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Review: Hilton Queenstown Ricky March 28, 2020

Review: Hilton Queenstown

We’d spend two nights in Queenstown as part of our road trip through New Zealand’s South Island, split across two separate one-night stays. 

Marriott is usually my first-choice hotel chain, but their footprint in New Zealand is laughably weak, with only a single Four Points property in Auckland. In comparison, Hilton has much better coverage with several properties dotted around the country, and since I had recently applied for the Amex US Hilton Aspire Card, I thought this would be a great opportunity to stay with Hilton for the first time.

In Queenstown, they offer the full-service Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa as well as a limited-service DoubleTree by Hilton Queenstown right next door, and I had heard pretty good things about both properties prior to visiting. 

The Hilton and the DoubleTree share the same grounds and many facilities between them, and since I was making two separate one-night stays, I had originally booked the DoubleTree for the first night, followed by the Hilton a few days later, in the hopes of reviewing both hotels.

Hilton Queenstown – Entrance

Hilton Queenstown – Entrance

(While I could’ve redeemed Hilton Honors points, neither booking met my 0.7cpp valuation for Hilton points, so I ended up paying cash for the NZ$227 and NZ$213 reservations, respectively. Furthermore, the Hilton Queenstown would trigger the US$250 resort credit on my Hilton Aspire Card, allowing me to wipe out a good chunk of the expense.)

As it turned out, though, the DoubleTree proactively upgraded my reservation to the full-service Hilton next door as a Diamond member, so I ended up only staying at the Hilton across both nights. I had no idea that hotels could provide cross-property upgrades for elite members, but I suppose it makes sense when the two hotels are immediately next door to each other.

In This Post

Hilton Queenstown – Location & Arrival

Both properties are located in the Kawarau Village district, which is a fair ways outside of the Queenstown city centre – about a 15-minute drive by car around the coast of the Frankton Arm (the body of water that extends inwards from Lake Wakatipu).

From Queenstown Airport, you’d turn right on the highway to get to the city, whereas you’d turn left to get to the Hilton or the DoubleTree. 

A series of winding hairpin bends down takes you from the main roads down to the water level, where you’ll find the Hilton on your left as you pull in. The DoubleTree is further down the road, as is the parking structure that the two hotels share, although we had opted for valet parking on both of our stays.

Hilton Queenstown – Entrance

Hilton Queenstown – Entrance

Hilton Queenstown – Check-in

The check-in counters are straight ahead as you enter the building, and both times we were greeted with no delay at the queue for elite members. 

Hilton Queenstown – Check-in desks

Hilton Queenstown – Check-in desks

Hilton Queenstown – Check-in desks

Hilton Queenstown – Check-in desks

During the check-in process, the front desk manager let us know that we’d enjoy a complimentary breakfast in the Wakatipu Grill restaurant on account of our Diamond status, and handed us a few complimentary drink vouchers as a replacement for the executive lounge benefit, since this Hilton did not have an executive lounge.

Hilton Queenstown – Diamond drink vouchers

Hilton Queenstown – Diamond drink vouchers

Of course, I had attempted to “suite-talk” my way to a suite upgrade on both stays, but even as a Diamond member, there weren’t any suites available on either night (and when I checked the Hilton app, I saw that they were indeed sold out of suites). Instead, we were simply assigned the base-level King Deluxe Lakeview room for both nights. 

Our dates happened to be right before Christmas, so the lack of an upgrade wasn’t too much of a surprise, but still a bit disappointing as a top-tier Diamond member. 

On the second stay, since I had already expressed by hope for a suite upgrade, the front desk manager was kind enough to cover our valet parking fees (which would’ve otherwise costed NZ$24), and also threw in an extra batch of drink vouchers, as a goodwill gesture. 

Hilton Queenstown – King Deluxe Lakeview Room

The two King Deluxe Lakeview rooms that we stayed in were virtually the same.

First, we stayed in Room 404, which was on the highest floor of the hotel and featured a small balcony looking out over the courtyard and water. 

Hilton Queenstown – King Deluxe Lakeview room

Hilton Queenstown – King Deluxe Lakeview room

Hilton Queenstown – King Deluxe Lakeview room

Hilton Queenstown – King Deluxe Lakeview room

I thought the room was quite spacious for a base-level hotel room, with a small sitting area separated from the bedroom by a short stairway. 

