John Key's Queenstown: My Kind of Town

Prime Minister John Key with Michael Hill at the Hills Golf Course in Queenstown in 2010. File photo / APN
Prime Minister John Key with Michael Hill at the Hills Golf Course in Queenstown in 2010. File photo / APN

The UK's Daily Telegraph asked NZ Prime Minister John Key, about Queenstown, including his favourite sights, hotels, bars and restaurants.

Why Queenstown?

It's a beautiful town, in quite probably the most picturesque part of New Zealand, surrounded by incredibly dramatic mountain ranges around Lake Wakatipu. There's every sort of adventure activity on offer: bungee jumping, sky diving, skiing, white-water rafting - you name it, they do it. And not least, there's the fantastic food and wine, especially the Pinot Noir grown around there. I've been going to Queenstown for more than 30 years, and never tire of it. I usually visit about five times a year for conferences but I also try to spend at least one weekend there with my wife and children.

Anything special I should pack?

Golf clubs. There are five magnificent golf courses down there. I've played my best game at The Hills, a championship course, and quite an exclusive club.

In New Zealand terms it's expensive at around $500 a round, but it's absolutely gorgeous.

What do you miss most when you're away?

The fresh air. It's all fresh in New Zealand, but there's something amazing about the air quality in Queenstown.

What's the first thing you do on your return?

If I am there with my wife and children, we'd put on some comfortable clothes and go for a walk. There are some wonderful trees and foliage, so we wander out to see that.

Where's the best place to stay?

We usually stay at Millbrook, in Arrowtown, which is just outside of Queenstown. It's got two golf courses, a spa, a Japanese restaurant, and lots of different activities on offer. Blanket Bay, at the other end of town, is another gorgeous five-star resort; and Eichardt's is great if you want to stay in the heart of the town.

Where would you meet friends for a drink?

The Amisfield Winery, which is about 10 minutes' outside of Queenstown. They have a big log fire, and its bistro has some of the best food in the area. It's also the place I'd go for lunch; you share small plates, and it is all very good - I particularly like the free-range chicken with harissa and pancetta.

And for dinner?

Botswana Butchery is a great place to go; its specialty shoulder of lamb, which you share between two, is magnificent. It's got an open fire on its terrace, made of the area's trademark schist rock, so people often eat then go outside for a glass of red wine before they head home. I'd also recommend Rata, where the chef Josh Emett uses quintessentially Kiwi ingredients.

Where would you send a first-time visitor?

To the gondolas, which head up into the mountains just outside of central Queenstown. You get a magnificent view over The Remarkables mountain range, and Lake Wakatupu, and a great sense of the landscape. I'd also recommend a helicopter flight to Milford: the fjords there are absolutely beautiful.

What I should avoid?

If you haven't got a head for heights, bungee jumping. Queenstown has a new bungee jump called Nevis. The traditional Queenstown bungee jump is over the Shotover River, which is about a two-second freefall, but Nevis is eight-and-a-half seconds. If you want to see something terrifying, head out to see that. Jumpers launch from a suspended glass platform, which has been built over a ravine, with loud music pumping out. I went out and had a look and decided that definitely wasn't for me. I did a bungee jump in Queenstown about 20 years ago, but wouldn't be able to do another one now. Why? For some reason my political staff don't think me diving off a bridge screaming would be great footage, in case I ever have a big dip in the polls.

Manbag or moneybelt?

People have to lock their car and be sensible but Queenstown is a pretty safe place.

What should I bring home?

Jewellery made of greenstone, it's a sort of jade that the region is particularly known for. New Zealand wool is also renowned; the Merino products are fantastic so a lot of people pick up a jumper or two while they're there.

Anywhere that isn't your kind of town?

There are one or two places I could name, but it might not be good for diplomatic relations! I enjoyed going to Johannesburg, but the crime rate is quite high. I could see the beauty, but you just have to be careful.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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