Strike gold with a stay at Queenstown’s historic Hulbert House, a boutique property with Lake Wakatipu views. Built in the height of Otago’s gold rush in the late 19th century, this six-bedroom stay has been thoroughly modernised, while keeping the over-the-top glitz you’d expect from the former home of Queenstown’s keeper-of-the-gold (an unofficial, if on-the-nose title). Each room is individually decorated in fittingly maximalist style. Daily breakfasts and evening drinks are served in the Palm Lounge, and the city’s best restaurants are a short stroll away. There’s a lake-facing porch waiting for you on your return, perfectly placed for one more night cap.
Get this when you book through us:
Free transfer back to Queenstown Airport (must be booked in advance)
Double rooms from £421.81 (NZ$840), including tax at 15 per cent.
Rates include buffet breakfasts, home-made snacks and, from 5pm to 7pm, pre-dinner drinks and canapés.
The historic house’s radiators were taken from the old Lake Dunstan hospital and restored.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout. In rooms: coffee-making kit with freshly roasted beans, Harney & Son's tea, free bottled water, a Tivoli Bluetooth clock radio and Nellie Tier bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Each room in this historic house has a different layout and is individually decorated in rich hues and quirky patterns. The aptly named Grand Room is just that. Decorated in rich hues of royal purple, blue and green, it’s the biggest room in the house and has soaring ceilings, a soak-worthy bath tub and big bay windows that look out over Lake Wakatipu.
You’ll want your rough-and-tumble activewear for daytime activities, and cosy merino wool to wrap up in at night.
There’s one wheelchair-accessible room on the ground floor with a fully adapted ensuite bathroom.
Welcome, if not particularly catered to at the hotel (but there’s loads for little ones to do in Queenstown). A baby cot (free) can be added on request and two of the Premium rooms have a daybed that can sleep one small child.
Food is locally sourced, seasonal and Fair Trade. Guests and staff members are encouraged to leave their vehicles at the hotel and walk or cycle around town; there are e-bikes to borrow and the hotel has an electric car for local transfers. You won’t find single-use plastics in the rooms – reusable options are on hand instead – and the cleaning and bath products are eco-friendly. Everything possible is recycled, food waste is composted and broken things are repaired rather than replaced.
Make yourself at home (but, you know, yourself at home with guests).
There’s no restaurant, but breakfast is cooked up daily by the lodge manager Jay and served in the Palm Lounge, named for its leafy, electric-green wallpaper. There’s an adventure-fuelling array of chia pots, fresh bread and home-made jam, pastries, fruits, cereals and an ever-changing à la carte menu of hot breakfast options – free-range eggs benedict, lemon and poppyseed hotcakes, and more.
The Palm Lounge is also the spot for home-baked snacks during the day and pre-dinner nibbles between 5pm and 7pm each evening.
Breakfast is served from 7am to 10am, but times are flexible on request.
Perched on top of a hill on Queenstown’s Ballarat Street, Hulbert House has panoramic views of Lake Wakatipu.
Queenstown Airport is 10 minutes away by car; a taxi to the hotel will cost around NZ$45.
There’s on-site valet parking, where your car can rest while you’re in Queenstown. Get around the city by foot or on one of the hotel’s e-bikes instead.
Worth getting out of bed for
Hulbert House is the perfect place for relaxing after your thrilling day; sit by the fire and enjoy a glass of wine with the daily canapés, or take your tipple to the terrace and drink in the views with your pinot noir.
Explore the canyons of Queenstown and Routeburn on a canyoningexpedition; you’ll abseil down waterfalls, zip-line through trees, plunge into natural pools and cascade down chutes during your half-day adventure. There’s no shortage of trails to tramp (that’s hike, to non-New-Zealanders) along on the South Island, and Queenstown’s no exception. Check out the area’s scenic walking and hiking trails – we like Queenstown Hill for sweeping sunrise and sunset views. Moke Lake– 10 minutes by car from central Queenstown – has a popular scenic trail with a lakeside loop that takes two hours to complete.
Loved by locals for a swim on a hot day, Queenstown Bay looks out from downtown towards Cecil and Walter Peaks; there’s a pontoon at the far end of the beach, with paddle boards, kayaks and other kit available for hire in the summer months. Venture out of town to continue Hulbert House’s gold-rush theme with an afternoon in nearby Arrowtown, a historic mining town. Take a scenic 45-minute Air Milford flight over the mountains to explore Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park.
Strap on your life vest for a speed-centric adrenalin rush on the Shotover Jet; yes, you could spend the afternoon bungee jumping, but there’s nothing quite like the wild-log-ride-gone-off-rails feeling of careening down a canyon on a V8, twin-engine jet boat.
