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CELEBRITY TRAVEL: Sam Neill,  Actor & Wine Producer


Sam Neill hails from New Zealand but he is known worldwide. He has appeared in more than 100 movies and television productions. When he is not working he likes nothing better to relax back in the Central Otago region of New Zealand's South Island where he has FOUR vineyards and a soft spot for some of Relais & Chateaux's finest New Zealand Lodges.
Here Neill shares some NZ highlights including his niece's cafe, a friend's vineyard and some of his favourite villages.

Sam Neill talks to The Luxury Travel Bible

Neill says:
I was born in Northern Ireland, but we returned as a family to New Zealand in 1956. I spent most of my youth in Christchurch, and started acting professionally and film making in Wellington. In 1993, I planted my first Pinot Noir grapes and began my adventure with wine that now includes four small vineyards in Central Otago. I am always thrilled to return to New Zealand; it has such richness to offer. The two islands bring you two different worlds.
Sam's South Island highlights
Stay at: Whare Kea Lodge & Chalet
An elegant and ecological remote paradise.This
modern lodge is very classy and beautifully sited. You will find there top cuisine and wine. This is in my part of the country and the heart of what you really want to experience in New Zealand. Something I'd love to do sometime is to enjoy Whare Kea's private chalet right next to the Mount Aspiring National Park, up a mountain. If only...
Close to the property: Two Paddocks vineyard
Just down the road from Whare Kea is New Zealand's prettiest vineyard, Rippon. The place is run by Nick and Jo Mills, our delightful friends. Don't miss it. A little further away is our Two Paddocks vineyard and we are always happy to see you - call ahead and ask for Jenny to make an appointment. I bought this land back in 1993 after a great trip in Burgundy, France. Wine became a passion, it's still is. To understand, you really need to try our NZ Pinot Noir and Riesling...
Luxury Hotels in New Zealand
Whare Kea Lodge & Chalet
Don't Miss: Milford Track walk
Book yourself into a Milford Track walk, a very iconic NZ site. This 3-4 days walk is one of the greatest in the world. I did it 30 years ago and will do it again. Nowadays, you don't need to carry much. You can hire some people to take your kit and cook for you at the mountain huts you stay in. Unforgettable...
Luxury Hotels in New Zealand
Matakauri Lodge
Stay at: Matakauri Lodge
After you have visited us on the vineyard, motor up to Queenstown and you will find Matakauri just a little further along the famous Lake Wakatipu. Matakauri must be about my favourite place in the world. When our children were still at home my wife and I would leave them with the nanny and take a night or two off at Matakauri for good food, seclusion and luxury etc...in short everything you could want for a holiday. Highly recommended.
Close to the property: Queenstown
For some reason, this is the worlds' most sought after extreme sport centre. People throw themselves out of planes, dive off mountains, plunge down rapids, bungee bungee bungee and so on. I don't recommend any of it but it may be for you. Go ahead. I do recommend skiing in the winter, however. There are very few places in the world where you can ski in August.
Stay at: Otahuna Lodge
Otahuna is a marvelous historical homestead formerly belonging to the distinguished Rhodes family. It's now a remarkable luxury hotel, elegant and very comfortable: excellent food and wine too. You will find yourself in a more graceful, Victorian past. Don't miss their lush gardens full of vegetables and fruits...
Close to the property: Akaroa
Otahuna backs on to the dormant volcanic Banks Peninsular. A day trip to Akaroa (formerly a French settlement) is well worth it. See if you can get Otahuna to wangle you an invitation to visit my favourite Maori Marae there, Onuku, a tiny Maori settlement with a little church and a few houses nestled in a little bay on Akaroa Harbour.
The old port of Lyttelton
Just outside of Christchurch, it's a place I am very attached to. This little town has been as hard hit as anywhere in Canterbury by the last large earthquake, but it's wonderful to see how people improvise with flair. My niece has a café, now operating out of someone's garage, called Samo's Cafe in Canterbury St. It's very simple village , humble and beautiful. It is a centre for artists.
Natural wonder: Mount Cook
If it's a fine day, take a detour on the way to Central Otago to Mt Cook, Aoraki and The Hermitage. You might even want to spend a night up there - walk up to the glaciers and so on. If you're half my age, twice as fit and you have climbing experience, take a guide to the top of one of these, the highest mountains in New Zealand.
Luxury Hotels in New Zealand
Otahuna Lodge
Sam's North Island highlights
Stay at:Huka Lodge
Since the twenties, Huka Lodge has set the bench mark for luxury accommodation in New Zealand. I stayed there once for a couple nights. It's a wonderful place with tasteful and comfortable lodgings, great food & wine and so on. Justifiably world famous, better still The place is located in the very heart of the North Island and is surrounded by beautiful as well as curious landscape. You can fish there all year long... Close to the property: Lake Taupo and Tongariro River
I filmed around the lake back in 1973 and spent a couple months there. I would take myself off and enjoy some fly fishing. The satisfaction of eating some freshly grilled fish on a beach! The best thing is to hire a boat and get out on this vast beautiful lake, New Zealand's largest, which rather alarmingly blew up in an immense explosion about 2000 years ago. Another option is to go fly-fishing on the mighty Tongariro River, arguably the worlds' greatest stretch of water for big brown trout
Natural wonder: Tongariro National Park
Walk in this wild and unique landscape encompassing three live volcanoes. Including the near perfect cone of Ngaruhoe (a bit like Fuji). If you're reasonably fit a good trudge up to the crater on the latter is fantastic. Because of the volcanic nature of Huka's surroundings there are hot springs all over the place. Let them find you a good one.
City stop: Wellington
The worlds' prettiest capital (on a fine day). I'm a little conservative: When I like a place, I always go back there again and again. In Wellington, I keep visiting the City Art Gallery in Civic Square. They present invariably very interesting art exhibitions. New Zealand has a very lively coffee culture, and we take coffee making very seriously! For me, the best café in New Zealand is Prefab, in Jessie St. Last point, you can't live Wellington without taking a walk along the waterfront around to Oriental Bay (if it's not blowing) .

This article appears with the kind permission of our friends at Relais & Chateaux, adapted from their Routes du Bonheur series. Routes in Australasia, Europe, the US and Africa are accompanied by Michelin-endorsed road maps. Separate Routes du Bonheur traversing through China, India and Japan will be launched soon.  More information on these and on R&C's fabulous 500+ member properties , Whare Kea Lodge including Kauri Cliffs  and Matakauri Lodge  at www.relaischateaux.com
Updated 1/11/20

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