Lap of luxury

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A boutique luxury lodge near Queenstown has reopened following several million dollars’ worth of improvements. 

Ten-year-old Matakauri Lodge was bought last winter, then closed down, by prominent American billionaire/philanthropist Julian Robertson, who owns world-rated North Island golf resorts, Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers. 

Robertson’s son Jay says his family had been looking for a Queenstown property for almost a decade. 

Matakauri, off Glenorchy Road, “didn’t rise to the occasion” during one visit, but he, his father and late mother changed their mind during “a wonderful show-round” by previous manager Grant Alley. 

Sold by the location and lake-edge view – “seven minutes from Queenstown but a world away”, as Jay puts it – the family bought the lodge for about $12 million from Hamilton couple Margaret and Murray Hardy. 

Overseas Investment Office approval followed. 

“In fairness to the old owners, [the property] needed to have a bit of an edge to it,” Jay says. 

“We didn’t really want to do another hunting/fishing, traditional-type lodge.” 

The Robertsons hired well-known Queenstown interior designer Virginia Fisher, who’s worked on two other exclusive local properties, Eichardt’s Private Hotel and Millbrook Resort. 

“I was able to follow my instincts, have some fun with colour and add a touch of glamour here and there, always keeping comfort at the forefront,” Fisher has said. 

The 11 suites and villas – eight in outlying buildings – have been retained with the addition of walk-in wardrobes and LCD TVs. 

The main lodge has been extended with extra dining and kitchen space plus view-enhancing alcoves. 

The spa complex now includes an infinity pool, gymnasium and two treatment rooms. 

There’s also been significant landscaping. 

Jay: “We really wanted to be relaxing and not so stuffy – some of these places you stay in, you feel like, ‘gosh, I can’t even sit down because everything’s so perfect’.” 

Jay, who’s run Cape Kidnappers since it opened three years ago, says Matakauri’s smaller size presents challenges. 

“A general manager in a big hotel may never ever see a guest, figuratively speaking. 

“Here, I’m grabbing luggage.” 

Other lodges can afford a dedicated dish-washer – whereas at Matakauri the chef mucks in. 

Jay, who’s running Matakauri with his Kiwi partner Claire Malcolm, says bookings look good for summer.
“The great thing we have which other lodges don’t have is flow. 

“Hopefully we’ll be able to bring some of our [Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers] customers who weren’t coming to Queenstown, to Queenstown.” 

The lodge has an opening all-inclusive South Island resident’s $350 + GST per person per night special till October 31. 

High-season rates range up to $1750 a night for the eight deluxe suites.