Azur markets itself as a "resort" but it is really more like a very high-end bed and breakfast. With that said it is like no other B&B you will ever experience. The rates there were well above what most of the other hotels in Queenstown were charging. But after a four day stay at Azur I can say confidently that it was a good value for the extra money spent.
Azur is located just outside of Queenstown on a hillside with breathtaking views of Lake Wakapitu and the mountains. You enter the resort through a nondescript residential neighborhood but it is somewhat private given that it is tucked into a hillside beyond the neighborhood. The main "lodge" is at the top of the property. It contains the office and main reception area, an open kitchen, a dining room, a smaller den with a fireplace, library and internet access, and an outdoor deck area with another fireplace and a small landscaped yard. All windows on the property are well-oriented to take advantage of the stunning views.
We were placed in the lowest villa on the hillside that was at the very bottom of the property. There are only nine villas in all so it was usually very quiet and private, often feeling like you are the only guests there. We most saw other guests during canapes before dinner and at breakfast but it never felt crowded and we never had to wait for anything. The layout of the lodge permits privacy when others are around. But the other guests were all so friendly that we found we got to know the two or three other couples. We also came to know the staff so well that whenever we encountered them it was like seeing friends.
The villas were spacious and comfortable. The attention to detail by the architects and designers really shows. The beds and furniture were comfortable. The glass railings on the decks permitted unobstructed views whilst outside. Radiant heating in the floor tiles (in the entry and bathroom) was comfortable under bare feet. There was a huge shower with high-end German fixtures and a rainfall shower-head (excellent pressure), a separate toilet area, and a spacious bathroom with double sinks and a whirlpool tub. Bathroom lighting was excellent and there was a hairdryer, heated anti-fog mirrors, heated towel racks and plush robes. The bath products were by New Zealand's "Living Nature" company. The bathroom windows folded out and slid open completely. There are not even screens in the windows to obstruct the views. Surprisingly we never had a problem with insects flying in. In addition to ample lighted closet space and luggage racks, there was a wet bar with an electric kettle and french press and a mini fridge stocked with water, soda and juices. They also left us spiced almonds, biscotti and bars of chocolate. Everything was included (and replenished as used) except large bottles of liquor offered for sale. There was a stereo, CD player, DVD player and flat panel television in our villa but we didn't turn them on once. A vaulted wooden ceiling (with planks richly textured with grain and wormholes) and other touches of wood provided warm colors and a pleasing texture. As the nights could be chilly at the end of their summer we frequently used the gas fireplace in the villa.
Azur is a few miles out of Queenstown proper but they were very efficient at ferrying us to and from town in the Land Cruisers. There never seemed to be huge crowds of staff standing around. But remarkably someone was always available when we called. We never had to wait very long for anything. All of the staff was excellent: Gavin, Toni, Melissa (our favorite staff-member), Lucy, Helen, Sam, Rob and the owner Joanne. Everyone was always extremely friendly, efficient, professional and yet honest, open and not plastic. It is difficult to successfully pull off this level of service without ever being obsequious or obtrusive. But the absolutely top-class staff at Azur never disappointed us.
Their concierge skills were excellent too. Though we made our reservations at Azur at the very last minute, they we were still able to arrange for an airport pickup with ease. They were able to make reservations for us at all of the best restaurants in town. They also arranged many of our activities while we were there, including an Otago Valley wine tasting, a day tour to Glenarchy which included lunch, a rain-forest hike, and a jet boat tour of the Dart River, and (our favorite by far) a two hour helicopter tour out to Milford Sound, with landings at the Sound, on a beach along the Tasman Sea and on a glacier at 9,000 feet.
As we are major foodies, we were not disappointed with what was served at Azur. Though they do not have a full restaurant on the property, they manage much with their well-equipped open kitchen. At breakfast they would have a spread of muesli, yogurt, fruit juices, fresh fruit salad, freshly baked croissant and bagels, and smoked salmon with cream cheese and capers. They made coffee and espresso to order and it was surprisingly good (this coming from someone who lives in Seattle). They would make cooked breakfast to order. They did a good job with eggs and sausage. The last morning I ordered pancakes and it arrived at the table artfully plated with a delicious compote of local berries. Though the cakes themselves were more rubbery than tender, I could tell they mixed them up from scratch on the fly. Prior to going out to dinner each evening we'd pop in to the lodge for cocktails and canapés. Every night they brought out our own plate of delicious, inventive things. The simple, fresh breakfast far was always good but food-wise, this is where they really excelled. The little snacks were often served in ceramic wonton soup spoons. Some of the canapés we had included: pistachio pesto on a toasted crostini, seared venison, mini greek salads, grilled prawns in garlic aioli, double cream brie with figs, etc. Consistently impressive. They were also game to share the recipes. One of the other great things about Azur was that the staff was free to use their few extra minutes of downtime cooking up their favorite recipes. So there was always a plate of something freshly baked sitting on the counter in the open kitchen, whether it was Lucy's tea cakes or Helen's Brazilian cheese breads. On the last night at Azur we ordered in from the restaurant close to the resort. The staff brought the food to our villa and set the table for us as if we were in the restaurant, even keeping out meals hot in a warming box on the back of one of their golf carts.
