Price: From $2950 for a three-night midweek stay
If you want to truly get off the grid, and are in possession of a few extra dollars due to a cancelled trip to Europe this year, then the luxurious Minaret Station is a must. The only way into this 20,000ha station located on the far side of Lake Wanaka, is by helicopter, and from the minute you take off you know this is going to be an experience unlike any other.
The journey is breath-taking, crossing the glistening blue lake before peeling off and following a fast-flowing stream up into a secret valley on one side an ancient beech forest, on the other towering schist-covered mountains where over 10,000 wild deer graze.
The chopper hovers in front of a thundering waterfall before the valley opens up and you finally set eyes on the lodge in the distance. You may be 1000m above sea level, but the lodge and its four chalets are dwarfed by the towering landscape that stretches another 2000 metres up, up, up into the endless blue sky.
Tempting as it is to spend your days here lazying around in awe of the landscape, why not get amongst it? After a gourmet breakfast, be swept away (by helicopter, of course) on a bespoke adventure into a remote corner of this wilderness playground mountain biking, hunting, backcountry fishing or heli-skiing.
There’s the option to ‘pop’ over the Southern Alps and explore the wildlife of the west coast (coming back with some crayfish and whitebait for dinner, no doubt), or head south to the Dusky Sounds, over mountains and rainforests, and explore remote parts of the Fiordland National Park that, accessible only by boat or helicopters, very few people ever get to experience.
Or maybe it’s as simple as a Champagne picnic on a mountain-top, or a day experiencing the machinations from mustering to shearing of this working station.
Or you may prefer to keep your feet on the ground and head off with a guide on one of the many walking tracks that lead you deep into this immense landscape where keas fly so close the red feathers of their underwings provide an exhilarating shot of colour in this fawny landscape.
At night, guests gather in the lodge for drinks and then dinner around the communal table, and share tales of the day’s derring-do over a menu created by resident chef Al Wilson. Think manuka-smoked rainbow trout caught by a fellow guest, served with macadamia nuts, followed by Dusky Sound crayfish tail with burnt butter, celeriac, apple and fennel.
For a main, Te Mana lamb with eggplant, chard, spring onion, hazelnuts and endive. The dessert, a chocolate-blueberry souffle with coconut sorbet. And this is just one night.
High on life, a stroll down the boardwalk, guided by the moon, will take you back to your luxury chalet.
And, before rolling exhausted into the giant bed, you will want to soak in the outdoor hot tub. With the air crisp and fresh, the silence soothing, and a galaxy of stars overhead, you can't help but marvel at your insignificance on this mighty planet, and give thanks for sharing an experience unlike any other.