Of course there are many great things about being in a relationship with a Kiwi but I must admit one of the best things is having a great reason to visit stunning New Zealand each year! This year was a little different though as we went over there to get married!
Along with 10% of couples (apparently) in New Zealand we chose the gorgeous little island of Waiheke Island for the nuptials, which with its array of boutique vineyards, great beaches and slightly bohemian leanings – all while being only a 30 minute ferry from Auckland CBD – does a great job at creating a little relaxed sanctuary for weary Kiwis and newly arrived travellers (for whom I’d recommend checking out The Boatshed) looking for a bit of island chill-time.
Of course while I was over there it was a great opportunity to visit a few of the properties I love but with only a few days spare my mini tour took in just a few of NZ’s highlights; Hawkes Bay, Queenstown and Matakana Coast Wine Country.
My first stop was at Little Tom’s in the Hawkes Bay wine region, whose owners Van & Linda have done a great job at restoring a villa from nearby Napier into a glorious little self-contained cottage perfect for couples looking for a rural retreat. The tranquillity and open views here make you feel a million miles from all other people and the villa, while having everything you actually need, encourages you to slow down and enjoy a simpler way of life.
Millar Road, again in Hawkes Bay is based on the top of a hill above a working vineyard and so offers great panoramic views over the hills and out to the ocean. One of the villas sleeps up to 8 and the two other villas sleep 4 but are also perfect for couples after a little extra space. This is another great base from which to explore the various wineries of the region and of course you’ve got to try a glass of wine sourced from the vineyard at the bottom of your garden during your stay.
After my time in Hawkes Bay-I hopped on a domestic flight (such an easy way to travel around NZ) and winged my way to Queenstown, which I was really excited to visit in the summer months. While the town comes alive in the winter it really is a great destination to visit most of the year around with lots to do for adrenalin junkies and non-adrenalin junkies alike.
The amazing Azur Lodge, based just a short 5 minute drive from Queenstown’s main streets became my home for a while and what can I say, I loved this lodge! The villas are full of luxurious touches – such as the double-ended Jacuzzi bath in front of retractable windows that give you a full view of to Lake Wakatipu while you relax in the bubbles (with bubbles of course). The lodge offers amazingly personalised service but it also has a laid-back feel – you even have a stuffed toy dog as your “do not disturb sign”! So if you’re after tasteful luxury without the stuffiness of airs and graces, Azur is the place for you.
After this I moved on to The Rees Hotel and Apartments, which at the other side of Queenstown is closer to the airport and the ski fields while keeping those great lake-side views. The hotel offers a varied range of comfortable hotel rooms and apartments for families and larger groups who’ll also be grateful for the convenience of the underground parking spaces for their hire car. Award winning Executive Chef Ben Batterbury helps brings additional glamour to the hotel with the restaurant True South offering fantastic options for dinner and the Bordeux Wine Lounge has a lovely atmosphere in the evening.
Following my stint in Queenstown it was time to venture back up north where I was lucky enough to visit Takatu Lodge up near the little town of Matakana – around 1 hr north of Auckland. Heather and John are delightful owners and the lodge itself is a really unique contemporary design that utilises wood, stone and marble – as well as plenty of glass – to create a comfortable indoor/outdoor feel. The 4 apartments are really cosy yet elegant, featuring works of art from several local artists – with mats for yoga enthusiasts – and a well-stocked mini bar that you’ll really enjoy dipping in to as Takatu Lodge wines are found on the wine list of several Michelin star restaurants here in the UK.
While I’d travel to Matakana just to stay at Takatu Lodge and taste the local wines, the area itself is also a fantastic destination in its own right- Goat Island is a must for scuba divers and Tawharanui Regional Park just down the road offers some of the most unspoilt beachfront you’ll find anywhere in the country!
Following Takatu Lodge my little jaunt across NZ was nearly over – just a short stop at the in-laws before heading home, sniff, sniff!
But I didn’t feel too sorry for myself as our return trip allowed us time to stop shortly in the high rolling expat heaven, Singapore. We stayed at the new Fullerton Bay Hotel, which is located right on the marina with great views of the new Singapore landmark the Marina Bay Sands. The Fullerton Bay Hotel is a much funkier, stylish version of its famous older aunt The Fullerton and with a rooftop swimming pool and cocktail bar with panoramic view of the bay it’s obviously a weekend hit with the local crowd. Amazing rooms and great service combine with the fantastic location to make the Fullerton Bay a winner in my eyes – and a stay here definitely made the trip home after a whole lot sweeter.