28 Oct | By Sinead Corcoran, Stuff NZ
Why you should do a privately guided tour of Queenstown
There's nothing better than being on holiday somewhere where one of your mates happens to live. Someone who can show you where to get the best coffee, which tourist attractions are worth lining up for and the best hole-in-the-wall bars to visit.
Alpine Luxury Tours in Queenstown does just that, without that whole "trapped on a tour bus with a pack of strangers" thing. The company will pick you up in the morning from wherever you're staying and take you on a custom-designed tour of Queenstown – no regimented itinerary or compulsory pit stops.
Lee Saunders, the owner of Alpine Luxury Tours, designs tours for groups big or small, and can tailor the day depending on what you're into.
So you won't be stuck ambling around galleries if art's not your thing. If you're keen on spending the entire day wine-touring (and who could blame you) he'll show you the best vineyards in the area.
There's also full and half-day options available, so you can tour as much or as little as you like
I spent the day on a tour of Queenstown with Lee himself, and at no point felt like I was on a boring school trip which, truth be told, I had been worried I might.
He picked me up from my hotel in the morning and took me out to coffee where we sussed what sights I felt like seeing that day. New to Queenstown, I was keen on getting a taste of everything. Art, wine and a bit more wine.
Now, I'm not generally a "fun facts" sort of person, but we spent the morning driving to Arrowtown and along the way Lee would pipe up with interesting tidbits about the area and its history.
In Arrowtown, we stopped in at The Chapel Gallery, a tiny old church in the heart of the village where local artist Graham Brinsley makes southern scenery oil paintings. Originally from Dunedin, Brinsley was holidaying in Queenstown 25 years ago and realised he didn't want to go home. I understood how he felt.
Next up on my tailor-made agenda was wine-tasting. We spent the rest of the morning at Mt Rosa Wines in Gibbston, a family-run farm which hosts wine-tastings in its renovated woolshed.
Now, I've done a lot of wine-tastings but for the first time in my life I wasn't made to feel like an imbecile or a cheapskate when I revealed to the owners that I usually only buy the cheapest bottle on sale at the supermarket. They loved it.
The owner of Mt Rosa, Guy Boanas, who was officially my favourite person on my trip, even took me on a tour of the vineyard with his famous dog #bazthewinedog
Lee and I finished off the day with lunch in the garden at a local cafe before he dropped me back at my hotel for a well-deserved nap. All cringe cliches aside, I had genuinely forgotten that I was on a professional tour with a tour guide. After only spending a morning together Lee and I were fast friends, and I reckon that's how all his tours end.