in real coconuts) which was a welcome refreshment in itself after the hour long flight in.
Our two-bedroom Bure was located right on the water, complete with our own pool and a very private beach. A welcome bottle of Veuve was chilling on ice alongside a personalised card and a platter of local fruits.
While I’m in the business of luxury and have a general expectation of what will be on offer at resorts such as this, the first few moments of arrival into our room always remain magical. I love the excitement and the child-like exploration of uncovering everything on offer. And nothing had been spared here at Kokomo – the outdoor and indoor showers both have full complement of bathroom amenities all Kokomo’s own brand complete with body scrubs, body lotions, sunscreens, mosquito sprays, toothbrushes and razors and everything in between. The mini included a full complement of Nespresso coffees & T2 Teas as well as a fridge full of sodas and waters plus a delicious jar of freshly made cookies (tempting me to open).
We were at this stage quite hungry, so to avoid cracking the cookie jar we wandered along to the outdoor restaurant & bar - “Walker D’Plank”.
Located in a small cove near the arrival jetty on the island Walker D’Plank is set into a rockface, overlooking the water reminding me very much of a similar spot my husband and I had been to in St Barths on our honeymoon
With colourfully painted tables and chairs, friendly staff, a fresh sea breeze and a very enticing cocktail menu, we settled in for an afternoon of Asian-inspired seafood delights, consumed at the laid-back pace of the Bob Marley music playing. We were treated to fresh sashimi tuna and crayfish followed by stir-fried Asian flavoured noodles and chicken. I ordered a Bloody Mary (as one should) and it arrived with freshly squeezed tomatoes – no bottled tomato juice here!
Completely satiated we decided to burn off some calories with paddle boarding and snorkelling around the nearby coral and then it was back to our Bure where a private chef was waiting to cook us up a seafood BBQ banquet of scallops, prawns, fish and crayfish. With a hankdering for a freshly made chilli margarita, a bartender arrived almost immediately and whipped them up on the say. Needless to say – heaven.
That was our first blissful day, and there have been several days just like this with kayaking, tennis, more lunches at Walker D Plank, walks around the island and relaxation activities like 90 minute massages and sunset yoga. At night we have been enjoying the 5 course degustation on offer yet again sampling the fresh fish and crayfish from the local waters.
While I spent the morning getting on top of emails this morning my husband Josh went off deep-sea fishing catching a huge mackeral we enjoyed for lunch – tonight we are dining on his freshly caught snapper cooked whole just for us. At Kokomo if you don’t like what the Chef has on the menu (which is hard to imagine) you can order whatever you want. If you want a chicken curry instead of lobster cocktail or you want a toasted sandwhich or steak and eggs, they will make it for you. Nothing is a problem on Kokomo (if fishing isn’t your thing you can also opt for a catamaran tour on the water)
Kokomo has certainly lived up to and exceeded all my expectations and I know that our Touch of Spice customers are in great hands here.
Tomorrow we head to Laucala, which is next on the hit list for The Touch of Spice Residence Collection.
(It’s a tough job but someone has to do it).
Kokomo Private Island is on promotion for its 1st anniversary with an offer of stay 4 nights and receive a complimentary night’s stay. Book by 30 April. Travel dates 20 March – 30 June 2018. Email email@example.com to enquire.
THE TOP ADRENALIN ACTIVITY
Highlands Motorsport Park - Described as an adrenaline version of Disneyland, this motorsport park is without a doubt unlike any other place you will visit with its range of activities to suit everyone.
THE TOP ACTIVITY TO DO FOR FREE
Queenstown is surrounded by a variety of fantastic walking tracks for every level. Our favourite, The Ben Lomond Track, is a demanding climb, but on a clear day, you will be rewarded at the summit with spectacular panoramic views of Mt Earnslaw, Pikirakatahi and Mt Aspiring. At about 800m, alpine tussocks and dracophyllum dominate the landscape with magnificent lake and mountain views.
