Claire & the Bentley Continental GT Allure
Claire & the Bentley Continental GT Allure
Bentley Continental GT Allure

Inside our Editor-in-chief’s Extraordinary Journey in the South Island with Bentley Motors

The term ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ is often thrown around with liberal abandon, particularly in my line of work. Yet, very rarely do things feel that extraordinary. Call it an occupational hazard of a somewhat jaded Editor-in-chief, but moving the wow dial in my world takes some serious effort, to which my husband will no doubt attest. Bentley Extraordinary Journeys, however has done just that with its recently launched global offering of meticulously curated drive programmes, presenting privileged access to the world’s most inspirational locations and experiences. 

Embarking on this exceptional road trip, ticks all the boxes, as you find yourself immersed in a world of design, wellbeing and adventure, all while behind the wheel of a range of Bentley models that cover some of the world’s most exceptional routes, all tailor-made to delight the senses and leave a lasting impression. Discerning travellers can expect exclusive access to celebrated experts and creatives, indulge in the finest seasonal cuisine, and enjoy the comfort of sustainable luxury accommodation. But the true heart of the journey lies in the opportunity to traverse breathtaking landscapes behind the wheel of a Bentley, connecting with nature and revelling in the sheer thrill of driving. The Bentley journeys focus on small groups who have the opportunity to drive a range of models from the Bentley marque for the first time, or for existing customers to drive new models. During four days of epic motoring across spectacular landscapes, the drivers make their selection from various models: The Continental GT, FlyingSpur, Bentayga and Bentayga EWB, with the chance to try a different model on each leg of the journey.

“A scenic symphony of nature’s wonders provides the backdrop for an unforgettable expedition… each Bentley I drive, seems to symbiotically become one with the twists and turns of the road, almost revelling in the opportunity to show off their full capabilities”

The cars travel in convoy, and anything that could be stressful about a road trip has been removed from the experience so there is no distraction from the pleasure of the drive. Logistical details such as navigation, luggage, accommodation and sustenance are all seamlessly taken care of by the Bentley events team; your bags travel separately and simply appear in your room when you arrive; the cars are cleaned every night and are lined up, spotless, gleaming, and ready to drive off in the morning. For posterity, your trip is professionally documented by photographers capturing stills and film, and they are equipped with drones to achieve magnificent sweeping shots of the extraordinary experience.

Left: Claire with her son Lucien. Right: the Lindis Valley

DAY ONE:

The start of a thrilling expedition. We fly into Queenstown airport where we are transported to Central Otago’s hidden oasis of luxury, The Lindis. I’ve brought my 10 year old son along as my co-driver, we’re both tired after a long week, so being chauffeured in true Bentley style in a Flying Spur to our accommodation for the night is ideal. Exhausted upon arrival, we choose to eat dinner in our room, which is a selection of delicacies that highlight the bounty of the region; whitebait fritters, crayfish hotdogs and oysters, all get washed down by an exquisite Central Otago Pinot.

DAY TWO:

The morning greets us with clear skies and sunshine and an otherworldly view of the Lindis Valley, which sets the tone for a day of unparalleled indulgence, kicking off with a sublime yoga session. 

Breakfast follows, before a drivers briefing of the day ahead. Then we’re off to get behind the wheel of the first of seven Bentleys we will drive for the day. The road ahead leads into the heart of Central Otago, where nature’s majesty unveils itself in all its splendour. Characterised by its world famous sweeping vistas and beauty, the drive from the Lindis Pass to Arrowtown is a visual masterpiece, immersing drivers in its stunning allure.

Claire behind the wheel of the Bentley Continental GT

After a couple of hours of driving (and several car changes) our convoy stops for lunch at Mora Vineyard, set amidst the picturesque Lake Hayes countryside. Here, in a setting that’s bursting with spring glory, with flowers and blossoms in full bloom everywhere, we enjoy a delicious lunch of seasonal delicacies under a vibrant blue sky. 

After lunch, our journey leads to the exquisite Blanket Bay, an oasis of serenity in Glenorchy. We drive in convoy through the bustling streets of Queenstown, turning heads at each intersection juncture; temporarily staving off the hunger pangs from seeing the enormous and devoted lineup of people at Ferg Burger, who all simultaneously turn their heads in awe as our convoy of English automotive refinement gracefully glides past. From here we head south, along the shoreline of Lake Wakatipu, where untamed landscapes and unspoiled beauty unfold before the eyes. A scenic symphony of nature’s wonders provides the backdrop for an unforgettable expedition, while each Bentley I drive, whether it’s the Continental GT Sport, the Bentayga Azure, or the Flying Spur, seems to symbiotically become one with the twists and turns of the road, almost revelling in the opportunity to show off their full capabilities.

The Bentley Bentayga arriving at Blanket Bay

Upon arrival at Blanket Bay, we’re treated to some downtime, which for me involves soaking in my private outdoor spa, and taking in the breathtaking surroundings. 

Dinner is an exceptional dining experience focusing on the finest home-grown and locally-sourced seasonal produce. A showcase of culinary artistry, an exquisite symphony of flavours that leaves an indelible impression.

DAY THREE:

While bidding a reluctant farewell to the enchanting fleet of Bentleys, freshly groomed and parked with precision on the front lawn at Blanket Bay. Our group set aboard a jet boat for an incredible journey across the lake and up the Dart River into Mt Aspiring National Park. Passing waterfalls, as we skim across the extremely shallow waters of the river with the tall snow capped mountainous peaks surrounding us.

Left: Landing on a glacier. Right: Claire with her son Lucien

The culmination of this thrilling day, is a helicopter flight, across the mountain ranges, landing on a isolated West Coast beach, before traversing the internationally renowned Milford Sound, which in spring, is resplendent in all its waterfall glory. A brief stop on a glacier gives my son the chance to show the international guests the fine art of snowball making, which ends in a rather large boulder sized ball being pushed by everyone off the edge of the cliff. Next stop is an original Gold Miner’s Cottage set high in a valley above a river. Boasting a truly exceptional bar, where we are introduced to The Macallan, a whisky revered by connoisseurs worldwide, (and my personal favourite tipple of choice) today’s visit offers an immersive encounter, bringing to life the extraordinary global partnership between The Macallan and the esteemed Bentley Motors.

Left: The Macallan Tasting. Right: The Bentley Fleet

We then fly back to Blanket Bay, feeling as though life couldn’t get any more resplendent, where we are greeted with a final celebratory dinner. Our convoy of international drivers share their experiences, while dining on an exquisite degustation of Central Otago flavours. 

DAY FOUR:

On the last day, we savour our final breakfast with a moment of quietude to reflect upon the exhilaration and wonder that has defined our remarkable journey. On our chauffeured drive back to the airport my son and I agree that the past four days have left us with the indelible imprint of an adventure that will stay with us forever.

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