The Luxury Travel Bible - LUXURY HOTELS: The Rees, New Zealand

LUXURY HOTELS: The Rees Hotel & Luxury Apartments, Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand
Style: Apartment space with luxury hotel trimmings
Scene: so close to a lake it is almost in it - in a good way
Seen in the lobby: Those who can ski, those who like decent après ski

At the top of the run at The Remarkables ski resort the view of Queenstown, and the jade-green Lake Wakatipu far below, is stunning. And if you get that kind of view while you're skiing then the hotel you stay in really has to deliver the same kind of spectacle. Luckily The Rees Hotel and Luxury Apartments can rise to the challenge.

rees centre
wine cellar

I walk into my room at The Rees and the view hits me like a blast of cold mountain air - it takes my breath away. Directly outside the glass doors to my balcony is the view in reverse. A close-up of the same Lake Wakatipu, its Gatorade-green depths almost lapping my window and beyond the snow smudged peaks of The Remarkables, where I had so recently been. Sliding bathroom windows mean that even from my bath tub I can see a panorama of the lake and the slopes.

Nothing breaks the tranquillity and majesty of the view except the occasional jet boat from Queenstown's action central buzzing like a red mosquito across the polished jade of the lake.

The building is modern and rugged but there is real pioneer feel about the solid beams in the vaulted ceiling and the hand crafted stone so it comes s no surprise that architect Kerry Avery, I principal of Avery Team Architecture (who also created Kauri Cliffs) drew his inspiration for The Rees Hotel from the natural landforms of the Southern Lakes District and the rich building traditions of Otago settlers. The hotel is designed around the view and with a long stretch of absolute water frontage why wouldn't it be.

Named after early pioneer and hotelier William Gilbert Rees the hotel the hotel celebrates Otago's history. An imposing painting of Rees hangs over the fire place in the Bordeau wine and coffee lounge. More specially commissioned art work featuring New Zealand pioneers hangs around the walls and there is also a library of rare historical books of the region. But it is hard to give the oil-painted Rees the respect he deserves when out of the high glass windows is more of that stunning view. My eyes swivel automatically towards the lake and the mountains. Sorry William, no contest.

At The Rees you can stay in a hotel style hotel room or an apartment. The concept works because those who choose apartments still get the five star service you'd expect from a luxury hotel but with more space and the option to cater for themselves. The interiors of both are the work of Australian Jayne Hamparsum who also designed the interiors at Longitude 131° - Ayers Rock Resort and the sleek furniture in all the rooms is created and custom made by a local Arrowtown furniture maker, Ed Cruikshank who honed his craft at Viscount Linley's design studios in the UK. Floors are carpeted in thick New Zealand wool (we'd expect nothing else). After a hard day on the slopes relaxing in front of the Stone fireplaces in the apartments with a glass of Otago pinot is irresistible and under floor heating in tiled areas thaws out ski boot-numbed feet.

I sit down to dinner that evening with Chief Executive Mark Rose, a great raconteur and a gourmand from way back, so I know the food , and the conversation is going to be good. Rose has lived and worked all over the world and sampled some of the best food and wine along the way and it shows in the standard of what The Rees offers. The private wine cellar is impressive, including not only New Zealand's best vintages, particularly from around the Otago region, but what is probably one of the most comprehensive collections of fine Bordeaux wines in the Southern Hemisphere.

Rose was previously General Manager of Cameron House Hotel on Loch Lomond, Scotland and brought his Head Chef Ben Batterbury with him to run the Kitchen at the hotel's True South Dining Room. Batterbury bases his menus around local produce from high quality suppliers in the area south of Christchurch. So guest can expect seasonal treats such as West Coast whitebait, Stewart Island blue cod, and Bending Station merino lamb, free range pork from Havoc Waikato, Gibbstown Valley and Omar Whitestone cheeses.

Knowing the food is that good we choose the five course tasting menu with matched wines. This is a fine dining experience that you are not likely to get anywhere else in this ski town.
 The next morning the view from my window beckons early no self-respecting skier could resist the siren call of sun on snow.

The next morning the view from my window beckons early no self-respecting skier could resist the siren call of sun on snow.

The Remarkables and their north facing sunny aspect are a favourite with families and there is easy skiing in the wide open bowls surrounded by the rugged peaks the mountain range. Terrain parks with names like Dirty Dog and the Southern Hemisphere's first Stash, a Burton signature park ensure the resort is cool enough for boarders too.

Coronet Peak a 25-minute (18km) drive along a sealed road from Queenstown (and in this part of the world that 'sealed' part is worth knowing), this much-loved local mountain has had a serious facelift with more to come. New in 2010 is an upgrade of the 'Big Easy' novice area which includes a new, state-of-the-art quad chairlift.

The latest improvements are part of a five-year redevelopment programme that has included the installation of the six-seater Greengates lift, a massive snowmaking system and, in 2008, a brand new multimillion-dollar building at the base area housing slick gourmet cafes, and a huge sundeck for those who are more interested in their ski tans than their turns. Luxury lovers can become day members of The Peak Club, or pay for a season's membership which allows access to the exclusive club room with gourmet dining, snow white leather chairs and expansive mountain views. Now that's what The Luxury Travel Bible likes to hear.

Check in: The Rees Hotel & Luxury Apartments, 377 Frankton Rd, Wakatipu Heights, Queenstown. Tel:   + (0) 3 450 1100
Ultimate Luxury:  A Heli ski package - 3 nights' accommodation in a Lakeview Hotel Room, breakfast daily and a Four-run Heli-Ski day with Harris Mountain Heli-Ski.
Most Indulgent Moment: Reading the menu in the True South Dining Room and savouring the thought of what is to come.
Insider Secrets: Chief executive Mark Rose gives The Luxury Travel Bible the lowdown on his restaurant finds as he travels the world in search of the best.
The Little Things: Under floor heating in tiled areas thaws out ski boot-numbed feet.
Junior Luxies: Welcome but not specifically catered for.
Dress code:  Outdoor tough meets indoor black.
Dent in the platinum:
Luxury Tips
FLY: Pacific Blue has direct flights from Sydney to Queenstown. If you're a luxury flyer used to business class entertainment hire the digEplayer, your own personal in-flight for an additional $AUD 20. If you fancy extra leg room, book the Blue Zone seating option for an additional $AUD 45 on top of your fare.

Flying from further afield? Fly into Auckland, Christchurch or Wellington in NZ then connect on.

SKI: NZSki, owners and operators of Coronet Peak and The Remarkables give skiers and boarders the chance to book lift tickets on-line and save at Savings are made with pricing in NZ dollars.

Hilary Doling 19/7/10
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