We were out in the summer wine garden at Kinross Cottages, sweet-smelling roses clambering up the trellises, and an endless view of vines and mountains spread out before us. A little bird landed on the table, hopping about, its feathers shining in the afternoon light.
I look down, and Skye the Golden Labrador, the half-grown Kinross pup is sitting at my feet, looking up at me with those adorable gold and hazel eyes. I’d like to think that she’s showing her loyalty to me due to having taken her for a splendid walk (rabbit chase) that morning through the neighbouring vineyards, but I suspect her unwavering dedication is something to do with the delicious cheese platter in front of me, sourced from the local Whitestone Cheesery.
She doesn’t care where it’s sourced, Skye, she’s not fussy like that. She just wants it in her belly. I look around: another table of Kinross guests is calling her, vying for her attention. But that puppy dog attention is rock-solid: it’s on the cheese right now. Adam, one of the Kinross manager and co-owners, comes to get her, apologising to everyone with his easy charm—Skye’s not meant to be in the guest areas, but has somehow slipped away.
I look around, everyone’s grinning, and nobody minds.
That’s the thing about Kinross. It’s completely itself. A dreamy vineyard setting, a very fine bistro restaurant, an impressive cellar door, and lovely boutique accommodation in self-contained luxury cottages—yet it’s all delivered without a shred of pretention.
Whether you’re dropping in for lunch or dinner, doing a wine tasting, staying in a cottage, or just want to swing by from Queenstown for a yoga class in the Willow Room, Kinross Cottages has that rare kind of magic where time stretches, conversation lingers, and everyone relaxes.
Adam said it best, over an alfresco dinner on a late spring night so perfect it hangs in the memory, the twilight glimmering over the valley and the mercury beginning to fall.
‘We’re homely high end’, he explained. ‘Luxury 4 star, definitely, but we don’t want to be a formal 5 star.’ He pointed at one of the birds on a nearby table. ‘This is a place for people who want to escape and relax, who love nature and wine and don’t mind a bird landing on their table. We don’t want to change that. You get a different vibe with 5 star—everyone’s expecting absolute perfection, almost looking for a fault.’
Charismatic husband-and-wife team Lizzie and Adam Ross are the heart of the place; a Scot and a Kiwi who worked on superyachts in the Mediterranean and Caribbean before finding their way to this landlocked Queenstown valley – as far as it is possible to be from the sea in New Zealand.
Adam’s background as a superyacht chef for demanding billionaires may be behind him, as are Lizzie’s days ironing sheets onto beds and then working in a luxury yachting company on the French Riviera, but their high-end experience shows here at Kinross—in the delicious menu, the genuinely exceptional hospitality, the super-clean rooms, and their constant efforts to improve the guest experience at Kinross Cottages.
Those efforts are definitely paying off. The outdoor hot tub on the hill overlooking the valley, the gorgeous Willow Room for weddings, the excellent bistro restaurant, the pétanque courts, and the flourishing flower and herb gardens: all these features are new beginnings at Kinross and part of the endless quest to ensure Kinross Cottages is a standout Queenstown experience for all who visit.
During our three days staying here (not long enough, it pained us to leave), we cycled through the valley along the Queenstown Wine Trail, did yoga in the Willow Room, ate superb meals in the Wine Garden, and visited the fantastic Gibbston Tavern for a pint.
Perhaps my favourite moment of all was an idyllic picnic by the pond with a bottle of wine and a hamper, watching the mother duck (Jemima) and her ducklings (Peking Tom, a’l’Orange, Crispy and Pancake) launching off the bank into the water under the weeping willow trees, Skye chasing rabbits in the distance. Or perhaps it was the hot tub at sunset, or the exceedingly good cooked breakfasts in the General Store (included in your room rate, along with an upmarket breakfast buffet, juice, and an espresso coffee.)
With so many adventures in and around the Gibbston Valley, we could have easily filled our holiday canyoning and bungee jumping, hiking, jet boating, and white water rafting, but instead, we relaxed, in this place that feels somehow outside time, and far, far away from the worries of the world.
We went exploring in Queenstown too of course, taking the cable car up the mountain past the bungee platform, and the historic steamship across the sparkling lake under blue summer skies. But the real pleasure was returning to Kinross at the end of the day, to collapse for an afternoon nap on the dreamy soft beds, before taking our table in the wine garden to watch the sunset fall over the valley, with a bird on my table, and a dog at my feet...
- We received this beautiful feedback from an in house guest at Kinross and thought it too good not to share!