Matakauri Lodge Review: The South Island’s North Star For Alpine Luxury
— Updated on 7 September 2023

Matakauri Lodge Review: The South Island’s North Star For Alpine Luxury

— Updated on 7 September 2023
John McMahon
John McMahon

New Zealand does luxury lodging on this side of the equator better than anyone. The South Island in particular – revered for its time-honoured faith in the craft – hosts some of the most enviable properties in the country. It’s at this intersection of sophistication and serenity you’ll find my review of Matakauri Lodge.

If not just for its wildly accessible proximity to Queenstown, fiscally fortunate travellers make the pilgrimage from all over the world year-round to sample this little slice of alpine bliss. After two nights and three days as a guest there, my view of Matakauri Lodge is one of understated luxury and friendly Kiwi warmth at its most desirable. This halo is only overshadowed by nature’s arresting grandeur on all sides and the glacial blue lake at the heart of it all.

Matakauri Lodge Review
Matakauri Lodge’s main house on a moody winter’s day.

The third act of the Robertson Lodges trio – owned by the late American billionaire Julian Robertson and his family – shares much of its DNA with that of its North Island siblings (The Farm at Cape Kidnappers and The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs), while offering a unique intimacy I have yet to experience anywhere else in the world.

But, given its popularity, the lodging landscape in New Zealand is also literally and metaphorically competitive. So how does Matakauri Lodge finesse a point of difference for high-paying clients who expect nothing but the best?


Matakauri claims you’ll find its regal grounds just seven minutes drive south of town. With Queenstown’s current state of traffic chaos, it could be a negligible 15 minutes at most. Regardless, before your arrival you’re emailed a few days prior to double check your mode of transport isn’t anything other than one with four wheels – like a helicopter, for example. This should tell you everything about the clientele Matakauri caters for. Cue scenes reminiscent of The Night Manager.

Boxed in by a pine forest at its rear and stretches of dark pebble shores on its lakefrontage, Matakauri’s presence is redacted within the surrounding landscape. Nearly four kilometres of Lake Wakatipu separate the lodge from the craggy mountain range on its opposite side, which in late June was dusted with a sugar-like coating of fresh snow.

Matakauri Lodge Review

You’ll never feel like you’re anywhere near Queenstown, or Glenorchy for that matter, which can be found another half-hour’s drive down the snaking road you arrived on. Let’s be clear – Matakauri is no high-country station that demands a military-like operation to access it. The lodge’s location is convenient yet blissfully private. The scene is nothing short of exceptional.

As an all-inclusive lodge, there’s really no reason you’d ever need to leave, and we didn’t get the itch once during our three-day affair. Though should you feel the need, it’s nice to know you’re hardly stuck for stimulation with Queenstown, the Mecca of adrenaline and adventure, so close by.

Design & Features

French provincial touches and autumnal tones keep the overall ambience of the property relaxed. The main house features a casual reception area and welcome lounge that drops down into a dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to the lake. You’ll soon realise that every bit of glass on the entire property is designed to maximise the sweeping vistas. You’re rarely starved of a neck-snapping view at Matakauri Lodge.

Matakauri Lodge Review

Exposed brick, oxidised industrial fireplaces, and pops of bright floral colours maintain the down-to-earth vibe. This casual elegance continues throughout the manicured grounds, its free-standing suites tucked within the ferns, as well as the spa and wellness area, which features a gym, plunge pool, and massage parlour. The latter can be booked by appointment only and you also have the choice of enjoying the treatment in your room, should you prefer.

Matakauri Lodge Review

Alpine hikes and fly fishing on the South Island’s tributaries are staple activities of the summer months. Heli-skiing missions and cosy winery tours are popular throughout the winter. All can be arranged through the concierge at Matakauri Lodge. For any aerial escapades, it’s widely regarded by both management and general punters alike visiting Queenstown that Over The Top Helicopters are the best in the business.

We lifted off for their signature Fiordland Highlights excursion, a half-day combination of glacial landings and wild west coast beach exploration, followed by a breathtaking dissection of the iconic Milford Sound at 1,000 feet. I’ve flown with many operators in many countries around the world, and Over The Top’s tier-one communication and professionalism from start to finish were second to none. Any premium you pay over other operators in the game is worth every cent.


When I said Matakauri was intimate, I meant it. Just a dozen suites in total are scattered across the property, most with their own secluded perch above the shores of the lake. For families or big groups, there’s a single Owner’s Cottage – which starts at ~$18,000 NZD per night – and is nothing short of outrageous. Four ‘Lodge Rooms’ are attached to the main house for the entry-level nightly rate of ~$2,000 NZD per night, and the remaining suites and deluxe suites come in at around ~$3,000 NZD and ~$3,700 NZD respectively.

Matakauri Lodge Review
The Deluxe Suite is the most capacious of the bunch, with the best views.

We were treated to Deluxe Suite number four, just a short 50-metre walk from the main house, where every conceivable accoutrement was waiting for us. Acclaimed interior designer Virginia Fisher has unlocked an expert use of light and space to maximise the lush greenery of the ferns and the steely blue of the lake. I personally found it more homely than the likes of Tasmania’s Saffire with warm, soft lighting throughout and an adjustable fireplace to set the mood.

The open plan design heroes the hallmark view and boasts a daybed, small dining area, desk, the aforementioned fireplace, and outdoor terrace. A step up to the mezzanine level unlocks a plush king bed and powder room, which hooks a corner into one of the most outrageous vanity areas I’ve ever had the privilege of enjoying.

