For many of us in the northern hemisphere, New Zealand is little more than a far-flung fantasy. But beginning at 9 p.m. on Monday, March 18th, it’s about to become a bit more real, with the premiere of Sundance Channel’s original series TOP OF THE LAKE. This 7-part series is directed by Jane Campion and stars Elisabeth Moss and Holly Hunter, but the setting – along the shores of South Island’s Lake Wakatipu – could steal the show.
In partnership with Sundance Channel, we’re sending one lucky winner and a guest to see it in person, providing round-trip airfare for two from the continental U.S., complimentary airport transfers, and a five-night stay at the extraordinary Eichardt’s Private Hotel, as well as a personal tour of the TOP OF THE LAKE filming locations with a representative from the regional film office.
Here, should you need a bit more motivation, is our essential guide to this remarkable destination: Tablet’s Top 10 Queenstown travel tips.
New Zealand is something of a hotbed of high-end hospitality, but even against the competition, Eichardt’s shines. Take in as much fine food and wine and classic lake-view luxury as you can handle — you’ll need to fortify yourself for the adventures ahead.
From the summit of Ben Lomond, the mountain just behind Queenstown, you’re treated to a striking view of Lake Wakatipu. Climb it the old-fashioned way, or get a head start via the Skyline gondola, which departs from the city center.
We don’t wish to take anything away from Robert Redford’s Montana, but a river runs through Queenstown as well — during the warm half of the year, the whole of South Island is a fly-fishing paradise.
This incredibly picturesque lake needs no introduction. Traverse it gently aboard the century-old steamer TSS Earnslaw — or explore via jetboat for an adrenaline rush worthy of this adventure-sports capital.
The Queenstown area’s reputation as an outdoor mecca is reinforced by some world-class mountain-bike terrain, from the abandoned mining village of Macetown to the countless miles of downhill singletrack accessible via helicopter drop.
Queenstown is the winter-sports capital of Australasia, offering world-class skiing during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer months. Coronet Peak and the ultra-scenic Remarkables both lie within an hour’s drive from town.
Any number of day hikes depart from Queenstown itself, and for more ambitious hikers there’s always the Milford Track, a legendary four-day trek through the nearby Fiordland National Park.
You’ll have worked up quite an appetite, and you’ll need it for both of our Queenstown restaurant picks. Botswana Butchery specializes in upscale meat and game, as well as African influences and a wide variety of Asian dishes, while Fergburger is the singular (and utterly pilgrimage-worthy) local burger joint.
TOP OF THE LAKE isn’t the first production to shoot in New Zealand; fans of the Lord of the Rings franchise will recognize quite a bit of the landscape around Queenstown, and any number of local tour operators will be only too happy to show you around.
Your trip to Queenstown will likely involve a connection in New Zealand’s major metropolis, and it’s worth making the most of it. Auckland is a smallish city, but a vibrant one nonetheless, with a thriving coffee culture, an impressively cosmopolitan arts scene, and a wealth of excellent restaurants, drawing from an eclectic range of culinary influences as well as the award-winning products of New Zealand’s many wineries.