Exploring the North Island
Early July I was lucky enough to spend a week exploring the North Island, visiting our villas and luxury lodges and experiencing some of the best activities on offer in the regions!
A touch of Tuscany at Ataahua Lodge
My first stop was Ataahua Lodge, a villa that is new to our Residence Collection and located just outside Tauranga. The villa has 7 bedrooms and is Italian inspired in its design, I was absolutely blown away by the beauty of the property! It looks out over the golf course and water and has such a large outdoor area with a stunning pool. It is the perfect retreat for family groups wanting somewhere really special to stay!
Traveling on to Rotorua
I then took a drive down to Rotorua to check in to Solitaire Lodge which is on a peninsula looking over the glass-like Lake Tarawera, such a beautiful setting! I was warmly welcomed by Wayne and Ingrid and shown around the property, including the private jetty with kayaks, perfect for a day exploring the lake!
I spent the afternoon relaxing in my suite, which had an outdoor bath overlooking the lake – absolute bliss! In the evening I was kindly hosted by Wayne for pre-dinner drinks and canapes, followed by dinner. We had a five-course meal - the courses were all delicious and complimented each other well.
A morning of relaxation
The next morning, I met up with Tu from MDA Experiences for a day of adventure in the Rotorua region! Our first activity of the day was to enjoy a boat cruise on Lake Rotoiti with Pure Cruise, on board their 53ft catamaran. This lake is just beautiful and there are so many coves and interesting spots to stop, their skipper Matt is so knowledgeable of the area and was explaining the history and all the fun things that could be done on the lake, such as geothermal springs, glowworm caves, paddleboarding and good old Kiwi fun – climbing a tree and swinging on the rope swing! We then stopped at the Manupirua Springs, only accessible by boat, for a soak in the hot springs, super relaxing!
An afternoon of Adrenaline
The afternoon was less relaxing – more adrenaline fueled – as we took on the Kaituna River for some white-water rafting! This river has multiple waterfalls, including the largest commercially rafted waterfall in the world, at 7m high! I have done white water rafting before but nothing that comes close to this, feeling fear at the top of the waterfalls then such excitement at the bottom once we conquered them! Tu was incredible and really encouraged me to take on all the additional parts such as cliff jumping and swimming down a waterfall, so much fun!
Huge thanks to Tu at MDA Experiences, Pure Cruise and Rotorua Rafting for showing me what this region is really all about!
A stay at Treetops Lodge
Following my exciting day, I drove to Treetops Lodge and Estate for the night. I was welcomed by Andrew and Sandra, who showed me around the property and then to my room. I was staying in a Valley Villa and was blown away! The villa is really very large with a living area, bedroom with walk in dressing room and a beautiful large bathroom. The villas are located a short drive from the main lodge itself, and each one is provided with their own golf cart to get you to and from, which adds to the experience!
In the morning, I got up early and had breakfast then headed out on the walk to Bridal Veil Falls. There are so many walking tracks on this property, you really need to spend a lot of time here to get out and explore them! It was absolutely pouring all morning, but Treetops provided me with a coat and gumboots and off I went, and I am so glad I did, after around 40 minutes of walking through beautiful bush I reached the falls, which are absolutely stunning, well worth the walk!
A spot of lunch at Huka Lodge
I then drove to Taupo for a site visit at Huka Lodge. I was met by Hannah and shown around the property, including the stunning Junior Lodge Suites which overlook the Waikato River. Even though I have looked at photos of this property so many times I was still blown away by the setting on the river, it is so beautiful with the fast-flowing colourful water! I then enjoyed a beautiful 3 course lunch looking out over the view.
The stunning Farm at Cape Kidnappers
For my final stop, I drove to the Hawke’s Bay for a stay at The Farm at Cape Kidnappers. I was full of excitement for this property as I’d heard so many wonderful things, and it absolutely exceeded expectations. From the moment I arrived, I was greeted by the lovely friendly Averil who gave me a walk around the main lodge building then took me down to my room and showed me around and gave such a great arrival experience. I was staying in a Ridge Suite, of which there are 8, just a short distance from the main lodge. The suite was absolutely beautiful, overlooking the vast property, a beautiful bedroom with large ensuite. I couldn’t fault it if I tried!
I was hosted for dinner by James, the assistant lodge manager who was great company, so friendly and really helped me learn even more about the property.
Conservation is everything
Whilst here I got to explore the property, visiting the Cape Sanctuary and learning about their conservation efforts, do a property tour to the outer edges of the farm and the dramatic coastline and have a site visit through all the room categories (that Owners Cottage, WOW!). The Farm at Cape Kidnappers was just voted the #1 lodge in New Zealand and Australia and #4 in the world, and I can definitely see why!
