Queenstown, Part 1 (Getting there and Accomodations)
The winter school holidays are upon us! Instead of escaping the cold, we decided to embrace it and head down to the South Island for a little Queenstown getaway. There are frequent flights from Auckland, and if you time it right, there are some amazing deals on Air New Zealand. Keep an eye out on Grabaseat or the Air New Zealand website to monitor prices and bargains. The trip is slightly less than two hours, and if you haven’t taken a domestic flight within New Zealand yet, you’ll notice how simple security is here.
The Queenstown airport is tiny. It is easy to find luggage and transportation, but I’d recommend getting a rental car during your stay. Queenstown proper is a small, quaint town that is perfectly walkable, but there is so much more to see in the general vicinity that it makes life much, much easier to have your own wheels. The Queenstown airport has all of the “normal” rental car companies, but I’ve found time and time again that if you want a better price, Apex is the company to use. We’re currently buzzing around in a Toyota Highlander which was perfect for trips up the mountains to ski. (Stay tuned for more about that adventure!) And they threw in carseats for the kids for free, which was unexpected and awesome.
We did a little online research on places to stay, but decided to go with the recommendation of a friend and booked at The Rees Hotel. All I can say is this is an EXCELLENT place to stay if you’ve got kids and want a little separation from them. We are staying in a two bedroom apartment that is designed with a family of four in mind There is a wonderful kids room with two twin beds and a master bedroom with a king. There are one and a half baths, and the underfloor heating in the main bathroom is incredible. I’m not sure I can ever go back to middle of the night bathroom runs without a floor set to 24ºC (75ºF). We’ve got a kitchen that is adequately equipped (though strangely there are no paper towels or napkins, which is a bit frustrating) and a huge living area complete with fireplace. The best part, however, is waking up to this:
The incredible views over Lake Wakatipu are stunning. The Rees is just a few minutes from the airport and a few minutes from Queenstown. We found that traffic can be particularly bad during rush hour, so being located outside of the city center is (slightly) beneficial.
The food at the hotel is excellent. The kids and I enjoyed an out-of-this-world hot chocolate by the lobby fire, and it was everything you could dream of after a long day of skiing. Actually, I change that. If I could’ve added a bit of peppermint schnapps to my hot coco, it would’ve been perfect, but alas, their bar was lacking. We’ve also taken advantage of their room service options for two nights as the kids have been exhausted at the end of the day and were in no mood to go out and eat. I’ve tried both the salmon and the penne with mushroom and parmesan sauce and thought they were quite good.
I found the staff at The Rees to be incredibly warm and helpful. The concierge was spot on, the breakfast pastries we snagged every morning from the restaurant, True South, were delicious. I’m told the restaurant itself is quite good, but alas, we were always too exhausted at the end of the day to make it down for a full meal. Parking was free and easily accessible on the 4th floor. My only other complaint - besides the lack of schnapps - is that the designers apparently forgot that people would be showing up with luggage and need somewhere to put their clothes. The closets were minuscule, and there was no place in the bedrooms to open up a suitcase. Nor was there a good place to store luggage after unpacking. That oversight was bizarre, but I guess the assumption is that with in-room laundry facilities (yes! so awesome with kids!) no one would bring much in the way of clothing, and ski equipment can be stored in the hotel’s ski locker.
We had so much fun on this trip that we’re already talking about making it an annual event. We will definitely be staying here again as the set up was perfect for us. Two thumbs up!