569 Glenorchy Rd., Queenstown, New Zealand, matakaurilodge.com. Rooms from $1,121 a night; the Owner's Cottage starts at $8,435 a night.
Stunning sights are often accompanied by tall tales, and Lake Wakatipu – an aquamarine, serpentine body of water ringed by dramatic peaks on New Zealand's South Island – is certainly no exception. Maori legend has it that here, a mighty warrior slayed a giant who had stolen the local chief's daughter; vanquished and set aflame, the giant's body melted the snow on the neighbouring ranges, creating the lake. And if it had been there at the time, that warrior would have almost certainly celebrated his marriage to the chief's daughter by taking her to the Owner's Cottage at Matakauri Lodge.
The four-bedroom, five-star cottage, which recently underwent a $5-million reno, includes six outdoor areas, a lakeside Jacuzzi and custom artwork (including a $250,000 Picasso original clay vase).
Perched on the edge of Wakatipu, Matakauri Lodge enjoys breathtaking views of the lake, the twin peaks of the Cecil and Walter and the Remarkable range – mountains that feature heavily in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. While the location offers a feeling of complete seclusion, and direct access to both the lake and some amazing trails, Matakauri is close enough to Queenstown (about 20 minutes) that running into town for some shopping is always an option. (The lodge even provides a car for that purpose.)
Whom you'll meet
While the resort attracts a well-heeled crowd, guests here are more likely to pack their hiking boots and golf shoes than a tie and a dinner jacket. While some come with entourages and bodyguards, everyone's just looking for anonymity and a little time on the lake. Many come here to complete the so-called "Tiger Trail," which includes two other lodges built by the same owner (the Farm at Cape Kidnappers and the Lodge at Kauri Cliffs, both on New Zealand's North Island).
If I could change one thing
Things get a little too quiet after the sun goes down. Beyond reading silently in the lodge's library, sitting by the fire in your room or watching a little TV, there's not a whole lot to do after dinner. While Queenstown offers a bit of nightlife, a little something to keep guests entertained on property would be nice.
Every suite includes an "infinity bathtub" positioned by the window (at a strategic angle, so neighbours can't see in), and it feels like bathing right on top of the lake. Soak solo (a nice jar of bath salts and high-end bath products are provided), or request a romantic turn-down, which includes rose petals on the bed, small bites on the table and candles and incense burning around the tub.
Eat in or eat out?
Breakfast and dinner are included in the room rate. While the lodge maintains a relationship with a carefully selected handful of upscale restaurants in Queenstown (where guests can dine at a discount), there's no reason to leave for a meal – Matakauri is well-known for its excellent cuisine, especially the degustation menu by chef Jonathan Rogers. Offerings take advantage of excellent local ingredients and mix Western and Pacific influences. Two favourites include venison hunted by helicopter in nearby Fiordland National Park (where the deer are considered an invasive species) and cooked over manuka wood, and merino lamb which, fed on high alpine grasses, offers a uniquely robust flavour.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.