After departing Cape Kidnappers, I went for a site visit to Summerlee Luxury Retreat. This is a large 8-bedroom home with beautiful coastal views. It has a large outdoor area, pool, croquet and tennis court. It’s the perfect spot for a family retreat!
A beautiful ending to the week
Finally, to end my time I had a visit at Craggy Range Winery. I met with Georgia and Kristine who showed me around all the accommodation options here, such a great spot in amongst the vines! The newly built River Lodges and the four-bedroom Lodge are just stunning, so well done! I then had lunch at the restaurant here which was just beautiful, this winery is really high end and definitely a must do when in the Hawke’s Bay!
This was such a wonderful week visiting some top spots in the North Island and some truly spectacular properties!
Sink into tranquility in the spa or smash through the silence and bomb in the pool – this private Italian-inspired oasis is all yours.
We are thrilled to introduce and announce that the stunning Ataahua Lodge is the latest addition to our Residence Collection.
A touch of Amalfi - just outside Tauranga
Only 25 kilometres from Tauranga Airport, enter through the wrought iron gates and drive the palm lined drive towards the villa. A natural oasis to unwind, relax and accept carpe diem.
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.
Aperitivo on the terrace? Buon appetito
An open gourmet kitchen leads to the living area and onto the first of the two dining rooms. A step further takes you to large bifold doors leading outside. Enjoy alfresco antipasto or tear apart a pizza from the woodfired oven with the family.
A hideaway for adults and children alike
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.
A dreamlike spot for morning coffee
Ataahua has a total of six suites spread between two floors as well as the separate Pavilion. Sink into the plush beds that all feature views of the luscious grounds. Separate from the main villa is The Pavilion – a private sanctuary with ocean views where rolling out of bed will feel better than ever.
Do you prefer to drink your bubbles or sink into them?
From the bedroom to bathroom – whether you choose to drink your bubbles or sink into them, let the mind unwind as you gaze into the gardens and accept feelings of la bella vita (… the good life).
Let them dream of adventure
The spacious shared room is lined with motorbikes and surfboards letting the imagination run wild. Travelling with entourage or friends? The guest suite has a lounge, bathroom, kitchenette and is separate from the main house – the key to privacy.
Step outside into your own private oasis
In the private pavilion, a step beyond the villa, wake up in a secluded oasis. As the sunrise pours through the terrace doors, take in the picturesque garden and ocean views – mornings you can’t wait to wake up to. No bad thing when you have a hot yoga studio, adjoining gym and walks with endless sea views.
Roll out of bed into a whatever activity takes your fancy
Roll out of bed and straight into an active day. The private gym, tennis court and bikram yoga studio will get you working up a sweat before jumping in the pool.
Alfresco dining with a difference
A real taste of Italy – prepare, bake and enjoy your own pizza straight from the outdoor oven, served with a glass of wine from the cellar. New Zealand meets Italy - Alfresco dining just like at Nonna’s house in Verona.
Submerge yourself in stillness
Float into tranquillity and get lost in the clouds - an afternoon soak in the spa pool will calm the mind and relax the body. Or feel like smashing through the stillness and bombing in the pool? Go ahead – it’s your space after all.
Get competitive and find your champion
Singles or doubles? Get your whites on and battle it out in your own Ataahua Tennis Open. Observe from the side-lines before sinking some hoops on the basketball court – a tournament to keep everyone entertained.
Tropical gardens just a stones throw away
Take a tour or meander through the tropical gardens and discover the botanical variety. With world-class artworks placed throughout the gardens and villa, explore the local Maori art and sculptures on display.
We know settling into winter can be a troublesome time and so we want to soften the blow with some incredible introductory rates for winter stays at Lake Hayes. For a limited time you can stay in this delectable five bedroom home from just $3500 per night.
Why consider a winter break at Lake Hayes?
Despite being just a 10 minute drive from Queenstown airport The Homestead at Lake Hayes offers complete tranquility. Sink into nature with lake views and unadulterated access to the nearby walking and cycling tracks surrounding the lake that meander their way all the through to Arrowtown. Once you have been exploring and taken in enough of the seamless lake and mountain views retire to the fireside and warm up in style.
The perfect spot for a multi-generational winter escape
With five wonderful bedrooms this property offers a brilliant option for a multi-generational getaway. The estate offers more than enough space for three generations to enjoy each others company without treading on each others toes. While the youngsters run around the grass, playing hide and seek in the Sequoia trees, the grown ups can unwind over a glass of Central Otago's finest.
Booking a winter stay at The Homestead
View more about The Homestead at Lake Hayes or get in touch with one of our Travel Designers to find out more. A minimum five night stay applies and all bookings are subject to availability - please contact one of our Travel Designers to find out more.
Get away from it all and enjoy a short break this winter...
Talk to one of our Travel Designers about this exclusive Australian and New Zealand Residents' Winter Special at The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs and The Farm at Cape Kidnappers.