We didn't many special requests though they did generously take care of our laundry for us. We had been on a long trip and inquired if there was a laundry facility beyond the usual hotel laundry per-item send-out service that was offered ($12 per shirt at $20 per pair of jeans adds up). Melissa and Gavin told us to bring up our big bag of laundry and that they would throw it in their large industrial washer. They took care of the whole thing for us, even folding everything, and didn't charge us a dime. That was way above and beyond the call of duty and was just another incidence of the staff at Azur exceeding our expectations.
I would love to say that Azur was absolutely A+ perfect and it almost was. In fact, I can say confidently as an experienced luxe traveler that our stay at Azur was among the very best in the world. But there were a few very minor issues that kept the experience from being perfect. NOISE: The proximity of our villa to the local neighborhood meant that a loud party (with pounding music until the wee hours) kept us up until 2 am the first night we were there. After a few hours of trying to ignore it we called the lodge and the owner dispatched the police. She said it was the first noise complaint she had in five years of operation and, other than some intermittent barking dogs, the rest of our stay was very quiet. Also, the mini fridge in our room was loud and could have used some kind of enclosure. CLEANING: The toilet had not been cleaned properly upon our arrival as there was evidence of the prior guests. There were also lots of cobwebs around many of the windows and around the deck area outside. Though it was great to fully open the bathroom windows over the tub, the window tracks were full of cobwebs, dirt and debris. I took a wet washcloth and took care of these things myself just after check-in. Otherwise, the place was meticulously kept. INTERNET: A Windows PC with broadband Internet service was available free of charge in the lodge. The resort had free wireless broadband but I was barely able to get a connection with my Apple laptop due to very weak signals. Apparently the metal roofs of the villas thwart the signals. Additional wireless coverage on the property needs improvement. An iPod connector or even a mini-input cable to the in-room stereo system would have been a nice touch. TOURS: The tour companies that Azur recommended for us were all top-drawer, though at $100NZ per person we found the four stop wine tour to be a little lacking in value. If we had been brave enough to drive on the left side of the road, as some other guests were, we probably would have enjoyed ourselves more. SWITCHES: The villa had enough lights to suit every mood but there were switches absolutely everywhere and we could never figure out which switch controlled what light. A NASA scientist would have trouble figuring out how to turn on one of the two exhaust fans in the bathroom. GOLF CARTS: The hillside upon which Azur is built is steep. The staff will gladly ferry you up and down the hill in their golf carts though, after a golf cart conked out on us halfway up the hill because of a problem with batteries, we decided to walk up and down ourselves during the remainder of our stay. I was told they remedied the problem and in light of how well we were eating our decision to walk was a good one. RECYCLING: We were disappointed that there seemed to be no recycling bins on the property. I'm not sure if Queenstown does not recycle or if Azur is just not transparent about it.
Azur has been singled out as one of Travel and Leisure's (or is it Condé Nast Traveler?) top 130 hotels and is one of only two hotels in the entire country of New Zealand to appear on the list. After four days there we can understand why. If you have the means to stay at Azur and you are going to Queenstown, you will be doing yourself a disservice to stay elsewhere. The larger problem will be that you will not want to leave.
- Also Known As:
- Azur Hotel
- Azur Hotel Queenstown
- Azur Queenstown
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- It would be hard to imagine a more perfect view than the one from Azur. Set to best capture the views of both Lake Wakatipu & the surrounding mountains,Azur is beautiful property set amongst 3.5 acres of native bush, it features a magnificent lodge and nine 90 sqm freestanding villas. It captures the best of both worlds, amazing views and it is in a tranquil & isolated setting yet only 5 minutes from downtown. ... more less
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