The neutral colour scheme of brown, grey, and beige was tastefully accented by a series of bright-red throw pillows. As a first-time Hilton patron, I thought the brand was roughly comparable to a Sheraton, among the Marriott brands that I frequent most often. 

Hilton Queenstown – Living room

Hilton Queenstown – Living room

The sitting area faces a 32’’ wall-mounted widescreen television, whereas the desk, pantry, and closet are found along the opposite side of the room. 

Hilton Queenstown – Living room

Hilton Queenstown – Living room

Hilton Queenstown – Desk

Hilton Queenstown – Desk

Instead of a coffee machine, the room only offered a kettle with instant powdered coffee, which I must say was pretty disappointing for the Hilton brand.

Hilton Queenstown – Pantry

Hilton Queenstown – Pantry

Hilton Queenstown – Closet

Hilton Queenstown – Closet

The bedroom sits two steps above the living room. Maybe I’ve simply grown used to staying with Marriott, but I thought the king beds here at the Hilton Queenstown were fine, but noticeably less comfortable than the beds at a full-service Marriott of comparable quality. 

Hilton Queenstown – King bed

Hilton Queenstown – King bed

I’ll have to try out a few more Hiltons to judge properly, but this place didn’t leave the best impression in terms of bed comfort across either of my stays.

Hilton Queenstown – King bed

Hilton Queenstown – King bed

The bathroom was straightforward enough. The separate shower and bathtub and the double sinks were appreciated, considering that this was a base-level room that could easily be forgiven for not offering them. 

Hilton Queenstown – Bathroom

Hilton Queenstown – Bathroom

Hilton Queenstown – Double sinks

Hilton Queenstown – Double sinks

Hilton Queenstown – Bathtub

Hilton Queenstown – Bathtub

Room 404 had a small balcony with a few outdoor chairs, as well as a nice view of the surrounding hills and waters in this beautiful part of the world. 

Hilton Queenstown – Balcony

Hilton Queenstown – Balcony

Hilton Queenstown – Balcony views

Hilton Queenstown – Balcony views

Our room also came with complimentary bottled water and a box of chocolates, which was later replenished during turndown service.

Hilton Queenstown – Bottled water and box of chocolates

Hilton Queenstown – Bottled water and box of chocolates

Hilton Queenstown – Box of chocolates

Hilton Queenstown – Box of chocolates

When we returned to the hotel three nights later, we were put up in Room 211, another King Deluxe Lakeview room that was on the ground level this time. 

Hilton Queenstown – Room 211

Hilton Queenstown – Room 211

The interior of the room looked almost exactly the same, except this time the television was mounted on the back wall, and the closet had been moved up to the same level as the king bed.

Hilton Queenstown – King Deluxe Lakeview room

Hilton Queenstown – King Deluxe Lakeview room

Hilton Queenstown – King Deluxe Lakeview room

Hilton Queenstown – King Deluxe Lakeview room

Meanwhile, this room offered a much larger outdoor space in the form of a shared deck with all the other rooms on this floor.

The next morning, Jessy and I spent an hour or so relaxing in the sunshine out here before checking out of the hotel and heading for my bungee-jump at the Kawarau Bridge.

Hilton Queenstown – Outdoor patio

Hilton Queenstown – Outdoor patio

Hilton Queenstown – Breakfast

Breakfast is served at the Wakatipu Grill, the hotel’s main restaurant.

Hilton Queenstown – Wakatipu Grill

Hilton Queenstown – Wakatipu Grill

As a Diamond member, a simple cup of coffee or tea was complimentary; however, hand-crafted espresso drinks like cappuccinos or flat whites would be chargeable to the room, or alternatively we could redeem one of our complimentary drink vouchers as well.

The breakfast buffet had a mostly Western focus, with a single Asian dish of vegetarian fried rice available as well. Beyond the standard hot breakfast items, some of the more unique offerings included a selection of healthy juice shots and a large chilled display for the salads, cold cuts, fruits, and yogurts. 

