Azur Lodge Queenstown, view from deck

Luxury Adventures are doing a series of interviews with some of our key suppliers looking at the different aspects of their lives and how these influence the experiences they offer. Azur Lodge is located in Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand.

Lets face it there is alot of competition in Queenstown when it comes to luxury accommodation (probably the most in NZ). What sets you apart from the others and why should people choose Azur?  Azur is blessed with a truly unique location that allows for incredible views, privacy, isolation and yet is in very close proximity to downtown Queenstown.  We also offer complementary transfers on arrival and departure to the airport as well as transfers to & from downtown on demand right throughout the day. Therefore many of our guests do not require a rental car unless for sightseeing, which people enjoy a lot.  Our Luxury Villas are 75 sqm in size and feature floor to ceiling windows to take in the breathtaking lake and mountain views, most guests once checked into their villa struggle to leave even for the fabulous activities on offer here in Queenstown! Top all of that off with our  tailored personal service and attention to detail, here at Azur we have no set rules or timetables, everything is tailored to our individual guests needs, we believe true luxury is on your own timetable not someone else’s! So we believe this is a combination that sets us apart from our competition.

Azur is close to town yet you have a feeling of being isolated, thats a good combination we think. Does this work in your favour? Azur is very fortunate with its enviable location, we are tucked away on a hillside at the end of a quiet suburban street in Sunshine bay, a suburb of Queenstown.  We have 3.5 acres of our own land that looks out over Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountain ranges, and yet we are only 5 minute’s drive to downtown Queenstown.  This combination certainly does work in our favour as guests have the best of both worlds, peace quite isolation, breathtaking views and yet in a few minutes by complementary transfer you are able to be in the middle of the action in downtown Queenstown!

There are alot of dining opportunities in Queenstown, what are the options you currently recommend for your guests – not just limited to restaurants? There are so many excellent dining options in downtown Queenstown which is one of the main reasons we do not offer a formal dinner at Azur, with our transfers in and out of Queenstown our guests do not have to worry about parking or having a glass or two of fabulous central Otago vino with their dinner!  My highest recommendation currently has to be The Bunker, I have been there many times over my 10 years in Queenstown and I am yet to fault it, the service is impeccable, the food exceptional and the restaurant has a cozy and warm  ambiance. Josh Emmett’s new restaurant Rata which opened in May this year is a favourite for guests at the moment, it definitely brings a new element to Queenstown dining with fabulous food, however it is quite a large restaurant so it is not an intimate experience like The Bunker. We will always highly recommend a visit to Vknow just around the corner in Fernhill, Danny and Lizzie who run Vknow are great Kiwi characters and sometimes it is more like dinner theater than just a meal out! Hands down the most popular option with our Azur guests is to dine in the privacy of their own private villa, there is a beautiful dining table set into the floor to ceiling picture window, the Azur team orchestrates the whole dining process from start to finish, they set the table with beautiful place settings and candles, deliver the food which guests can order from a selection of carefully chosen menus from downtown Queenstown, nothing is delivered in take away containers instead it is plated beautifully into our lovely Nikko fine Japanese bone china before being transported to the villa in our portable oven we call the “hot box”.  The top in villa dining choice is Fergburger, huge gourmet burgers which are not to be missed!

The Queenstown region is a mecca for activities and sightseeing. Our guests tend to stay anywhere from 3-7 days in Queenstown, what are your top 5 things to do there? Milford Sound is very popular from Queenstown and most Azur guests opt to fly either by fixed wing aircraft or helicopter which is a very scenic way to experience the beauty of Milford Sound.

Glenorchy is a must see also and one of our favourite trips to take into the National Park is the Dart River Wilderness Safari, this trip offers something for everyone with the adventure of the high speed jet boat and 360 degree spins, plus the beauty of walking through the native Beech Forest.  The trip also showcases areas where the Lord of the Ring trilogy were filmed.

Other favourites are sight seeing in the historic township of Arrowtown, a visit to the Kawarau Bungy Bridge and stopping in the Gibbston Valley for some wine tasting at one of the award winning local wineries.

For those who are not faint of heart then the Adrenalin  Action in Queenstown is not to be missed!  Queenstown is not dubbed the “Adventure Capital of the World” for no reason, pretty much you name it you can do it in Queenstown, Skydiving, Bungy, The Canyon Swing, White Water Rafting, Canyoning, River Boarding, just to name a few!

No visit to Queenstown is complete without a trip to the Skyline Gondola, the views from the top are spectacular, it is a must see!  From there you can also choose a plethora of activities, from luging (downhill go karting, fun for all ages!) or bungy jumping, paragliding or the newest activity in Queenstown Zip lining down through the trees with Ziptrek Eco Tours!

