New Zealand’s adventure capital may best be known for its adrenalin-charged thrills—skiing, bungee jumping, white-water rafting, jetboating—but that’s only half of its allure.
Cradled by the snowcapped Remarkables mountain range and overlooking the shimmering waters of Lake Wakatipu, the picturesque resort town of Queenstown has long been New Zealand’s top tourist destination. Attracting a good mix of nature lovers, adrenalin junkies, and foodies, the booming South Island community of only 14,000 residents welcomes almost three million tourists a year—and it’s easy to see why. With an ever-growing mix of stylish hotels, great produce-driven restaurants, and other après-ski diversions, Queenstown today combines adventure and indulgence in equal measure.
Where to Eat
An upscale reinvention of buffet-style dining, Bazaar Marketplace opened earlier this year as part of the revamped Rydges Lakeland Resort, offering an array of fresh seafood, cheese and charcuterie, grilled meats, and wood-fired pizzas. Or head to nearby Bespoke Kitchen, which was voted New Zealand’s best café in a 2016 competition. Standouts include a raw cheesecake made with almonds, cashews, and cacao; eggs Benedict on sourdough toast; and house-baked Kiwi treats like Bakewell tarts and caramel slices.
The wider Central Otago region is home to a number of excellent vineyards, most known for their pinot noirs. One, Akarua Wines, has recently paired up with a local gourmet caterer to create Akarua Wines & Kitchen by Artisan. Open for lunch and breakfast, the restaurant made its debut last December in an 1870-built stone-and-clapboard cottage on the road to historic Arrowtown. Don’t miss the panzanella and ricotta-stuffed zucchini flowers, or cedar-smoked alpine salmon paired with a pinot noir or chardonnay.
Where to Shop
At first glance, Queenstown’s rapid expansion seems to have led to a glut of chain stores and souvenir shops. But look again and there are signs the creative community is pushing back. On a popular lakeside walking track near Jubilee Park you’ll find an old building covered in ivy and creepers; once a butcher’s shop, it’s now The Ivy Box, a gallery that showcases bold, contemporary works by Queenstown-based artists including owner Lynda Hensman.
Hidden just beyond a gas station in the suburb of Frankton is The Barn. As its name suggests, the store occupies a refurbished farm building and stocks a rustic collection of homewares and gift items to match, alongside New Zealand–made jewelry and cosmetics. Antiques lovers will want to beeline it to The Den of Antiquity on the northern edge of town. The shop’s extensive inventory of furniture and curios are hand-picked by owners John Fraser and Dawn Colledge, who spend much of their time hunting for 17th- to 20th-century antiques in Europe.
Where to Stay
You can’t do much better than Eichardt’s Private Hotel (apartments from US$679) the town’s 140-year-old grand dame. Its new penthouse extension will set you back a cool 10,000 New Zealand dollars a night, but the apartments and suites offer similar luxury (and lake views) for a fraction of the cost.
There’s been much excitement over the reopening of the 1888 villa Hulbert House (suites from US$519), renovated under the guidance of top Kiwi designer Neil McLachlan. Eye-popping colors, loud patterns, and antique furnishings meld into a beautiful mix of Victorian luxury and contemporary chic.
A short drive east is another restoration success story, the Sherwood (doubles from US$126). Once a run-down mock-Tudor motel, the hillside property has been transformed into quirky eco-friendly lodgings with a zero-waste policy. Rooms are simple, but the real draw is the hotel’s cultural and community offerings. There’s a regular rotation of live music, films, and artists in residence, as well as yoga, Pilates, and meditation classes.
This article originally appeared in the June/July 2017 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Quintessentially Queenstown”).