Whether you’re into fishing, food or the great outdoors, luxury boutique hotel Huka Lodge is rated as one of the world’s top retreats. Set in Taupo, home to New Zealand’s largest lake in the heart of the volcanic North Island, this heritage 1920s hotel was founded as a simple fishing lodge. Surrounded by lush, green grounds beside the Waikato River and cascading Huka Falls, it’s still a top angling destination as well as an adventurous gourmet getaway, offering al fresco dining under the stars. It also makes a great base for skiing in winter, with the North Island's premier slopes, undulating amid volcanic cones, a short hop from Taupo.
Get this when you book through us:
Lunch for two including a bottle of NZ house wine, either within the Lodge or as a picnic
Eighteen Lodge Rooms, one suite; the exclusive-use four-bedroom Owner’s Cottage and two-bedroom Alan Pye Cottage.
11am, flexible subject to availability. Check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £1532.43 (NZ$3,105), including tax at 15 per cent.
Rates include breakfast, apéritifs, dinner and local airport transfers.
Huka Lodge offers special packages from romantic stays with in-room spa treatments and private dining to fly and trout fishing (with expert guides, cooking and casting lessons), gourmet and adventure options. Take your pick from a smorgasbord including massage, horse treks, golf and helicopter trips to acclaimed wineries or active volcanic islands.
At the hotel
DVD, CD and book library, free WiFi throughout, swimming pools, gardens. In rooms: flatscreen TV, CD/DVD player, iPod dock, minibar, own-label toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
If you want privacy, the Owner’s Cottage sits on a sunny promontory above the river with stunning vistas downstream to the Huka Falls. The Alan Pye Cottage, named after Huka’s founder, has an Arts and Crafts look, as well as your own infinity and spa pools, a stone pavilion with outdoor dining table and fireplace, and a private chef and butler on tap.
There are three alfresco pools to soak in: one large and two smaller and more private.
A Belstaff jacket for strolling the grounds (those motorcycle details are great for rocking a modern country look). Designer shades – past guests include Kate Winslet, Barry Humphries and Bill Gates.
The Lodge also has four single rooms, ideal for older children or nannies.
Baby cots are free; extra beds for older children in triple rooms possible for a fee. Babysitting with a local nanny NZ$25 an hour; 24 hours’ notice required.
In the main lodge, ask for a table on the terrace. We also love the vaulted, wine-rack-lined cellar room or riverside under the stars (you can dine outdoors in a host of romantic spots).
A dash of fashionable tartan to channel the hunting lodge look; a Belstaff jacket (motorcycle details are great for rocking a modern country style).
Huka Lodge's British head chef, Paul Froggatt, has notched up stints at Gidleigh Park, three-Michelin-starred Bernard Loiseau en Bourgogne and Singapore's San Marco restaurant. Menus change daily according to produce available, and may include dishes such as freshwater lobster butter-poached with lemon-infused gnocchi and watercress, and chocolate fondant with espresso ice-cream.
The cosy, comfy main Lodge lounge has a luxurious gents-club feel. The fab views and soothing sound of the river add to the mellow mood.
Speak to reception if you want to eat or drink outside regular hours. Huka’s take on service is ‘never say never’.
A variety of meals on offer 6.30am–11pm; picnic hampers also available.
Huka Lodge is located among the lush rolling plains of the North Island’s central plateau, just upstream from the mighty Huka Falls.
Scheduled domestic flights operated by Air New Zealand (www.airnewzealand.co.nz; 13 24 76) fly into Taupo Airport (www.taupoairport.co.nz) from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch daily. A Huka Lodge helper will meet you at the airport and escort you to the Lodge. Charter flights to Taupo Airport are also available. Flights from Auckland take about 40 minutes.
If you want to explore the area you can hire a car at Taupo Airport; the Lodge is a 20-kilometre or 10-minute drive away. If driving from Auckland allow three to four hours, four and a half hours from Wellington, or one hour from Rotorua.
Helicopter transfers from Auckland, Wellington and Rotorua are available. After a scenic flight following New Zealand’s largest river though dense forestry and lush farmland you’ll be delivered to the front lawn of the Lodge. This service can be booked via Huka Lodge.
Worth getting out of bed for
With seven hectares of extensive grounds, walking off those luxe lodge meals will be a treat. If you fancy a stroll, the lodge’s landscaped, park-like garden is filled with stunning flower borders, and a short walk beyond the gates brings you to the spectacular Huka Falls. There are relaxing pools on hand too if you'd rather unwind with a serene soak. Angling fans will be in heaven, as the lodge can provide access to a choice of 23 streams and rivers nearby offering magnificent fishing; the area is world-famous for trout fly-fishing and is also good for spin fishing. Helicopters can whisk you straight from the lodge’s grounds to nearby wilderness areas if you fancy casting your rod in solitude surrounded by outstanding natural beauty, and four-wheel drive vehicles are also on hand to take you off-road to more obscure, challenging fishing spots. Or for a more chilled-out trip, sample sunset at Lake Taupo, best admired from the Western Bays area. We recommend a BBQ on the beach – the gentle lapping water and incredible stars when night falls will send you to bed on a high. If you fancy high-octane thrills, jet boating, bungy jumping, skydiving, waterskiing and white-water rafting are all up for grabs in and around nearby Lake Taupo: Huka Lodge can help you with bookings. Or just enjoy a spot of tennis on Huka Lodge’s all-weather court or try your hand at a game of petanque. If you fancy gadding further afield, Huka Helicopter transfers can be arranged to Auckland (1 hr 15), Wellington (1 hr 35) or Rotorua (25 minutes) direct from (or back to) Huka Lodge’s front lawn. Otherwise the drive takes 3-4 hours, 4.5 hours or 1 hour, or domestic flights travel daily to Taupo from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Charter flights are also available on request.
