Queenstown: Relax like a Roman

By Elizabeth Binning

Elizabeth Binning exchanges adventure for luxury in a Queenstown hideaway.

The Spa at Nugget Point Hotel has a Roman-bathhouse feel, with a large pool under a magnificent domed roof. Photo / Dean Purcell
The Spa at Nugget Point Hotel has a Roman-bathhouse feel, with a large pool under a magnificent domed roof. Photo / Dean Purcell

I've never understood how people can fall asleep while having a massage. I mean, you are pretty close to naked, lying on a narrow bed with only a sheet covering your modesty while a stranger is rubbing well-oiled hands all over you.

So I have to admit it was with great surprise that I felt myself drifting off during a massage at The Spa, the latest addition to the Nugget Point Boutique Hotel in Queenstown.

Maybe it was something to with all those aromatic fragrances and rose-scented facial treatments, but I was rather shocked when my hand dropped off the side of the table and woke me up.

Despite my embarrassment Bridget, my beauty therapist, assured me I wasn't the first to succumb to the relaxing powers of her massage.

The Spa opened earlier this year, and with its opulent Roman-bathhouse feel it has quickly become popular with hotel guests and Queenstown locals.

A large mosaic-tiled pool sits under a magnificent domed roof. Nearby there are marbled plunge pools, a steam room, sauna and mosaic-tiled showers with three different kinds of shower head.

The massage room can be set up for couples and has a stunning view - the only problem is staying awake long enough to enjoy it.

It has become a popular location for hens' nights, bridal parties and other groups looking for a touch of indulgence on the outskirts of Queenstown. But, there's no need for the blokes to feel left out. The Spa does special men's facials amongst its many treatments.

And if pampering isn't your thing, Nugget Point has a neat little home theatre tucked away in a cosy room nearby. With big comfy chairs, a large screen and just enough room for some nibbles and a few drinks, the home theatre is an ideal treat for blokes who might want to enjoy a movie with their mates while their other halves are being pampered.

While there are plenty of ways to relax in Queenstown, Nugget Point staff have noticed a trend for couples to simply opt for timeout at the hotel, staying in all weekend and getting to know each other again. My bloke and I found that easy to understand.

The spacious lounge bar, adorned with big couches and bookcases, begged us to relax and enjoy a drink in front of the fireplaces. The food in Birches, the in-house restaurant, was great. And the presidential suite was plush enough for us to stay in there all weekend.

But we did make a foray out to follow a wine trail through some of Otago's most southern vineyards, and discovered that while wine tasting may sound pretty relaxing there are risks.

We were picked up for our Appellation Tour late morning and I admit I wasn't sure what to expect because, while I enjoy a drink, I don't like white wine and prefer rose or bubbles over reds.

So it was a fair bit of reluctance that I picked up our first tasting wine at Chard Farm - a 2009 pinot gris - only to find the small mouthful just wasn't enough. And the 2008 gewurztraminer that followed was even better. I'd only tried two white wines and within seconds had been converted.

Our small group - which comprised an American tourist, a local couple and our friendly guide, Liz - tried a variety of local wines. Several were so appealing that they were purchased.

What made this tour so enjoyable - besides the obvious - was Liz's extensive local knowledge, which allowed her to provide an informative commentary as we wound our way through Central Otago's picturesque valleys, dramatic gorges and vine-clad hills.

Her tales covered everything from the origins of the land and the first settlers, through to humorous stories about local winemakers - the kind of small details that transform what could have been just another tour.

We then shared a great lunch platter at Carrick Wines in Bannockburn. Amazingly, we still found room to have dinner at Saffron restaurant in Arrowtown. The food is divine and many of the wines are sourced locally.

The only problem with my meal - a delectable red curry followed by a scrumptious chocolate brownie - was that I ate far too much and ended up in desperate need of a nap ... maybe it was time to return to the spa.

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Air NZ flies several times a day to Queenstown.

Where to stay: Nugget Point Boutique Hotel & Spa offers a full selection of accommodation options.

What to do: Pamper yourself at Nugget Point's new spa or enjoy a guided tour of the region's vineyards with Appellation Central Wine Tours.

Where to eat: Saffron Restaurant in nearby Arrowtown offers meals by well-known chef Peter Gawron.

Further information: See queenstown-nz.co.nz.

Elizabeth Binning visited Queenstown as guest of Nugget Point Boutique Hotel and Air New Zealand.

- NZ Herald

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