VOLANTE Eichardt’s Private Hotel impresses Stanley Moss as a prestigious and well appointed place to stay in the heart of Queenstown, New Zealand’s downtown
Photographed by Paula Sweet
Stanley Moss is travel editor of Lucire.
If you’re searching for the gold standard in downtown Queenstown at the southernmost end of New Zealand’s South Island, look no further than Eichardt’s Private Hotel, far and away the most prestigious address on the lakefront. The structure, a heritage landmark facing Lake Wakatipu, has been a fixture of the tiny harbour since 1869. Gold was discovered on the nearby Shotover River in 1862, and over time the town evolved from a mining settlement to something more permanent. Today it’s a hub for lodging, a wealth of tourist activities including winter sports, hang-gliding, kayaking, trekking, ziplining, international cuisines and watery adventures. Over 150 local eateries offer a multitude of dining options. For its small scale, Queenstown represents a bustling scene rich with pedestrian malls, dining to suit any palate, coffee bars and shopping. Let us hope that you don’t find yourself engaging in a case of private jet envy when you touch down at the very modern and efficient airport located only a 20-minute drive away.
The premier choice for stays downtown is definitely Eichardt’s, a boutique gem of impeccable appointments, a range of possibilities, with more to offer the sophisticated global traveller. The property upholds international standards of ultra-comfort with only seven luxurious lake view king suites, four excellently appointed lakefront apartments, the Residence (a free-standing three-bedroom dwelling) and the Penthouse, a spacious two-bedroom aerie positioned atop the adjacent modernist new wing.
The Penthouse terrace boasts a commanding view of the waterfront, embellished with premium amenities like private entrance and lift, an outdoor hot tub, sauna, laundry room, butler service, dedicated chef and chauffeured Land Rover to spirit you to and from the nearby slopes. Two bedrooms and a walk-in closet larger than most Manhattan studio apartments means you’ll never suffer claustrophobia. If ennui sets in there is always the Louis Vuitton boutique two floors below for some world-class retail therapy. Celebrity designer Virginia Fisher has made certain that a huge wood table next to the open kitchen will comfortably seat dinner for 10. Fisher decorated all the king suites with a Victorian flair and furnished the rooms and public spaces with classic collectible antiques.
Eichardt’s managers refer to Room 1, located in the original building, as the honeymoon suite. Though slightly smaller than other rooms, it has its own private entrance, and cozy bi-level ambience. Room IV, also recommended, is one of two free-standing apartments located a few steps away from the new building, facing the harbour parade ground, with views of heroic mountains cascading down to the lake. From its windows or front patio you can watch the leisurely arrival and departure of the the iconic 1911 steamship TSS Earnslaw which makes daily trips across the lake to Walter Peak High Country Farm, about a half-hour voyage.
If the prospect of sleeping on terra firma, even in such sumptuous bedrooms, isn’t quite enough for you, Eichardt’s keeps Pacific Jemm, a private 80 ft luxury yacht outfitted with four magnificent cabins moored in the harbour, steps away. Available for day charters, overnight sails to remote unspoiled bays, or a private customized lake odyssey, the cruiser extends on the hotel’s exclusive offering.
Then there’s the Parlour, a discreet and uncrowded corner lounge in the original building, perfect for private dining, pre-event receptions, or just plain chilling. Free for guests’ use, the space promotes the relaxed and easygoing feeling of Kiwi life with a touch of traditional British formality.
Downstairs, the 200-seat Grille restaurant specializes in meat and seafood. Its tables feature an expansive harbour view. Though the kitchen focuses on locally sourced produce from nearby ranches and farmers, executive chef Will Eagleman has been known to forage within the region for wild watercress, elderflowers, elderberries, walnuts and chestnuts to enhance his creations. This chef has a high eco-consciousness, reflected in extreme vigilance about recyclables, compostable, biodegradable and reusable containers and packages. A natural pure New Zealand spring water is the preferred house brand.
A range of local artisan beers is available. In addition to the Grille’s extensive selection of New Zealand wines, you’ll also find an honour bar in each suite, featuring photogenic bottlings of Antipodean bourbons and gins.
Across a skylit reception passageway Eichardt’s heritage bar serves tapas and small bites and an à la carte menu in a warm setting. It’s adorned with fireplace, vintage prints and antique brick, a prime location for breakfast, which is included in the room rate. Try for a window table where you can become part of this historic destination’s vibrant sidewalk life. •
The extras: All Eichardt’s bathrooms have double sinks and lots of counter space. Since many guests stay longer than a week, a washer–dryer can be found in the Penthouse, apartments and residences. Airport transfers and breakfast included in most bookings.
Eichardt’s is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH), an international community of independently spirited hotels. They’re known for distinctive, diverse and delightful properties, where people experience character, charm and class. SLH represents over 500 hotels in more than 80 countries. Visit www.slh.com.
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