In the New Zealand adventure capital of Queenstown, you’ll find some of the nation’s best wineries, activities, food and hotels, including a luxurious property under Accor’s globally-acclaimed Sofitel brand. James Wilkinson checks-in.
The Sofitel Queenstown Hotel and Spa has been one of New Zealand’s top luxury properties since it first opened, thanks to the stylish rooms and suites, fantastic food and beverage and wonderful hospitality.
To find out what makes the property so unique, Wayfarer sat down with Sofitel Queenstown Hotel and Spa General Manager, Jeremy Samuels, at the property recently.
Jeremy, thanks for your time. What makes Sofitel Queenstown one of the region’s best hotels?
Whilst the bricks and mortar of the hotel is beautiful in its own right, our people are our the key to our success. Given our location, we have a unique blend of demographics within our team that has created a very rich culture of bespoke, discrete and ‘Cousu Main’ (tailor made) service.
Watching our team engage and interact with our guests is a beautiful thing to watch. They are genuinely passionate about our destination and sharing their knowledge / experiences with our guests, but also proud of our product and service and wish celebrate this. Software aside, our central location, generous room size, decedent F&B offering and culture of French ‘joie de vivre’ all are favourites of our regular guests.
What makes the hotel so unique in your opinion?
Sofitel Queenstown is dedicated to delivering a very unique blend of hospitality between our roots in France, and our location in Central Otago. We achieve this through our four pillars of focus – Chic Design, Authentic and Lively F&B, Indulgent Wellness, and Arts & Culture.
The hotel lobby and public spaces were designed by Stewart Harris of Macintosh Harris who has very cleverly reflected the history of Queenstown with the use of gold to represent the mining heritage of our town, and turquois representing Lake Whakatipu’s mineral hues, but styled with contemporary Parisian elegance.
We relaunched our F&B offering in January 2023 with the opening of La Salon Rouge – our 1920’s speakeasy themed gin bar. With its opening we’ll be providing Le Goûtier – a French twist on afternoon tea, Apero Chic Happy Hour and a gastronomical journey of Central Otago’s best produce curated by Executive Chef Lindsey Bennet.
Our Indulgent Wellness value is delivered by our award winning So Spa, consisting of 5 self-contained treatment suites, relaxation areas and hammam steam bath. Finally we are invested heavily into arts and culture – be it through our hand panted murals of ‘Monochromatic Otago’ throughout the lobby, our sponsorship of cultural events such as Luma, or our cultural immersion of the Maori philosophy of Tiaki – a care of people and place.
Jeremy, tell us about the stylish rooms and suites on offer.
The hotel consists of 82 luxurious rooms, made up of 70 guest rooms, 10 suites and 2 penthouses. Rooms start from 35 square meters, so are very generous in size even at an entry level and all rooms comes standard with Bose sound systems, heated floor tiles and towel racks for the cold winter nights, luxuriously deep spa baths, Nespresso machines, Juliette balconies and Balmain amenities. Our two signature Penthouses overlook the town centre and The Remarkables with private Jacuzzi on the terrace.
Penthouse No. 5 is fully self-contained with kitchen and laundry, whilst Penthouse No. 10 has its own media room and Italian marble bathroom.
Tell us about the fantastic food and beverage on offer.
Left Bank Bistro is home to our famous buffet breakfast and whisks you away to 1960’s Paris with its rustic setting. Le Salon Rouge is the newest member of our F&B offering, and celebrates the strong distilling movement in Central Otago and greater New Zealand.
The menu consists of a ‘choose your own adventure’ experience allowing you for a fixed price to select a gin, specialty tonic, and locally foraged botanical – allowing for endless possibilities to explore. Our in-house mixologist has also created a selection of gin based concoctions inspired from local legends and myths.
Finally we have partnered with NZ based non-alcoholic spirit making Lyres to create a number of traditional cocktails that through cleaver use of acidics and botanicals has recreated the mouthfeel and taste of these classics but with zero alcohol.
Jeremy, what’s your x-factor at the hotel?
In Te Reo Maori, there is a traditional greeting and introduction which talks to a person’s connection to the land, the waters of their home and their Whanau (family). I take a great amount of joy in welcoming people to my adopted home of Queenstown, and inviting them to share and enjoy the mountains (Ko Kawarau te Maunga) and waters (Ko Whakatipu Waimaori te awa) of a place that I have come to truly love.
There is something special about this culture of manaakitanga (respect, kindness and hospitality) that I connect with as a hotelier and passionately try to instil this in all we do as a team at the hotel. I believe in being passionately invested in what we do and am thankful to have a team that share in this passion.
Last but not least, what are some of your favourite things to do in the area?
I love the outdoors, and I love a good pinot. A bike from Arrowtown along the Arrow and Kawarau Rivers is a stunning way to explore the Gibbston Valley – and be rewarded for your efforts by enjoying the produce of some of the greatest pinot producers in the world. The route also takes you over the iconic Kawarau Bridge – home to Queenstown’s bungy operations if you wish to dial up the adrenaline, but also takes you past the Gibbston Valley Cheese Room, and many of the cellar doors and breweries along the trail have a wonderful selection of grazing plates to keep you nourished. Fantastic way to spend the day with friends and Whanau.
Getting to Queenstown
Air New Zealand offers daily flights to Queenstown direct from Australia, alongside connections to the destination via Auckland, with connections available from across South Pacific, Asia and North America.
The long-haul flights to Auckland that connect to Queenstown are operated by Air New Zealand’s Boing 777-300ER and the flagship Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, which feature three cabins, Economy, Premium Economy and up the front, Business Premier, headlined by flatbed seats (featuring mattress toppers and large pillows for overnight flights), fantastic food and wine, thousands of hours’ entertainment and brilliant Kiwi hospitality.
The flights to Auckland feature a new international menu showcasing the best New Zealand to world before you arrive in Aotearoa.
Onboard, premium customers can enjoy the likes of seared salmon from Marlborough, free-range chicken from Waikato and crisp salads picked straight from orchards and fields in Gisborne, Waikato and the Manawatū.
On the wine front in Business Premier, expect some of New Zealand’s best drops, including Felton Road’s 2016 Block 3 Pinot Noir from Central Otago, the Stonecraft 2018 Crofters Syrah from Hawke’s Bay and the Kumeu River Mate’s Vineyeard Chardonnay.