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New Zealand’s luxury lodges offer families a truly top class way to enjoy the snow season. We ski-test two of the best.

WORDS Hilary Doling

Hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire, gourmet food, deep baths, downy doonas to keep you warm; New Zealand’s luxury lodges are the perfect place for five star families to be at the end of a long skiing day. With direct flights from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane into Queenstown, a luxury family holiday across the Tasman can also be an easier option than piling the kids in the car for a long drive to the Australian snow. Five Star Kids checks into two of the South Island’s most luxurious lodges.

It is one of those perfect mornings, the frost on the field glitters like Lurex in the winter sunlight and sheep dot the landscape like dollops of snow. It is an ideal day to arrive at Whare Kea Lodge (pronounced far-eh-kee-ah), a discreet luxury retreat in Wanaka, New Zealand.

The owners of Whare Kea Lodge are Martyn and Louise Myer (of the Coles Myers retail dynasty). A heli-skiing trip brought Martyn to New Zealand and like Peter Jackson (of ‘Lord of the Rings’ fame) he fell in love with the area’s pristine beauty. He and his family bought a plot of land on the edge of the lake with the express desire of sharing the beauty of the area with other like-minded people.

The Myers can stay in any number of glitzy five stars but they prefer something a little less ostentatious. The result is Whare Kea Lodge, a simple building of glass and wood that lets the spectacular landscape in.

Whare Kea only sleeps 12, so in deference to guests who may not love your kids as much as you do, the lodge is only child-friendly if you book it out in its entirety; or if, as in our case, you are lucky enough to want to book in when another family are already scheduled to stay.

Main image: Whare Kea Lodge
Above: Ski fun

From above: Matakauri Lodge
Above: Matakauri fireside. Bath with a view of the mountains
and Lake Wakatipu.

We gel well with our fellow guests and happy evenings are spent with the children playing pool in the games room, leaving parents to enjoy a quiet glass of local Otago red by the fire.

Martyn Myer’s passion for heli-skiing has also given birth to a private alpine chalet located high in the Buchanan mountain range with stunning views of the Mt. Aspiring National Park. Harris Mountain Heli Ski will pick you up by helicopter from Whare Kea’s front lawn and in minutes you are skiing some of the world’s best terrain. At lunch time you call in at the chalet and dine at 5700ft before more skiing and a return to the main lodge.

Aside from the scenery and the service, the other treat is the meals. I’d walk through snowdrifts any day of the week to sample Chef James Stapley’s fabulous food.

Nearest slopes: Cardrona, Treble Cone

Directly outside the floor to ceiling windows of our room at Matakauri Lodge is the deep jade-green of Lake Wakatipu and beyond that, grand old Mount Cecil framed against a cobalt blue sky. Its snow capped peak looks like a head of white hair, its silvery slopes like an old man’s suit. We call the mountain ‘Uncle Cecil’ for the duration of our stay.

Matakauri is owned by Julian Robertson, who also owns the uber-luxurious Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers. The trio of lodges are some of the most luxurious in New Zealand, yet all are incredibly family-friendly. At the light, bright and stylish Matakauri Lodge family groups are individually catered for, there are no cookie-cutter activities but anything can be arranged from private ski lessons to heli-skiing or sledding. Even when they are not on the slopes children are encouraged to explore the great outdoors away from computers and to enjoy meals in the main restaurant. I like the fact that the lodge literature says, “children...will come away with memories (and manners!) to last a lifetime.”

Matakauri currently has a special Family Heaven package which includes two nights’ accommodation in a luxury suite with interconnecting second bedroom, breakfast, dinner and pre-dinner drinks and canapés priced at NZ$ 5,836 from now until 14th December 2012. Dinner is served family style for your first night, and on the second night parents can take advantage of the four hours of complimentary babysitting with room service meals for the children, and dine a deux. Mum and Dad are also treated to an 80 minute spa special, while the children experience a children’s mini manicure, pedicure or facial.

Some spa treatments are named in honour of the nearby ski slopes. I consider the ‘Glacial Facial’ but in the end decide on the ‘Snowflake Massage’. It sounds a little gentler than the icy facial and promises a dusting of aromatic powder “like the first snowfall”. Eighty blissed-out minutes later I do indeed feel I have sunk into a soft snowdrift and my tried muscles are completely relaxed. The perfect end to a skiing day.

Nearest slopes: Coronet Peak, The Remarkables

Fly: Stay: Whare Kea Lodge
Matakauri Lodge Play:  •

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