Relais & Châteaux Property Spotlight: Huka Lodge
Huka Lodge can be found on the outskirts of Taupo, in the North Island of New Zealand’s central plateau region, renowned for its thermal wonderland and panoramic landscape, with numerous rivers and streams, forests, snow-capped mountains and its crisp, clear air. Fed by ice-cold rivers and streams flowing from the mountains that surround it, Lake Taupo has a majestic presence within the landscape, and at its northern tip a river begins its 300km journey to the sea. The Waikato River’s strong current flows downstream past Huka Lodge as it thunders over a series of rapids and becomes the mighty Huka Falls.
No stranger to top international awards and accolades, Huka Lodge was recently ranked in the Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report, Readers’ Choice Awards 2013, as 5th within the World’s Top 20 International Hideaways, as well as recognised as one of the world’s Best Resorts for Food and Wine. This award follows hot on the heels of the UK’s Condé Nast Traveller, Readers’ Choice Awards 2013, where Huka Lodge was declared Favourite Overseas Holiday Hotel in Australasia and the Pacific.
Huka Lodge nestles on the banks of the river and basks in the beauty of its deep turquoise-green waters, as it has since the 1920s, when founded by charming Irishman, Alan Pye. The origins of New Zealand’s now legendary lodge were humble, with anglers accommodated in simple canvas-clad, wooden-framed huts, with slatted wooden floors. Alan Pye was an extraordinary host and soon Huka Lodge’s reputation for hospitality was as well known as the area was for the large, magnificent and spirited trout to be caught nearby.
When Alex van Heeren purchased Huka Lodge in 1984 he re-awakened this iconic property and has continued to enhance its natural beauty. The 17-acres of manicured grounds, ranked as of national significance, are filled with birdsong and blossom in spring and throughout the estate guests seek secluded places to sit and contemplate the superb planting and landscape design. The gardens enclose a tennis court, swimming and spa pools as well as pétanque and croquet courts.
Tucked along the riverbank, all the 25 rooms, comprising Junior Lodge suites and the two exclusive cottages, enjoy splendid views of the Waikato River. Every last detail for guest comfort has been considered and the suites are beautifully appointed. True retreats in every sense, they are harmonious and deliberately understated in approach, designed to allow the qualities of the landscape to dominate. From the fine monogrammed bed linen to the freshly baked biscuits, the famed attention to detail is evident.
The Owner’s Cottage sits on an elevated promontory overlooking the river and enjoys spectacular views downstream. There are four suites, each with a fireplace, en suite bathroom and dressing room, and the Cottage also features an open plan living/dining room, den, fully equipped kitchen with private chef, outdoor terrace with infinity pool, outdoor fireplace, private outdoor spa pool and additional accommodation should guests be travelling with staff. Its two-suite companion, the Alan Pye Cottage, has the same superior location, with the additional feature of a fabulous outdoor pavilion with log fireplace. Both Cottages offer total independence and privacy as well as all of Huka Lodge’s amenities and are ideal for families or a party of friends.
The Main Lodge building is the hub of the property and it is from here, after a sumptuous breakfast, that guests can either set off for adventure or settle down beside the log fire with a novel or a favourite magazine. Come the evening, candles are lit, lights dimmed and drinks set out as guests gather for pre-dinner drinks and to share stories of their day. A five-course gourmet dinner follows, prepared with the freshest and finest seasonal ingredients, complemented by excellent wines and seamless service. There are more than 20 truly sublime dining venues at Huka Lodge offering indoor and outdoor opportunities for seclusion, with extraordinary ambience. All are unashamedly romantic by design and unique by definition.
Should guests decide to leave the grounds, opportunities for recreational experiences abound – from the still-legendary trout fishing, to golf, horse riding, hunting, river rafting, kayaking, sailing, mountain biking, guided walks, helicopter sightseeing, geothermal adventures and so much more.