The most exclusive lodge in New Zealand, having hosted everyone from Queen Elizabeth II to the late Robin Williams, Huka Lodge feels like a refined country getaway set on the banks of the Waikato River near the North Island resort town of Taupo. Founded in 1924 by a charismatic Irishman named Alan Pye, the property was later reimagined by entrepreneur Alex van Heeren with the help of interiors specialist Virginia Fisher and famed New Zealand landscape designer Suzanne Turley. The surrounding grounds contain a Garden of National Significance. Whether staying in the lodge suites—which feature French doors that open up to a wooden terrace just steps from the river—or the lofty private cottages, guests will feel like royalty here.
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The lodge’s proximity to Lake Taupo, on the central plateau of New Zealand’s North Island, makes it a convenient springboard for all kinds of adventures. The lake itself is popular among sailors, swimmers, paragliders, water skiers, kayakers, fishermen, and culture buffs; there are some rock carvings inspired by traditional Maori versions along one edge. Wairakei International Golf Course offers some of the best putting greens just five minutes away, and thundering Huka Falls is just upstream from the lodge.
Need to Know
Rooms: 20 lodge suites, 2 cottages. From $695, all-inclusive. Check-in: 2 p.m.; check-out: 11 a.m. Dining options:Every evening, the lodge serves cocktails and canapés for an hour before guests dine communally at a candlelit table, or disperse to an even more romantic locale from the cozy library to the grotto-like wine cellar or the heirloom fruit terrace upstairs. British chef Paul Froggatt puts together a five-course menu daily, based on the finest ingredients he can get his hands on. Australian and international wines are paired for the occasion. Spa and gym details:The lodge is literally fit for royalty, offering just about every amenity or experience one could ask for, from swimming pools and spas to tennis courts and croquet grounds. Massages, facials, and beauty treatments are offered in-room; mountain bikes are on hand for active explorers; and private yoga and personal training are available for the truly committed. A number of other outdoor excursions can be arranged by request. Fly-fishing is popular right in front of the lodge.
Who's it best for: Discerning travelers who expect the best in accommodations, experiences, and service. Our favorite rooms: The exclusive Owner’s Cottage is the most private, tucked into the trees on an elevated promontory overlooking the Waikato River down toward Huka Falls. The cottage has a French provincial feel, with white wood beams and bleached oak parquet floors. Every space is centered around an oversized fireplace, especially the outdoor courtyard. The Alan Pye cottage is slightly more rustic, built in an arts and crafts style with an emerald green wall in the living room that matches the river outside. Expansive service: Guests ask and they shall receive here. The Huka Lodge staff is highly trained in creating custom experiences—whether it be horseback riding; a limousine or helicopter cultural tour (there’s a helipad on-site); or hunting for deer, wild boar, or pheasant.