VOLANTE Offering stunning views of Lake Wakatipu, the Rees Hotel gives five-star luxury for those wanting both short- and long-term stays near Queenstown, writes Stanley Moss
Photographed by Paula Sweet
Stanley Moss is travel editor of Lucire.
Thrilling snow-capped peaks dominate the skyscape which soars above the green foothills at the southernmost point of New Zealand’s South Island. The aptly named Remarkables Mountains present an ever-changing panorama of shifting weather, shimmering light, and fabulous geology, reflected on the surface of Lake Wakatipu, a 92 km long inland body of water, fed by snow melt, 470 m deep, situated 300 m above sea level. It’s a view you never tire of, no matter your duration at the Rees Hotel, where every lodging features this spectacular perspective in sharp detail and living colour. The hotel discreetly overlooks wooded lakeshores, located near the tiny enclave of Queenstown.
Even the site is shrouded in pleasurable illusion: from the road above you barely see the 11-year-old modernist five-star property, with its 60 rooms, 90 apartments and five free-standing luxury residences. Each lodging, featuring brilliant picture windows and spacious terraces, feels isolated. It’s impossible to stop staring out the windows across the lake, off into infinity. The message here is light, comfort, convenience, privacy and tranquillity. Yet you are but a half-hour walk along tree-lined lakefront paths to a bustling downtown, hub for a multitude of outdoor distractions and adventurous dining choices.
The hot ticket at the Rees are the Lakeside Residences, an incredibly attractive family-friendly solution for longer stays. Five adjacent three-bedroom free-standing two-storey villas, all accessible by a single private drive, are sited on the water’s edge. Each has its own two-car garage and security system, and benefits from the hotel’s full-service offering. When you check into your villa you may note the wafting fragrance of fresh bread baking. How did that happen? It’s just part of the welcome and accompanies the fresh floral arrangements which decorate the house. You’ll find each unit outfitted with modern furnishings, full kitchen, laundry room, underfloor heating, Jacuzzi and sauna. The lower apartments are child-safe. The package is sweetened with around 200 free movies on an in-house TV station.
Cabin fever isn’t really an option at the Rees. Complimentary van shuttles to town leave at regular intervals from the front entrance, with a convenient central drop-off–pick-up point in the compact downtown. Swift water taxis depart from the property’s private dock; you can prepurchase tickets, but be sure to confirm departure times as the daylight schedule can be irregular.
Up in the lobby—that’s not a typo—you’re catching in the spelling of Bordeau Lounge Bar. The missing x in the name honours Jules Bordeau, an eccentric storeman and packer who for over 50 years provided a lifeline to gold miners working in nearby fields. The casual and relaxing lounge with its heroic windows is an ideal chilling space for drinks and snacking menu, where you can browse among titles from the antique book collection. Steps away you encounter the surprising wine cellar where the expert sommelier has obviously been hard at work. It features a range of the finest French châteaux, with stellar representations from Talbot, Margaux, Petrus, Yquem and other luminaries. Also some fine Italian selections and New World specialties, not to mention local favourites.
One level below the lobby, the light-filled True South restaurant (which doubles as breakfast room) thrives under the sure hand of the intrepid chef Corey Hume. He’s known to engage in the local pastime of foraging Wakatipu’s microclimate, zero-kilometre sourcing, and assembling beautiful presentations of produce, seafoods and meats. Rees Gold, the property’s own thyme honey, can be tasted at breakfast—and perhaps will garland some of chef’s seasonal menu.
Service seems to be the governing message from this wonderful property, which demonstrates a warm willingness to provide exactly what you want. Ask the concierge. Queenstown is crowded in December and January, when international guests arrive for the antipodean summer. In July and August the place attracts avid snow bunnies. Regardless of season, there’s an opportunity to explore a range of outdoor distractions, among them zip-lining, trekking, hang-gliding and kayaking. And on Saturday mornings you’re advised to make the obligatory drop-in to the waterfront setting of Earnslaw Park, where a weekly market highlights local produce, takeaway foods, crafts and live music. That is, if you can break away from your terrace at the Rees Hotel. •
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