HUKA LODGE, TAUPO, NEW ZEALAND
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.