As Jim noted in his last post, I usually do a hotel wrap-up for the benefit of anyone thinking of traveling to the same destination. I also enjoy calling out the pluses and minuses of hotels. (I’m available as a hotel reviewer if anyone is looking!)
I’ll start with our last venue, which was 5-star, first-class all the way. That’s the Spa at Valewood, otherwise known as my brother and sister-in-law’s house in Thousand Oaks, CA. Jack and Jenna have both been/are in the travel, meeting and events space, so they know how to host. And although the ‘Spa’ isn’t open to paying guests, they do have a logo designed by my artist brother-in-law. (It’s all in the family!)
Our last hotel in New Zealand was Brown’s Boutique Hotel in Queenstown. The highlight of this hotel is it’s location. It’s an easy walk into town, yet the hotel sits on a hill so it’s quiet and affords great mountain views. Also nearby is a bird sanctuary, indoor mini golf and an indoor skydiving center – all quite handy when it snows and outdoor activities are off the table. There’s a cozy living area and a nice breakfast room where we commiserated with fellow travelers about the unseasonable snowfall. Breakfast featured continental items plus choice of a hot entree. My only disappointment is the manager didn’t light a fire on the day it snowed. (Admittedly, we could have asked.)
Our favorite stay was at the Lime Tree Inn in Wanaka. The Inn has a new, Chinese owner, but most of the staff has stayed on, and the new manager, Yohan, is a delight. He did everything he could to make us comfortable, from lighting a fire (without us asking!) every morning and evening, to providing wine-tasting and dining recommendations, and helping us navigate our drive into Queenstown on the day of their marathon. The property is expansive, with a living area with the aforementioned fireplace, a large outdoor area with a gazebo and pétanque (aka bocce or boules) court, as well as sheep in a fenced-in area. The only downside to the Inn is that it’s a 10-minute drive into town. For our two-night stay that wasn’t an issue. The hotel staff helps with taxi arrangements if needed.
The Hermitage Hotel in Mount Cook felt like a land-based cruise ship. The hotel is large and rambling, and the tour buses are constantly in and out, with luggage stacked outside ready for transport, just like on a cruise. But that said, if you get a room with a view, as we did, you can put all that aside and just stare at Mt. Cook. We had our best weather of the trip here, so we had clear views of Mt. Cook for two days.
There are very limited dining options in the immediate area, but we were pleasantly surprised at the quality of their signature restaurant, the Panorama Room. It was one of our best meals of the trip.
Our stay in Lake Tekapo was short (one night), as it should be. Peppers Bluewater Resort is another tour bus stop, and we were originally very put off. (I have no idea what makes it a ‘resort.’) First, we’re not accustomed to staying in hotels that cater to tour buses. Second, we were supposed to have a mountain view. We did, but only if you looked just the right way out of the window. After some negotiating, I got us a room with a better view. Lake Tekapo is best for a short stop before heading on to Mt. Cook, so it might be better just to stay at an inexpensive motel. That said, the bed was comfortable, and the room was quiet, so it worked out okay.
We started at the George Hotel in Christchurch. We had a room in a new wing, which appears to be a newly-acquired and remodeled home. Our room was comfortable and cozy, with a small kitchen and dining area.