Hilton Queenstown – Healthy juice station

Hilton Queenstown – Healthy juice station

Hilton Queenstown – Chilled breakfast display

Hilton Queenstown – Chilled breakfast display

In addition to the buffet, Gold and Diamond members may also order unlimited items from an à la carte menu. Jessy and I ordered an Eggs Benedict with salmon, which was served on a piece of toast rather than the customary English muffin, as well as the blueberry pancakes, which were excellent.

Hilton Queenstown – Eggs Benedict & fried egg

Hilton Queenstown – Eggs Benedict & fried egg

Hilton Queenstown – Blueberry pancakes

Hilton Queenstown – Blueberry pancakes

On our second stay, we also traded in one of our excessive number of drink vouchers for a flat white at breakfast. If my earlier trip to Melbourne and this trip to New Zealand have taught me anything, it’s that the Aussies and Kiwis really know how to serve up a killer flat white, and this one did not disappoint in the slightest!

Hilton Queenstown – Flat white

Hilton Queenstown – Flat white

Hilton Queenstown – Dining

On our first stay at the Hilton, Jessy and I ended up eating dinner at the Wakatipu Grill in the evening. Now, I’m not usually one to dine at the hotel restaurant, but we hadn’t yet enjoyed a sit-down meal at all on the whole trip, and the contemporary New Zealand fare being served up at the Wakatipu Grill sounded very appetizing to us. 

The restaurant gets quite busy in the evenings, so we had to wait at the bar for about 15 minutes before our table was ready. That was the ideal opportunity to redeem our complimentary drink vouchers, which allows you to choose from the following menu:

Hilton Queenstown – Drink voucher menu

Hilton Queenstown – Drink voucher menu

I tried the sparkling wine from Marlborough, but Jessy was feeling under the weather, so our server whipped up a cleansing mocktail for her instead. 

Hilton Queenstown – Complimentary drinks

Hilton Queenstown – Complimentary drinks

Dinner itself was delightful. We began with the appetizers of tuna tartare and pork belly…

Hilton Queenstown – Wakatipu Grill tuna tartare

Hilton Queenstown – Wakatipu Grill tuna tartare

Hilton Queenstown – Wakatipu Grill pork belly

Hilton Queenstown – Wakatipu Grill pork belly

…before sharing the main courses of cauliflower risotto and salmon fillet with gnocchi. 

Hilton Queenstown – Wakatipu Grill cauliflower risotto

Hilton Queenstown – Wakatipu Grill cauliflower risotto

Hilton Queenstown – Wakatipu Grill salmon fillet

Hilton Queenstown – Wakatipu Grill salmon fillet

The portions were reasonable, but since this is a hotel establishment, the prices were on the higher side, with our total bill clocking in at around NZ$100. At least the US$250 resort credit on the Hilton Aspire would take care of some of that! 

I should also mention a few of the other dining options available on the premises. Most of these are concentrated around the Wakatipu Steps, which leads from the waterfront up to the main road, and separates the Hilton building from the DoubleTree next door.

Hilton Queenstown – Wakatipu Steps

Hilton Queenstown – Wakatipu Steps

The Lake Counter is the hotel’s cafe and deli, and you can also stop by here to redeem your Diamond drink vouchers. Indeed, we still had two vouchers left over on the day we departed, so we simply grabbed a few bottles of ice tea from the cooler and brought them with us.

Hilton Queenstown – The Lake Counter cafe

Hilton Queenstown – The Lake Counter cafe

Opposite that is the Stacks Pub, which serves drinks and pub food in a casual setting in the afternoons and evenings.

Hilton Queenstown – Stacks Pub

Hilton Queenstown – Stacks Pub

Then there’s also Me Mee, a Chinese restaurant, where we had also wanted to eat on our first night at the hotel, but unfortunately the restaurant happens to be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Hilton Queenstown – Me Mee Chinese restaurant

Hilton Queenstown – Me Mee Chinese restaurant

While the selection isn’t too abundant, I’m happy there are at least a few places where you can get food on the property, because otherwise you’re looking at a 10-minute drive to get to the nearest restaurant outside of Kawarau Village.

Hilton Queenstown – Pool & Gym

I went for a workout at the fitness centre during both stays at the Hilton Queenstown, since there was no real opportunity to exercise when we were staying at Airbnbs. 

