True to its reputation, a New Zealand lakeside lodge delivers an exemplary experience in the heart of Hobbit country.
Be careful what you wish for, they say, but having Blanket Bay Lodge high on my dream list paid off recently, rewarding in ways even my fertile imagination hadn’t previously conceived. For a start, I thought I knew New Zealand’s South Island like the back of my hand, so why had I not travelled the fabulous road between Queenstown and Glenorchy before?
Leaving the bright lights and hotels of Queenstown behind, the road hugs the shoreline of Lake Wakatipu with stunning views around each corner. Stopping to take photos we worried about being late, but Blanket Bay is a lodge for grown-ups and the staff welcome you as if into your own home. Mind you, missing canapés and pre-dinner drinks here would be as much of a mistake as missing dinner itself.
The Lodge sits alone on the lakeside facing the magnificent Humboldt Range, hidden from the road, imposing, built of stone and wood, a welcoming shelter with all the right touches – and fabulous food. The menu changes daily so, while there’s no extensive a la carte, you can expect great food. Executive Chef Corey Hume says that many Blanket Bay guests walk through the doors fresh from the world’s top restaurants and many have their own chefs on staff, so they simply expect the highest standards.
Corey does it brilliantly and completely in context with the lodge, using locally-sourced ingredients and his own gifted take on flavour and combinations. There are several chefs in the kitchens, all sharing both the glory and the work, making bread, pastries, canapés and delicious sorbets, as well as all the dishes for the menus. Every dish is created daily from scratch and the results make for a memorable dining experience.
Owners Tom and Pauline Tusher may live in the USA, but you have the feeling the place is always ready for them to walk in unannounced, kept as they wish and maintaining its integrity. It’s stylish but comfortable and relaxing with books, a huge log fire, picture windows and family photos, which tell us that Tom is a keen fisherman! (Anyone with dollars to spend should investigate Wyuna, the property on the hillside above Blanket Bay with premium house sites for sale.)
Guests can grab a bike, go horse riding on Wyuna Station, take a heli-tour to Milford Sound (weather permitting), hike a section of the Routeburn Track or join the jet boat ride up the Dart River, an exhilarating and informative way to venture into the magical world of the Central Otago region. The area is a top location for feature films and commercials; think Lord of The Rings, Tracker with the wonderful Ray Winstone and, currently, The Hobbit. Spa treatments are available at Blanket Bay, which is also a brilliant place to chill, walk, think, plan, celebrate, dream.
We combined this with a stay at Eichardt’s Private Hotel on the Queenstown waterfront, overlooking Lake Wakatipu. Eichardt’s is fabulous, from its rooms and suites to its bar, which serves delicious tapas and cocktails.
Right in the heart of Queenstown, the synergy with Blanket Bay is obvious, and it’s close to great restaurants/bars such as The Bunker and Wai and a short drive to Amisfield Winery, an excellent place for lunch on the way to historic Arrowtown. I’m a seasoned traveller and love new places, but if I had to name somewhere I’d return to, it would be Blanket Bay.
Eichardt’s Private Hotel
Air New Zealand
Alison Pummer & photographer Ken Martin were guests of Blanket Bay and Eichardt’s Private Hotel.
Alison flew Air New Zealand direct from Sydney to Queenstown. Ken arranged his own flights with Emirates via Christchurch and Auckland.
(A section of this article appeared in Discover Magazine.)