THE TOP PLACE TO GRAB A DRINK OR TWO
Opening it’s doors late last year, Akarua Wines & Kitchen by Artisan has already built a steadfast following by locals and visitors alike. Housed in a restored cottage, enjoy a glass of their finest whilst gazing out to the picture-perfect gardens.
THE TOP PLACE TO EXPLORE FOR THE DAY
Milford Sound’s untouched landscapes make for a truly spectacular backdrop. Described by Rudyard Kipling as the 'eighth wonder of the world', Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the ice ages and is breathtaking in any weather.
THE BEST SPLURGE ACTIVITY
Perfect for couples – be flown by a private helicopter charter to “The Ledge” of Cecil Peak for a magical hour of tranquillity. There, overlooking Queenstown and The Southern Alps you’ll enjoy a delicious Champagne picnic in an incredible sensory moment, where the imposing scale of nature is awe-inspiring.
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO START THE WEEKEND
La Cigale French Style Farmers Markets in Parnell – You can spend hours here tasting all the fresh produce and baked goods being New Zealand's largest farmers market. Leave the whole morning spare with the idea of having breakfast here.
WHAT’S FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
The sunset sea kayaking tour to Rangitoto Island is quite the experience! Leave the bay before sunset, arrive on the shore of Rangitoto Island and embark on a trek to the top which you’ll reach in time to see the cities lights turn on. Back on the mainland beach, you’ll be greeted by the smell of a Kiwi BBQ dinner. An afternoon well spent!
WHAT’S THE BEST SPLURGE ACTIVITY
A heli to Waiheke Island for a private winery tour and long lunch is what you’ll be raving to friends and family about on your return home. This quaint island is full of art, vineyards, restaurants and beaches – heaven on earth!
WHERE’S THE BEST PLACE FOR AFTERNOON TEA
Little & Friday is the sweetest little bakery you’ll find in all of Auckland. Starting from humble beginnings, prepping all week, only opening on a Friday, Little & Friday now has 4 locations across Auckland, and is open 7 days to meet the popular demand. The chocolate, beetroot & salted caramel cake is a must-try!
WHERE’S THE BEST OUT OF CITY EXCURSION
2.5 hours drive from Auckland city is the Coromandel. Head there for a day of stunning scenery, nature walks and long stretch beaches.
THE BEST WAY TO START THE WEEKEND
Start the weekend with a buzz by cruising off-road. Truly a unique outdoor adventure, experience riding through forestry tracks, sand dunes, and along the beautiful Ninety-mile beach tracks. Stop for a sand board on the dunes and enjoy the untouched scenery not accessible to the public.
THE BEST SPLURGE ACTIVITY
What better way to see the beautiful coastline of Northland than by air? See Hole in the Rock, Cape Reinga, and the large rolling sand dunes all on a scenic flight by helicopter or aircraft. Land on a secluded beach, sandboard on the dunes or pair your flight with a wine tasting at local vineyards. This excursion is a must-do splurge, leaving no stone left unturned when it comes to seeing the Bay of Islands.
THE MOST SCENIC WALKING REWARD
Completing a walk along the scenic Kerikeri River Track is just over 4 kilometres and totals 2 hours return. Enjoy exercise among the continuously changing scenery, the calling of the native birds, and the reward of two stunning waterfalls during the journey - Wharepuke & Rainbow falls.
THE BEST FAMILY EXCURSION
Indulge in a private boat charter for the day as you level sail around the islands alongside dolphins and whales. Relax on the large trampolines while you are served lunch you’ve caught. Experience navigating the vessel at the helm and learn about the area from the knowledgeable hosts. Enjoy a swim, kayak, paddleboard or hike if you wish to anchor. Each experience is curated to the guest's desires.
THE BEST PLACE TO GO FOR A SWIM IN THE OCEAN
?At the northern end of Paihia lies Te Tii Bay, a golden sand beach lined with native pohutukawa trees. Te Tii is a generally calm beach suitable for swimming and fishing and has a popular children’s playground at one end.
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!