Azur bathroom, Queenstown, New Zealand

We’ve been dealing with yourself and Gavin at Azur for a substantial period of time and you both form part of a long serving team. Is this one of your key strengths? What do you both bring to Azur? Yes you are correct we do have an incredibly long standing team at Azur.  In fact I am one of the shortest serving members of the team, coming up 5 years in February!  Gavin has been with the lodge 6 years and Keiko and Maria our kitchen superstars have been here for 7 years which dates back to almost the opening of the lodge! This stability is definitely one of our key strengths, we know each other exceptionally well and work together as a cohesive team, we are more like an extended family than work mates, we all pull together to ensure our one key shared goal is met which is maintain exceptional standards so our guests experience of Azur exceeds their individual expectations and needs. Gavin and I are constantly teased that we are a “managing couple” who are not a couple!  This works well as we are able to split the responsibilities of running Azur to match our individual strengths and still be able to let the other have time off with our loved ones also.  Gavin has a background in Food and Beverage so this is his domain, he also takes care of all of our HR requirements and organizes keeping the huge gardens and grounds plus villa repairs and maintenance so the entire property is always immaculate.  I on the other hand enjoy the organizational side of Azur, so I handle the reservations, Sales and Marketing and forward planning to ensure everyone is where they need to be and when, in particular for our airport transfers.  Gavin and I share the hosting of guests and also being on site as concierge to assist guests with any of their needs while staying with us at Azur.

Whos been your most memorable guest? We have had many memorable guests at Azur, in fact in my almost 5 years at Azur I struggle to think of any that we have not enjoyed looking after! However the guests who stand out for me are returning guests Wayne & Lesley, they have stayed with us 5 times in the last 2.5 years, they are now part of the Azur family!  Their first visit was while I was on leave from Azur after my back surgery, I had been in contact with Wayne extensively prior to their stay to help plan their activities, however when they stayed I was not here!  They said I was the “invisible” member of the Azur team and they had to come back again to stay to meet me in person some months later!  On every visit they still remember all of our staff at Azur and ask after all previous members of the Azur team who may no longer be with us.

I’m going to put you on the spot Tania… A customer calls to make a reservation and you’re full, where do you recommend they stay? If the guests are looking for views similar to those at Azur or similar type of villa accommodation then we would definitely recommend Matakauri Lodge as they are set on a hillside overlooking the lake and the mountains just like we are at Azur, however a little further out of Queenstown on the way to Glenorchy.  Shaun, Callum and the team at Matakauri do an amazing job and we would have no hesitation in referring guests to them if we were fully booked. If the guests wanted proximity to Queenstown and activities or did not wish to have a rental car then we would recommend they contact Chris and the team at Eichardts.  They have a lovely downtown location on the waterfront and are in the heart of the action, their gorgeous suites are upstairs and overlook the streets below as well as out to Queenstown Bay.

Queenstown has a certain allure about, personally its one of my favourite places in New Zealand for a variety of reasons. As you live there and know it well, what makes it special for you and why? I have lived in Queenstown for 10 years and have holidayed in the area my whole life having grown up only 2 hours away from Queenstown.  There is something magical about this place.  I believe there is something that absolutely everyone can enjoy about this area, from the breathtaking scenery of the crisp clear blue/green glacial waters of Lake Wakatipu or the towering mountains that surround us and the beautiful change of the seasons. As well as that there are adrenalin activities, scenic tours, hiking, golf, award winning wineries, a great night life and top class restaurants, really something for everyone!

Where to from here for Azur? Onwards and upwards for our wee team, we have fared well through the global financial crisis and come out relatively unscathed.  We are blessed that the majority of our business is for honeymoon or special occasion travel, for which our guests seem to have already set the money aside for these special once in a life time occasions and travel anyway.  We are also very fortunate that we have a split of travelers from all over the world, no specific geographical region which has also helped as different markets have been effected differently by the recession. Exciting times are ahead again for little NZ with the upcoming release of The Hobbit movies which have now been announced as another Trilogy, which will entice travelers back to our beautiful scenery. At Azur we just keep doing what we do well and the people keep coming as we get busier every year, so hopefully more of the same.

If you could pick only one other NZ destination to spend 3 or 4 days where would it be and why? I have to say I have spent a lot of time in the South Island of NZ, having lived here my whole life, so the North Island intrigues me a great deal, I would love to visit The Bay of Islands and take one of the cruises and if I was lucky enough to stay in a villa at Eagles Nest!

We think Azur offers exceptional service whilst remaining informal and friendly. Is this the feeling you are aiming for? This is exactly the Ethos and aim of Azur,  we strive to provide exemplary service which is tailored to our individual guests needs, we endeavor to be able to be proactive in our service and anticipate our guests needs rather than react to them, our service is informal and friendly while still being extremely professional, however we also aim to not be intrusive in our service and let our guests have the peace and privacy that people crave while on holiday. It is a fine line which we aim to balance perfectly for our guests.  This is achieved through a combination of our lack of rules or restrictions placed on our guests as well as building a team  of staff at Azur where true enjoyment and genuine care of looking after people comes as paramount over previous experience in hospitality.  We believe we can train all other details in our team, however this key element cannot be faked.  We welcome people to come to Azur to experience for themselves whether we meet this aim! J

Tania Labes is the co-manager of Azur Lodge in Queenstown.

Tony Townley is a luxury lifestyle specialist and owner of Luxury Adventures. Talk to us about planning your next visit to New Zealand, Australia or the South Pacific Islands.

Azur Lodge Queenstown in bottom left of shot

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