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Driving New Zealand's South Island

Matakauri Lodge, outside Queenstown, which overlooks Lake Wakatipu.

Photo: Courtesy of Matakauri Lodge

Days 1–2: Queenstown

November is the ideal time for a springtime tour of the South Island’s secluded fjords, wild seascapes, and remote luxury lodges. Begin in Queenstown, New Zealand’s premier year-round alpine resort, a kind of antipodean Aspen. From the airport, head into town by following the shore of Lake Wakatipu and snare the lakeside window table at the glamorous Eichardt’s Private Hotel (lunch for two $58); the seafood chowder makes for a superb lunch. After shopping for merino wool sweaters in Queenstown’s compact, lively center, drive 10 minutes along Lake Esplanade to Matakauri Lodge (doubles from $1,010, including dinner), your lakeside retreat for the next two nights. Matakauri—the newest sibling to the North Island’s Kauri Cliffs and the Farm at Cape Kidnappers lodges—has 11 spacious, light-filled suites with panoramic views of the lake and Cecil Peak, whose 5,028-foot summit is often obscured by wispy clouds. Dinner at the lodge is cooked by head chef Dale Gartland, who uses exquisitely fresh local produce: green-lipped mussels; Southland beef; organic vegetables. Stretch your legs here for another day, allowing time for a lake cruise on the Earnslaw, a 98-year-old steamer, or a half day of white-water rafting on the Shotover River, with Real Journeys (lake cruises from $34; rafting trips from $130).


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