Few bathroom settings around the world have knocked me for six like the one in the Deluxe Villa at Matakauri Lodge. The glorious freestanding tub right up against the window was one of those scenes I’ll never forget in my lifetime. It’s got to be the best perch in the whole lodge to enjoy a lazy Sunday morning watching the wake of the only boat on the water ripple across Lake Wakatipu.

As far as tangible amenities go, the artwork above the fireplace opens to reveal a hidden television, the very well-appointed mini-bar is included in your room rate (sans wine), and there’s a QR code to be found on a polished slate coaster from which you can dial-in dining to your room or browse the spa menu.

Matakauri Lodge Review
Our custom welcome letter, room key, and in-room services QR code.

If you’re only staying at Matakauri Lodge once in your life, the Deluxe Suite is worth the extra spend. Though rest assured you’ll be pampered and surprised at every turn regardless of the room category you opt for.

Food & Drink

The à la carte menu across breakfast, lunch and dinner changes daily and is included in the nightly tariff for two. Guests can choose from a variety of dining spaces, including the library, dining room, patio and lounge, with private dining arranged upon request. Interestingly, outside guests are welcome to dine and make a reservation for all three meals for a fixed price per menu.

Matakauri Lodge Review

Matakauri’s food and beverage offering is exquisite. Head Chef Jonathon Rogers leans hard into the locally grown ingredients procured from the Central Otago region, which is to be expected and very much welcomed as an international tourist.

We often enjoyed breakfast in the room, which was delivered within minutes after a prompt answer from the concierge’s desk. Lunch was usually fresh and zesty, with the Whaitianga Kingfish Sashimi and Te Kouma Bay oysters being notable highlights.

Prior to dinner, guests have the option to enjoy a cocktail hour (or two) and canapés. I relished the extra opportunities to regale with the staff, lean into their tips and recommendations, or just engage in surface-level chat. We were never rushed to take our seats for dinner, and this nonchalance set the pace for each evening’s dining experience.

It’ll cost you an additional $150 NZD per person for the matching wines with the chef’s tasting menu, and I think it’s a non-negotiable for at least one of your evenings at Matakauri. When in such worshipped wine country, it’s only right to embrace its best grapes from the seriously stocked cellar. I found the wait staff – who hailed from all corners of the world – were knowledgable and expertly trained.

Matakauri Lodge Review

While an exciting experience and nothing but top draw with respect to both food and service, I did find the evening setting a little formal for my liking. If you’re only staying at Matakauri while in Queenstown I’d still urge you to hop into town for at least one evening to sample its fantastic casual dining scene.

And yes, that’s a Picasso tapestry on the wall near the restaurant which is part of the Robertson family’s clearly impressive art collection.


Regardless of your arrival by chopper or local taxi, you’ll be treated with a warm familiarity and easy-going kindness from the moment you check in (even before, if you account for the attentive but never overwhelming pre-arrival correspondence).

Matakauri Lodge Review
The nightly weather update waiting for you after dinner.

The footprint of the Matakauri team is light across the whole property, and those staff you do cross paths with often greet you by name. We were treated to a personalised welcome letter and complimentary Matakauri-branded gear in our suite upon arrival, as well as daily updates left by the turn-down service team that toplined handy information on the following day’s weather events.

Our day-to-day schedule, despite essentially just revolving around all the key meals, was very much in our hands and never influenced by anyone other than us. Be it a stacked roster of activities or nothing at all, Matakauri’s attention to detail ensures they’ll be two steps ahead of your agenda at all times.

Breakfast served to the room.

Verdict & Value

Now, back to that competitive lodging question that I posed earlier in my review. Matakauri’s unique selling points are two-fold, in my opinion. Its proximity to Queenstown is a slam-dunk for those looking to dabble in true alpine luxury and relaxation but never be far from the action. It beckons both the adventurous spirit and the seeker of tranquillity and romance. The deafening stillness that envelopes the property like a cone of silence has to be experienced to be believed. You’ll easily forget where you are within minutes.

Building on this proximity is the service. It’s undeniable that travellers playing in the ballpark of many thousands of dollars a night are not short of lodges in New Zealand – the South Island particularly. And while the pointy end of the offering, the Deluxe Suite, is pricey, you’re unlocking a world-class end-to-end experience just minutes from an international airport. I’m struggling to think of anywhere I’ve stayed in recent memory that can top my time at Matakauri Lodge.

If you’re perhaps more partial to the offerings of New Zealand’s North Island, keep things in the family and check out The Farm at Cape Kidnappers or The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs. Alternatively, if you’re a sand-over-snow kind of person and would rather experience luxury accommodation on the other end of the nature scale, read our review of Indonesia’s NIHI Sumba Resort, twice hailed as the best hotel in the world.

Check out our walkthrough of the Deluxe Suite at Matakauri Lodge below, and read on for an exclusive deal for Boss Hunting’s readers.

Matakauri Lodge Details

Address: 569 Glenorchy-Queenstown Road, Fernhill, Queenstown, New Zealand
Contact: +64 3 441 1008

Rates at Matakauri Lodge start at ~$2,000 NZD per night.

The author stayed for two nights as a guest of Matakauri Lodge.

Matakauri’s exclusive deal for Boss Hunting readers

For just $1,035 NZD per person, per night (+15 GST) based on twin share, Boss Hunting readers can unlock the following:

  • Suite Accommodation for two
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Pre-Dinner Cocktails and Dinner
  • Complimentary local appellation wine pairing with dinner for one night of stay

Valid through October 31, 2023.

Contact [email protected] to reserve your stay.

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John McMahon
John McMahon is a founding member of the Boss Hunting team who honed his craft by managing content across website and social. Now, he's the publication's General Manager and specialises in bringing brands to life on the platform.


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