Queenstown has long been known as the adventure capital of New Zealand, and of late has been gathering steam as a culinary hot spot. Now, there’s yet another reason to make the trip. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, this picturesque South Island town is emerging as the next high-end spa destination. So Spa in Queenstown offers century-old rituals and traditional Maori treatments, many of which are available nowhere else in the country, let alone the world.
Natural native ingredients such as manuka honey, beeswax, warm volcanic clay from the famed geothermic region of Rotorua, and shimmering paua shells highlight So Spa’s therapeutic offerings, as does a potent undercurrent of Maori lore. The Grounding Body Massage, for example, is a sublime one-and-a-half hour full-body treatment that begins with a greenstone massage. In days gone by, Maori warriors seen carrying a greenstone mere (a short, flat club used in hand-to-hand combat) were considered to possess great strength and honor.
The mere was a deadly weapon, one for taking life, but in the hands of the spa’s therapists, the jade-colored nephrite is a tool for healing. Handpicked and carved by Queenstown artisans Scott McFarlane, the stones are used to trace patterns reminiscent of Maori tattoos on your face—and experience that leaves you calm and emotionally recharged. Greenstone is sacred to native Maoris who believe its clearing energy promotes strength and spiritual awakening and helps you identify the reasons behind negative emotions. It is also one of the strongest and sharpest stones in the world.
Luxury spa suites for two are delightful and include plenty of room to shower à deux. Couples will want to sign up for the Traditional Maori Ritual, which combines a body wrap of manuka honey and warm volcanic mud with the sensuality of a relaxing greenstone massage. For mothers-to-be, there are ancient hapu (pregnancy) rituals that involve a gentle kneading; for those who have just given birth, the Cradle of Nature program, which includes toning exercises, a body wrap, and a facial, is the ultimate in postnatal pampering.
Due to their spiritual aspect, some of the traditional treatments, such as the mirimiri massage—good for backaches, strains, and stiff shoulders—can only be delivered by therapists with a connection to the local Maori community. As they are not always available, it’s best to book sessions well in advance. On my own visit, I had hoped to try the deep-tissue romiromi rubdown; alas, the kohatu (stone) and rakau (stick) essential to this treatment were up in the North Island being blessed by a tribal elder. It was a good lesson. While Queenstown brims with action and adventure, at So Spa, you are reminded that bliss can’t be rushed.
Disclosure: The writer was a guest of So Spa Queenstown.