What does the special offer include?
- A special nightly rate
- Luxurious suite accommodation
- Pre-dinner drinks and canapes
- Gourmet dinner
- Full breakfast and complimentary non-alcoholic mini-bar
- A choice of unlimited green fees on the award-winning golf courses OR
- A rejuvenating 60-minute spa massage treatment per person per night stayed
Prices: NZ$775 + 15% GST per person, per night based on double occupancy. For an upgrade to a Deluxe Suite add $150 + 15% GST per night to the package.
The small print
This offer is valid for booking from 1 April until 31 May 2019 and is valid for travel from 1 May up to and including 30 September 2019. Conditions apply, subject to availability and change.
Touch of Spice CEO Jacqui Spice has been awarded Condé Nast Traveler’s ‘Travel Specialist’ accolade for the third year running, following six previous accolades.
We’re thrilled our CEO and Founder Jacqui has been named a ‘Top Travel Specialist’ by Condé Nast Traveler for the third consecutive year. This marks the seventh occasion Jacqui has been acknowledged by Condé Nast Traveler for her unparalleled knowledge and talent when it comes to promoting and managing luxury villas throughout New Zealand.
What goes into becoming a Condé Nast Traveler Travel Specialist?
This accolade is awarded to Travel Specialists who have a uniquely in-depth understanding of the area they curate and promote, offering travellers and agents alike the best advice available.
At Touch of Spice we spend our time working hard, curating luxury stays and most importantly bringing these stays to life, through unique experiences and little ‘touches’ that you wouldn’t get anywhere else. At our Queenstown office our team of Travel Designers work with Jacqui to turn ordinary journeys to New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific into memorable experiences.
A note from Jacqui
“I feel incredibly privileged to be presented with this award for the seventh time. My team and I spend our days doing whatever we can to bring our client’s requests to life in ways they never thought possible. We strive to ensure every moment we have a hand in creating, becomes a memory that lasts a lifetime, and so it’s wonderful to be recognised (once again) for the service we provide.”
About Condé Nast Traveler
Condé Nast Traveler are the self-proclaimed leaders of news on all things travel, driving the most up-to-date and engaging updates on the travel industry, through both their printed magazine, expertly curated daily emails and enthralling online articles.
What is a Condé Nast Traveler Travel Specialist?
Only a select few are given this admirable accolade, awarded to whom they deem “the right experience maker” who “will intuit your desires before you even know what they are — then they’ll make them happen.” – Paul Brady and Christine Cantera, Condé Nast.
At Touch of Spice we embody this notion on a daily basis. We want you to run down the hallways, bomb in the pool and generally make the most of what our private escapes can offer. Despite representing some of the most incredible and exclusive properties in the region, we know it’s not about the accommodation itself. Although exquisite spaces, with unique levels of luxury, escapism and privacy are of course crucial – it’s ultimately about the experiences and the memories created – that we hope will last long beyond the journey home.
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!
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!
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!
Perfect for winter because you can walk across to Millbrook Resort to warm your hands with a morning coffee and you also have access to their day-spa, restaurants and golf course. Aroha Homestead also features large roaring fires in the two living areas that have large comfy couches and a Sonos entertainment systems. After a big day on the slopes, there’s a spa pool to soak your muscles in while under the stars.
Bedrooms: 5 bedrooms, sleeps 10
Closest ski mountain: Coronet Peak – 10 minutes’ drive to the base
Price: from NZD$235 per person, per night
Perfect for winter because it’s right at the base of The Remarkables ski field so you don’t need to travel far. There’s a Central Otago wine-wall which you can grab a bottle from to enjoy with a home cooked dinner. Plus, you have the Jack’s Point Restaurant, with its mouth-watering menu and the Jack’s Point championship golf course right on your doorstep.
Bedrooms: 4 bedrooms, sleeps 8
Closest ski mountain: The Remarkables – 5 minutes’ drive to the base
Price: from NZD$130 per person, per night
Perfect for winter because of the mountain views that allow you to inspect the snow levels, the outdoor fire & seating for après ski wine & cheese, the cosy bedrooms and welcoming living space. Plus there's the drying room so your gear is crisp and warm the next day’s skiing.
Bedrooms: 5 bedrooms, sleeps 10
Closest ski mountain: Coronet Peak – 10 minutes’ drive to the base
Price: from NZD$110 per person, per night
Perfect for winter because if you’re not comfortable driving, you don’t need a car, as you’re in the centre of it all! You have Spring Day Spa downstairs, endless restaurants around you, and transport to the ski mountain is a short stroll away. The loft is luxurious and perfectly positioned for enjoying the apres ski nightlife.
Bedrooms: 2 bedrooms, sleeps 4
Closest ski mountain: Coronet Peak – 10 minutes’ drive to base
Price: from NZD$275 per person, per night