The islands of the New Zealand archipelago are located in a distant corner of the world. Their position in the Southern Hemisphere seems to somehow disconnect them from the rest of the world. This peculiarity is evident in the amazing beauty of their unique landscapes in places like Wakatipu lake and the surrounding mountain range. This mountain chain is different from the more famous European Alps, South American Andes or the Rockies of North America. When tourists visit for the first time, it feels like they have stumbled on very special place, which has served as backdrop for numerous films, including The Lord of Rings Trilogy.
Wakatipu lake is located in the south east of New Zealand’s South Island. It is 50 miles long with an area of 181 square miles, and sits at an altitude of 1,017 feet above sea level, surrounded by the massive Southern Alps. In this idyllic place, caressing the waters of the Wakatipu, we found Blanket Bay Lodge, a luxury country estate considered one of the best tourist destinations in this side of the world. Since opening its doors in 1999, the hotel has become an integral part of the natural environment. Its stone walls, windows, and wooden roofs mix with the landscape in astonishing symbiotic confluence.
Any trip to Blanket Bay Lodge should entertain two clear objectives: enjoying nature and isolating mind and body from our daily routines and the problems we face in our busy lives all year long. Finding peace and tranquility is easy in this luxurious austral enclave. But you must first decide whether you want to partake in action or relaxation, even both. Here the landscape invites us to start the day early at dawn. The orange tone and golden hews of the sunrise mirror the placid water of the lake in total harmony with nature, a perfect moment to reflect on mood and spirit and listen quietly to the demands and needs of our bodies.
If you prefer to delight in solitude, one of the best options is fly-fishing on the rapid torrents of nearby rivers, in small quiet ponds or in the tranquil waters of the lake, surrounded by cliffs and green pastures. Trout and salmon abound in the area, and specimens can weight up to 10 pounds.
Other relaxing options are hiking and horseback riding on almost unlimited routes that extend through the countryside. You can even opt for camping excursions to explore the area’s many wonderful sites, like Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Park. But leisurely activities do not mean giving up adventure. You can also get lost in the valleys and forests, only to discover amazing waterfalls, glacier lakes, and the local wildlife.
If on the contrary, you wish for more action, you’ve come to the right place. In fact, this remote corner of the world is a mandatory destination for daredevils and extreme sports aficionados. Hiking, mountain climbing, extreme mountain biking, rafting, water skiing, paragliding, and kayaking are available and highly recommended, but perhaps the most exciting activity in the area is heli-skiing. A helicopter transports skiers and snowboarders to the top of a mountain. Once there, they jump onto great open spaces with the best powder on the island. The particular orography of New Zealand makes it easy for professional skiers and beginners to partake in this activity. The slopes are fairly moderate, similar to those of a blue level ski mountain.
After a day outdoors, there is always time to unwind and relax. Blanket Bay Lodge boasts a beautiful spa with saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools and magnificent views of lake and mountains. If what you prefer is a massage, the staff specializes in personalized treatments to relax or revitalize the body. With gifts like these at the end of the day, a few hours on the slopes will surely go down smoothly.
Next you should immerse yourself in the local culture. The award-winning Chef de Cuisine at Blanket Bay Lodge, Corey Hume, dishes out traditional cuisine from this land down under. The menu changes every night, and guests can experience a large repertoire of recipes prepared with seasonal products. A five course meal includes cheese, deer, lamb, and crab. Dinner is always served at the hotel’s wine cellar or, if the weather permits, in a spectacular terrace with wonderful vistas of the lake.
The final gift is retiring to the comfortable bedrooms to enjoy an intimate conversation by the dim light of the fireplace, overlooking the stillness of night and the glow of the stars against the impressive mountains. It is not surprising then that this hotel is a favorite with honeymooners. With different lodging options, guests can choose the level of intimacy they desire; the hotel offers five guest rooms, three suites, and four private chalets.
If by the time you are ready for bed, you still feel the need for more action, do not worry; the first lights of dawn, the lake, and the mountains will show you the path to other magnificent experiences. ■