At relaxed restaurant and bar Plateau (+64 (0)7 377 2425) at 64 Tuwharetoa Street, the food is Mod Kiwi, there are seven Monteith’s beers on tap and even the music is recorded by NZ artists. On sunny days, dine in the courtyard. Bond Lounge Bar (+64 (0)7 377 2434), just down the way at number 40, is by far the swankiest spot for a cocktail in Taupo. The weekends see events such as A Night at the Playboy Mansion or the Opshop Ball take over, so if you’re after a quieter atmosphere do the early shift. Set in a Fifties’ townhouse, the Brantry (+64 (0)7 378 0484), at 45 Rifle Range Road, serves contemporary cuisine fuelled by local produce including venison, lamb and seafood and the curious feijoa fruit.
This review of Huka Lodge in Lake Taupo is taken from our guidebook Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection Australia/New Zealand.
In New Zealand you can channel Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It by going fly-fishing. At Huka Lodge, though, you might just run into him – and his mates. This is a playground for celebrities. Mr Smith and I had done our research so – excuse us for name-dropping– we knew Barbra Streisand, Bill Gates and Kate Winslet had all holidayed here.
Determined to fit in, I had a pre-arrival blow-dry. I might not be rich and famous, but if I happened to find myself standing near George Clooney at least I’d have fabulous hair. As soon as Mr Smith and I drove into the manicured estate, our host appeared with a warm greeting. When you’re staying at a place this luxurious there is no checking in; there’s simply a welcoming champagne by the fire and a tour with the convivial Louis, who could have been showing off his home rather than pointing out facilities.
When he showed us to our Double Lodge Suite I came over all Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. This place is breathtaking. An entrance hall divided off to two rooms. The first housed a chaise longue, two armchairs and a king-size bed, complete with mosquito net (even in winter it adds a touch of romance; I’m not going to mention getting trapped in it when I went to the loo in the middle of the night – it ruins the image). Through the walk-in wardrobe and minibar area was the magnificent bathroom. The carpet was so thick you didn’t walk on it so much as pad across it. ‘We’re not in Kansas any more, Toto,’ I whispered to Mr Smith before even laying eyes on room two. It was the same size as the bedroom with couches, armchairs, a dining table, fireplace and a mirror-image walk-in robe and bathroom. Every chair had a cashmere throw draped over it, complementing the soft green and cream decor. A veranda ran the length of the suite. Its reclining chairs looked over the perfect grass to the mesmerising, fast-flowing river. Mr Smith and I had planned to explore the grounds, but I’m not sure if it was the ultimate luxury, the complimentary bottle of wine or if they hide kryptonite around the room – somehow we didn’t have the power to leave.
We dressed for dinner and gathered with the other guests around the fire for cocktails and canapés. There were only 12 others in attendance, none of them famous. Oh, but there were tales of them. Director Peter Jackson was there just the week before; not to mention the Queen of freaking England having stayed three times. Apparently she loves the place. We, however, think that snipers in the woods, SAS troops in zodiacs upstream and helicopters hovering above might kind of spoil the serenity.
Mr Smith and I are pondering this as we’re taken to our private table in the wine cellar for a five-course meal. Flatteringly lit by candles and surrounded by wine worth more than our car, we felt like the VIPs in residence.
The next day we decided to try fly-fishing. Our guide, David, was a Kiwi version of Steve Irwin: knowledgeable and passionate. Decked out in waders, we instantly felt the part. Now, my dad taught me to fish off the beach when I was just a fingerling, so I was excited and confident. Mr Smith, on the other hand, had never fished in his life. Within an hour he’d landed a handsome two-kilo rainbow jack. After the compulsory photo, he released his prize back into the wild. Four hours later I still had nothing. I was happy for Mr Smith though. So damned happy, and determined not to be out-fished, I immediately booked David for the next day.
There are plenty of other activities on offer at Huka if you’re made of money: hunting, helicopter tours and bungy jumping just a one-hour hike away, for example. Or you could follow Mr Smith and my lead and opt for delicious afternoon naps – the sound of the water approaching nearby Huka Falls was a lullaby all of its own.
That night, Mr Smith regaled other guests with fishy tales. The more wine he had, the bigger the fish got. This time dinner was on the terrace outside, with a raging fire and Burberry blankets over our knees keeping the chill at bay. When Mr Smith couldn’t decide between two options for his main course, the kitchen simply presented him with both. But the winning dish was an Oreo cheesecake for dessert. ‘That’s just plain rude to all other cheesecakes in the world,’ said Mr Smith. ‘They can’t compare and it knows it.’
The next morning I woke early for revenge fly-fishing. This time things were serious: we plunged through rivers in a four-wheel drive with water washing over the bonnet. But as soon as I was in my waders, calmness swept over me. Fly-fishing is like meditating – deadlines, office politics and pressures all fade away as you focus on landing the fly in exactly the right spot to tempt a trout. It was this Zen approach that rewarded me with my own rainbow jack. As I posed for the photo, I beamed: ‘That’s going straight to Facebook.’ After all, I’m sure that’s exactly what Brad would do.
Back at the room, I went to show my pic to Mr Smith but found him in his own meditative state, staring at the moss-covered trees, turquoise river and glossy ducks feeding on the manicured lawn. ‘It seems a tad Truman Show,’ I joked. ‘I half expect to spot a stagehand spray-painting the bushes the exact right shade of Huka Lodge green.’ Mr Smith rolled his eyes: ‘Really, Mrs Smith, should you doubt perfection or just enjoy it?’ He had a point.
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