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Lounge bar at The Rees in Queenstown

Queenstown was once best known as the adventure capital of New Zealand, offering everything from bungy jumping and skydiving to jet boating, rafting and ziplines. Queenstown still offers all these thrills but it is now attracting a more high-end clientele. This is making the famous New Zealand resort town a luxury destination similar to Banff in Canada (but thankfully a lot cheaper to visit). Apart from the incredible adventure activities and drop dead gorgeous views, Queenstown offers visitors a variety of 5-star experiences be it dining, wine tasting in the nearby vineyards and luxury accommodation, which brings me to The Rees Hotel.

Queenstown offers plenty of adventure

I have arrived at The Rees after getting hopelessly lost on a self-guided wine tour. Not such a bad thing as I found a great restaurant for lunch, some hidden wineries and another stunning view around each corner. Checking into The Rees Hotel is a seamless experience that has a staff member guiding us from check in to our room with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of service. We arrive at our two bedroom apartment and are immediately wowed by the fantastic view of the snow-capped mountains and shimmering lake.

View from The Rees
View from our apartment

The apartment is tastefully and simply decorated to highlight the view and comes with all the features you would expect at 5-star accommodation including plush beds, an extra large lounge room with wrap around couch, a full kitchen and a bathroom with high-end toiletries from Forest & Bird. The room also has a queen bed for the second bedroom which has an equally large bathroom. There is also an all-important washer dryer so you can pack light and a fireplace which would be wonderful on a chilly night. My only disappointment is the lack of a coffee pod machine which has become a standard inclusion at most 5-star hotels.

The Rees
Large lounge with fireplace and wrap around couch
The Rees kitchen
Kitchen for self-catering
The Rees bedroom
King size bed with ensuite bathroom
The Rees bathroom
Forest & Bird toiletries
The Rees bathroom
Bathroom with extra large shower

After taking advantage of the free and impressively fast wi-fi for an hour or so, my wife and I make our way up to reception and the hotel lounge. This area is reminiscent of a high-end alpine lodge with an open plan lounge, a massive fireplace, high exposed vaulted ceiling and panoramic windows with 180-degree views of the mountains and Lake Wakatipu. I settle in at a window lounge chair and am greeted with a warm smile from the bartender and presented with a wine list and snacks menu.

After much discussion on good wine choices, I settle for a spectacular Pinot Gris. The Rees has won many awards for its extensive wine list and jaw-dropping wine cellar which is tucked away in a corner of the lobby and includes choices from local wineries to rare Old World wines. As my credit card starts to quiver, I retreat to my room for a pre-dinner spruce up in preparation for dinner at True South Dining, the hotel’s lauded restaurant.

The Rees Hotel
Lobby lounge bar at The Rees Hotel
The Rees Hotel bar
Award winning cellar in the lobby

From tender local lamb to fresh seafood and mouth-watering desserts, the only thing rivaling the food at True South Dining is the smiling service, especially from the somelier who knows her stuff. This is a fine dining experience with extras such as a complimentary amuse bouche and fine stemware for the impressive wines, but the feeling is laid back and relaxed. If you want to dress up that is no problem but gents will feel equally comfortable dining at True South in jeans and a collared shirt.

The Rees Hotel dining
True South Dining
The Rees Hotel dining
Amuse bouche ‘crab rock’ with bacon and corn & miso custards

I am traveling with my wife and can steal tastes from her plate so we both get to enjoy some different dishes from the extensive menu. One thing about dining in New Zealand is knowing that you need to pace yourself and not to over order because everything looks and tastes so good. Our waitress’s suggestion to share the rich C.O.D. (which stands for Central Otago Dessert) is spot on and the deep dish of chocolate mousse sprinkled with edible flowers and topped with pine needle ice cream is superb.

Retiring back to the apartment we are pleasantly surprised to find our room turned down and a lovely chocolate treat from Queenstown’s iconic Patagonia Chocolates waiting on our pillows. It’s unusual to get turn down and daily room servicing at an apartment hotel so this is a particularly nice surprise. It’s a treat to return to a neatly made up apartment after a day out exploring.

The Rees Hotel treat
Chocolates were waiting on the pillow

Morning has us venturing back to True South Dining for an al a carte breakfast, not that we really need the big breakfast after dinner the night before. However, the fresh blueberry pancakes are amazing and paired with coffee and attentive service which has us ready for a day of adventures. Needing to shed a few kilos we head down to the Frankton Arm Walkway that runs parallel to the lake and takes us into downtown Queenstown. This is a leisurely 40-minute walk but bikes can be hired from the hotel and would make for a great day out if the weather was good.

View from the Frankton Arm Walkway on a cloudy day

Check out the next morning sees rain clouds and drizzle but with the upside of a fresh dusting of snow on the mountains. We’re at the airport after a speedy transfer which barely takes 10 minutes. Overall The Rees Hotel offers an impressive 5-star experience and is well worth the spend. With quality furnishings, toiletries, service and style, it is ideal for couples, families or groups of friends as it combines the intimacy and friendliness of a luxury lodge with the added benefits of a 5-star hotel.

Accommodation choices range from hotel rooms to one, two and three bedroom apartments, all with stunning mountain and lake views. If you’ve got some cash to splash, check out The Rees Lakeside Residences. These are located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and include an outdoor hot tub plus the services of a ‘Luxury Travel Curator’ who is on hand to cater to your every whim.

Disclosure: The writer stayed and dined as a guest of The Rees Hotel and is already dreaming of a return visit to True South Dining.

If you are looking for some things to do in Queenstown, we enjoyed sailing on the TSS Earnslaw on Lake Wakatipu and scaring ourselves silly with some of Queenstown’s best adrenline activities.

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Trevor Templeman is a photographer and writer who travels the world capturing the essence of locations through their landscape, architecture and people. His words and photographs are published in magazines, newspapers and online around the world.