Grant Bradley checks into the Heritage Collection Lake Resort in Cromwell
Location: Just seven minutes north of Cromwell in Central Otago, the resort is within striking distance of the many attractions in the area.
Style: Boatshed-themed managed apartment accommodation which makes the most of its proximity to Lake Dunstan and sits under the imposing Pisa mountain range which separates the area from Cardrona ski field.
Perfect for: Romantic getaways, memorable family holidays, groups of mates and it also has great facilities for corporate retreats in a variety of meeting settings. It hits all bases.
First impressions: This is built in total sympathy with other houses and the sub-alpine environs. It's hard to pick this as being accommodation as it blends in so easily. The resort is all about the inlet that has been carved into what was once part of a sheep farm on the shores of Lake Dunstan, part of the Clutha hydro scheme. The 24 villas with 59 rooms sit on big wooden piles and above the inlet where guests can moor their boats, jet skis or kayaks. Lake Dunstan is popular with anglers targeting brown trout although there's no fishing in the inlet. Hugging the lake's edge the villas have terrific lake and mountain views.
The place is operated with boundless enthusiasm by Anthony Robertson and his partner Lara Cunningham, whose team delivered a no-fuss check-in and fantastic service throughout a two-night stay. He was named best general manager for the Australia and Oceania section of the World Luxury Hotel Awards last year, although being a modest Southern Man he doesn't blow that trumpet. Robertson knows the property intimately - a builder, he helped dig the inlet about 15 years ago and has overseen the construction of the villas whose configuration has evolved to meet the changing demands of the market.
Rooms: Can sleep up to eight people and separate into one, two and three-bedroom accommodation configurations. My one-bedroom Spa Villa had an enormous lounge and dining room with seating for eight; a big couch and two gloriously comfy recliner rockers. The bedroom had a king bed and there were bathrobes. There was a fully equipped kitchen with stove, hob and microwave and all the equipment needed to whip something up from the abundant local produce.
Out front was a 45sq m deck with outdoor beds and couches to stretch out and watch the sun (or moon) rise and set over the lake and mountains. Below the main deck was a piping hot Jacuzzi and you also have access to a sauna. There are three TVs, in the lounge, bedroom and by the spa. If you're hankering for an overseas experience this is as close as you can get. It is a place you don't expect in this country - in a good way. It's tranquil, with the only morning noise being the odd honk from a blue duck. Prices in spring ranged from $180 for a studio to $260 for a Spa Villa.
Bathroom: Large with a double shower and Heritage Collection toiletries.
Food and drink: If you don't want to cook, the Moorings Restaurant is a great option. The heartiest eater will be challenged by the servings here; there's an emphasis on local meat but good vegetarian options. The 14-hour slow-cooked beef cheeks and the double stack of pork ribs (on separate nights) were memorable. The wine list is long, again with an accent on local. The restaurant has a cosy indoor/outdoor bar that is popular with locals, who are very friendly.
Wi-fi: It's easy to sign up and is zipper-fast.
In the neighbourhood: They don't call it Central for nothing; skiing, boating, wine, and the newly developed Lake Dunstan cycle trail is right on your front doorstep. Central Cycle Trail Co. is setting up a mini-depot at the resort for anyone who wants to hire a bike and explore the region on two wheels, the best way to enjoy it.