You’ll be well taken care of at Hulbert House, but if you fancy venturing out for second breakfast (any time before 4pm) Bespoke Kitchen is an excellent bet. The menu changes seasonally, but look out for the warming bowls of spiced porridge, eggy favourites, chilli-tofu scrambles and vegan Jaffa hotcakes. Order a round of beet, apple and ginger shots for the table, then sip away on the rich coffee that New Zealand does so well. Pop in for lunch at Big Fig and order slow-cooked lamb shawarma, sweet and spicy meatballs, vegetarian tagines and gorgeously green salads. After a day of adrenalin-seeking pursuits, relax with a leisurely dinner at Japanese restaurant Kappa of sharing plates of sushi and pleasingly packed bento boxes. Celebrating something? Splash out with dinner at Rata; the menu changes daily, but the locally sourced dishes are always prettily plated and so-good-you’ll-want-more. Start with Cloudy Bay storm clams in wakame butter and seared Coromandel scallops before mains of pan-fried blue cod and Manuka-honey-braised merino lamb shoulder.
Waterfront Little Blackwoodis on Steamer Wharf, right on the edge of Lake Wakatipu. The drinks menu is heavy on New Zealand wines, local craft ales and heady cocktails – try the Manuka Old Fashioned for a Kiwi take on a classic. Make an evening out of it with sharing plates piled with local goodies: Fiordland wild venison, Otago honeycomb and Wakatipu white brie.
In this love story I’ve omitted any traces of a Mr Smith, as it’s centered all around Ms Smith and her love affair with boutique hideaway Hulbert House. After weeks of gallivanting across both of New Zealand’s islands, mostly barefoot and bikini-clad, we pulled up to the hotel to see a golden glow shining on it from across Lake Wakatipu, seemingly to confirm this was the place. Before I could whisper Howard Hughes and contemplate my next decade in this heaven, my bags were transported to my room along with a fine wine to be set on my bedside.
Hulbert House’s decor has a way of expressing and emphasizing New Zealand’s vitality into your stay. It’s as if the beaches, waterfalls, forests, and gemstones were all injected into its look, creating an ambience that’s rich with life. Throughout the whole house (yes, I asked for a tour) the walls are hung with black-and-white historical photos taken around the local area from a time when the gold rush was in full swing. The sense of abundance in these images mirrors the abundance felt here. Without shame, I spent my night pretending I had things to do, but truthfully turned the dial to the classical station on the bedside analog radio, and spent my evening ironing French-linen dresses while drinking wine in lingerie and nibbling the generous cheese plate delivered to my room. I did mention this was all about Ms Smith, didn’t I? My mornings at Hulbert House playing part-time princess started with a hot bath and face mask, radio still set to classical. If I had half a mind I’d have gone to breakfast in the post-soak robe – the spread matched the decadence of the decor. It was served in an atrium with an A-frame ceiling crowned with a skylight and lit with chandeliers. The effect of the lighting on the plants and the banana-leaf-printed wallpaper was electric. It was clear that breakfast here for me would be an event, not a stopover.
You know you’re in New Zealand when an array of honey options is presented with your French pastries, exotic fruits, and top-shelf butter. I opted for one (or two) of everything before Fern, the angel of the dining room, directed me towards the chef’s nourishing menu. Any seasoned visitor will urge you not to overlook the precious chia coconut pot. A specialty the hotel has been preparing for years, this is a superfood delicacy topped with date and raspberry purée, cashew cream, and a crunchy, house-made, paleo buckwheat granola. You can thank me later. Needless to say, the book I brought with me sat unread, and I followed up breakfast with a half-hour nap thanks in part to the black-out curtains which beckoned indulgence in slumber. Judge me if you must.
Over the course of my stay, I became quite fond of the window in the foyer, which looks out over the lake and acted as a weather channel. Sometimes it would inform me the rain was letting up, and more often than not, the window begged me to come out and play. The light over Lake Wakatipu was forever in flux, dancing from one mountain ridge to the other, coating the lake in gold leafing. Several of the rooms have their own view of the water, which you could watch from bed like a movie. I’m telling you, it is hard to want to leave the sanctuary of the Hulbert House.
Continuing on with my part-time princess weekend, I spent the day inside and out, with the girls at the hotel periodically offering to book me activities or dinner reservations. Mostly I wanted any excuse to return again to my bath, my California king, canapés and glass of local wine, my pretend life in the palace on the hill. Perhaps one of the most enchanting qualities of this property is that from the outside, it’s a well-restored historic home; but on stepping inside, the grandeur and spacious rooms make it all the more spellbinding. Although, truthfully, much of New Zealand has this effect.
On the last evening of my stay, I took time to talk to the staff more in the dining room over a glass of rosé and canapés. What I love most about the girls who work at Hulbert House is that they have a way of making you feel like you belong there. There are no stodgy sirs or madams. They are incredibly personable and happy to help – I even consulted them about a possible suitor and was encouraged to have a fun night out and given a list of restaurant ideas. As we are gifted dreams in our sleep, they have to come to an end. The final morning of my stay I took an extra long bath, dined on a breakfast fit for five and contemplated booking a third night – it didn’t come to pass, but I know I’ll be back.