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Portage Resort

Portage Resort New Zealand
Independent, The (London), Apr 22, 2006 by LUCY GILLMORE
A helicopter stood on the lawn in front of the grey prefab-style building. The setting was pinch-yourself-gorgeous, the helicopter was saying moneyed guests but the accommodation was screeching Sixties housing estate crossed with Butlins. My feet were grumbling get these bloody walking boots off and worry about design mistakes later.
The Portage Resort Hotel has been welcoming visitors to the Kenepuru Sound for over 100 years. However, it has recently had a makeover by Pete Bossley, one of the architects responsible for the renowned Te Papa museum in Wellington. Dain Simpson, the owner, explained that the interiors had been modernised - think retro chic - but, "we kept the envelope". And painted it grey. Good move.
Overlooking the dreamy green waters of the bay, it's the perfect spot to soak blistered feet. The Queen Charlotte Track, a 71km- trail that weaves around the island-peppered, densely forested coastline at the top of New Zealand's South Island is one of the country's most spectacular - and surprisingly luxurious - "tramps". Unlike most of the country's wilderness trails there are no DOC huts scattered along the way, just strategically placed backpackers' hostels and a handful of luxury lodges to tempt you away from the track.
Hiking through the bush from Anakiwa to Mistletoe Bay earlier that day we caught enticing glimpses of the emerald water sparkling far below. After a lazy picnic on a sun-soaked bank we arrived at the jetty where a boat was to meet us and ferry us round the headland to Torea Bay, just over the hill from Portage. Feet dangling in the water, we idled away the time watching young boys casting their fishing lines Hucklebury Finn-style. With jetties in every sleepy cove, yachts anchored off tiny crescent-shaped shores, kayaks and fishing boats bobbing by, this fjord-like dreamscape is mesmerising. Sinking into the tangerine-toned butterfly chairs on the terrace with a couple of cool beers, we turned our gaze away from the waiters in easyJet orange to the soothing jade ripples of the Sound.
Portage Resort, Kenepuru Sound, RD2, Marlborough, New Zealand (00 64 3 573 4309'
Time from international airport: it's 10 minutes by water taxi from Picton or one and a half hours by car. From there it's a half- hour drive to Blenheim airport which has regular flights to cities around New Zealand. It's a five and a half-hour drive to Christchurch.
There are 35 rooms many with stunning views over Kenepuru Sound. Access to our room was from a long motel-style walkway at the back of the block. The interior was also uncannily like a motel with cheap fitted furniture, scratchy carpet tiles - the type you get in doctors' waiting rooms - and one wall painted a disconcerting lime green. The bathroom was simple and white but had tiny towels. The one aspect of the room that was not motel-like was the stunning view from the huge wooden balcony.
Freebies: bathroom toiletries
Keeping in touch: TV and direct dial phone
The Kowhai Lodge rooms overlooking the Sound cost NZ$205 (pounds 72.50) in low season, May to October, without breakfast. In high season these cost NZ$275 (pounds 97)
I'm not paying that: the resort also has a Walker's Lodge. A bed in the bunkroom with your own sleeping bag costs NZ$25 (pounds 9) or NZ$35 (pounds 12) with linen
Copyright 2006 Independent Newspapers UK Limited
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