Unfortunately, the fitness facilities are somewhat lacking, consisting only of a small room with a few treadmills and ellipticals, a few simple pieces of equipment, and some free weights. I definitely would’ve expected more from a Hilton hotel. 

Hilton Queenstown – Fitness room

Hilton Queenstown – Fitness room

Hilton Queenstown – Fitness room

Hilton Queenstown – Fitness room

In contrast, the indoor pool is quite a nice space, even though I didn’t get the chance to go for a swim.

Hilton Queenstown – Indoor pool

Hilton Queenstown – Indoor pool

Hilton Queenstown – Indoor pool

Hilton Queenstown – Indoor pool

Hilton Queenstown – Pool loungers

Hilton Queenstown – Pool loungers

There’s also the Eforea Spa at Hilton on the third-floor lobby, should you be in the mood for a spa treatment. 

Hilton Queenstown – Eforea Spa at Hilton

Hilton Queenstown – Eforea Spa at Hilton

Hilton Queenstown – Other Facilities

The hotel has a bright and airy lobby lounge with nice views of the courtyard below, which was a comfortable place to relax while we waited for our room to be ready on the second stay. 

Hilton Queenstown – Lobby lounge

Hilton Queenstown – Lobby lounge

Hilton Queenstown – Lobby lounge

Hilton Queenstown – Lobby lounge

In my opinion, the best thing about the Hilton Queenstown is its outdoor public areas, which are incredibly pleasant to walk around on a nice sunny day. 

Hilton Queenstown – Courtyard

Hilton Queenstown – Courtyard

Hilton Queenstown – Courtyard chess set

Hilton Queenstown – Courtyard chess set

The central courtyard features a set of perfectly manicured gardens and a life-sized chess set. From there, you can take the steps down to the waterfront, where you’ll arrival the gentle waves of the Frankton Arm right next to the gravel path. 

Hilton Queenstown – Waterfront path

Hilton Queenstown – Waterfront path

Hilton Queenstown – Waterfront path

Hilton Queenstown – Waterfront path

A jetty at the edge of the water serves as the dock for the Queenstown Ferries, which represents an alternative way to get to the city centre. A one-way ride on the ferry is NZ$9, while a return trip is NZ$15.

Hilton Queenstown – Jetty

Hilton Queenstown – Jetty

Hilton Queenstown – Queenstown Ferries dock

Hilton Queenstown – Queenstown Ferries dock

Hilton Queenstown – View of hotel from jetty

Hilton Queenstown – View of hotel from jetty

The waterfront path continues in both directions as a public walking and biking trail, and there’s even a bike rental shop down here where you can rent bicycles for the day.

Hilton Queenstown – Bike rental shop

Hilton Queenstown – Bike rental shop

Finally, the DoubleTree by Hilton Queenstown is located a short walk down the main road in a separate building, although it shares all of the Hilton’s facilities. It’s my understanding that the rooms at the DoubleTree may be slightly smaller and less well-appointed, but you’ll still have access to the restaurants, spa, pool, gym, and public courtyards of the main Hilton resort. 

DoubleTree by Hilton Queenstown – Entrance

DoubleTree by Hilton Queenstown – Entrance

DoubleTree by Hilton Queenstown – Entrance

DoubleTree by Hilton Queenstown – Entrance

Conclusion

Overall, my first stay at a Hilton property turned out pretty well over the course of two separate stays, although there were a few notable shortcomings as well.

The guest room interiors seemed on par with a Marriott or a Sheraton, but I wasn’t really impressed with the bed quality here, and I was also disappointed not to be upgraded from a base-level room as a Hilton Diamond member. To rectify that, however, the front desk manager’s generosity was very much appreciated, and the remainder of the hotel’s elite treatment (breakfast, drink vouchers, etc.) was excellent. 

Dinner we had at the Wakatipu Grill was delicious, and the hotel’s outdoor areas were exceedingly pleasant, but those must be balanced against the lacklustre fitness facilities, too.

All things considered, I liked the Hilton Queenstown enough to return here the next time I visit this beautiful resort town on the South Island, but I’d love to see them address a few of their shortcomings in the meantime.

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