Autumn. Winter. I have to admit that these seasons have never previously ranked amongst my favourites. In fact, my sister-in-law and I have a long-standing friendly banter at the change of seasons – she loves winter and I love the heat. Looking at my travel calendar for the next few months, though, I have a feeling that my sentiments may take a distinct shift. There are so many great events on the local calendar that are bound to warm the cockles of my heart.
One of the “biggies”, of course, is the American Express Queenstown Winter Festival. There’s something totally enchanting about Queenstown when it’s bedecked with snow. I spent quite a few seasons being a ski bunny in Kitzbühel, Austria and wholeheartedly fell in love with the Tirol. However, I honestly don’t believe it matches the atmosphere and beauty that awaits visitors to our very own ski capital.
The Australians have cottoned onto this big time, with droves hitting the slopes around the Queenstown area, and the airlines catering to them with additional flights. This year, we’re likely to see more of our winter-loving
neighbours around the North Island slopes, too, with the re-introduction of International flights into Rotorua. So, if you are planning on a local ski holiday this year, I’d recommend you get in fast – before all the good beds are gone!
Another aspect of the cooler months that I’ve begun to enjoy of late are the world-class lodges dotted around New Zealand. There’s a certain appeal to these accommodation offerings that never ceases to thrill me. Due to their often smaller room capacity, they offer a more personal touch. You get to know the staff, can find your way around easily to discover all the nooks and crannies, and the décor is generally impeccable, yet comfortable. Pre-dinner drinks beside a roaring open log fire, a small enough group of guests that you get to know them all before your stay is over, sufficient staff to guest ratios so that you’re never left wanting or waiting, and cuisine that is definitely in a class of its own.
The thought of fishing on an icy lake or sight-seeing on a blustery day suddenly doesn’t seem so bad. Not when I can retire to my lodgings at day’s end, enjoy a relaxing soak in an over-sized tub whilst savouring some of the world’s finest wine.
And, as Tiana so aptly remarks in her investigation into star ratings, check out some of the lesser ranked properties. They may well not be rated as 5-star, but you may be surprised by the high level of comfort, service and attention that you’ll enjoy … at a lesser rate!
If you really aren’t one to enjoy the cold, don’t fret. The Islands and warmer Australian States are a mere hop, skip and a jump away. We are indeed in a pretty privileged position here in New Zealand. Pack up your desk on a Friday afternoon and, before you know it, you could be in tropical paradise. Within a few short hours you could be checking into a tropical oasis … windows flung wide open and a tall cocktail on its way!
Yes, we are lucky … truly, truly lucky!
“Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to”
– Alan Keightley