Vacations & Travel - - Tried & Tested - By Lisa Perkovic

There’s just some­thing about dra­matic scenery and de­gus­ta­tion din­ners that go hand in hand. At least that’s the case at Huka Lodge. Perched on the banks of the Waikato River near Taupo on New Zealand’s North Is­land, Huka Lodge is the hide­away beloved by celebri­ties, pres­i­dents and the Queen. Her Royal High­ness Queen El­iz­a­beth has vis­ited so many times she has her very own minia­ture por­trait gallery next to the guest­book at the front door.

It’s easy to imag­ine the Queen at home at Huka. Sub­tle touches of tar­tan, fire­places flanked by brass whip­pet dogs and mo­hair blan­kets thrown over wing­back arm­chairs, the crisp coun­try air – it was al­most made for her. For mere mor­tals, Huka is a win­dow into an­other world, of mighty Mother Na­ture and man-made deca­dence.

When it comes to set­tings, it’s hard to imag­ine beat­ing the nat­u­ral beauty of this spot, cho­sen back in 1924 by Ir­ish­man Alan Pye on a fly-fish­ing trip. Dur­ing the day, the river en­thralls you at al­most ev­ery turn. Spot its ed­dies and cur­rents through the trees as you en­ter the main lodge build­ing, lis­ten to the rush of the wa­ter as you snug­gle up with a blan­ket to sip sparkling wine on the ter­race or step out of your suite and stroll along its man­i­cured banks.

When the sun goes down, Huka Lodge re­ally turns on the charm. A stay in­cludes not only pre-din­ner drinks and a full break­fast, there’s also a five-course meal, in the lo­ca­tion of your choos­ing. We’re not talk­ing about a win­dow seat. Staff will move aside the fur­ni­ture so you can dine un­der­neath elk in the Tro­phy Room; an ode to the lodge’s South African sis­ter prop­erty in South Africa. They’ll stoke the out­door fire­place to roar­ing, so you can set­tle in with rugs and red wine un­der the stars.

Each evening, mini pri­vate din­ners take place all over the prop­erty, with guests asked to pick their pre­ferred spot at check in. Each spot has its own spe­cial charm, but for a truly mem­o­rable night choose the wine cel­lar. Sur­rounded by the lodge’s ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of wine, with can­dlelit chan­de­liers hang­ing over­head, it’s a meal like no other.

To see the true might of the river, guests can grab moun­tain bikes and cy­cle just a few min­utes down the road to Huka Falls. A look­out spans the mouth of this 11-me­tre wa­ter­fall, the bridge giv­ing you a bird’s-eye view as wa­ter plum­mets into the rapids be­low.

Alan Pye may have founded the lodge be­cause of that river, and the fly-fish­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties it pre­sented, but these days lessons and fish­ing ses­sions take place 25 min­utes' away on the Ton­gariro River. It might seem hard to tear your­self away from the lodge, es­pe­cially when there’s ten­nis courts, a cro­quet lawn, heated pool and Jacuzzis on site, but Huka also of­fers dozens of dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties.

Whether you want to spend your days drink­ing fine wine by the fire­side or out ex­plor­ing the New Zealand wilder­ness, Huka Lodge is noth­ing like home away from home, un­less of course, you’re the Queen.

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