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In a former life, 139 Fernhill Road was home to a 3.5-star hotel that was, by some accounts, a dive. But after a multimillion-dollar renovation, Kamana Lakehouse in Queenstown, New Zealand, is now a destination in itself.
When the 73-room hotel opened in December 2018, it became Queenstown’s newest luxury hotel. It also took the title for the city’s highest-altitude accommodation option, featuring stunning vistas of the Remarkables mountain range and Lake Wakatipu.
But luxury doesn’t necessarily translate to ample amenities or even a massive room, which I discovered during check-in. With the exception of two deluxe suites featuring soaker tubs, the Tahuna Lakeview rooms are a modest 260 square feet. Meanwhile, the Kamana Twin and Kamana King categories do offer some additional square footage, but at the loss of the view, which is the hotel’s main selling feature.
My guestroom was clean with modern lines and neutral tones, and it came well-equipped with a 46-inch LED television, a plush bed, a coffee station with T2 Teas and a small wardrobe. Outside the wall-to-wall windows was a patio with the promised views, but little privacy; I watched as the couple in the room next to me took selfies.
The room’s bathroom, where I found the all-natural Real World toiletries, was my favorite part. Made in New Zealand from bush honey and kiwiseed oil, the products were so lovely that I bought some to take home with me. They’re also part of the reason that the hotel earned a Silver Sustainable award for eco-friendly practices from Qualmark, Tourism New Zealand’s official quality assurance mark.
On the plus side, the sparseness of my room served its exact purpose: I only used it to shower and sleep, and then spent most of my relaxation time at Nest Kitchen & Bar, the hotel’s lounge and restaurant. It’s named and decorated for the region’s diving water bird (“Kamana” is the Maori name for the Australiasian crested grebe). A dramatic roofline, hanging fireplaces and art deco furnishings contrasted perfectly against organic features, including a customized spiral staircase and real trees.
After a fireside cocktail on the comfortable loungers, I moved to the adjoining dining room to eat dinner (breakfast is also available here from 6:30 to 10 a.m.). Although the seasonal Mediterranean-inspired menu is designed to be shared, I didn’t have a problem polishing off a couple small dishes on my own. Pizzas and entrees are available, including local specialties such as Merino lamb, which is slow-cooked and served with Moroccan tomato sauce. The service was impeccable — without being stuffy.
If clients do opt to go into town for dinner, Kamana is high in the suburb of Fernhill. It’s only a 20-minute walk along the lake to the bustle of Queenstown’s shops and restaurants, but its hilltop location means that while getting to dinner will be easy, a taxi might be necessary to return home.
One of the hotel’s few amenities is a free parking lot with plenty of spots (for clients who choose to rent a car), which is a rarity in Queenstown. There will be additional services come in 2020 though; for example, the hotel is currently in the process of adding three private outdoor hot tubs with views of the lake, which can be booked for an additional fee. There is also an apres ski room, complete with heated boot cupboards.
As its predecessor proved, a hotel can’t rest on its laurels — or its jaw-dropping views. Instead, it’s Kamana’s design — which gets people out of their rooms and into common areas — that sets it apart. Even after I checked out, I found myself returning just to sit in the lounge and enjoy a glass of wine paired with the sublime scenery.
For all the adrenaline Queenstown has to offer, Kamana is the perfect antidote — a slice of calm in the middle of an adventure.
The DetailsKamana Lakehousewww.kamana.co.nz