During the long winter season in North Devon, I often suffer from “grass is greener syndrome” (yes, it does really exist). I sit at my desk looking through the window staring at the dark, menacing blackness outside, thinking that at 4pm., surely, I should be somewhere more hospitable – a different continent perhaps? But where would I move to, with my family and beloved pets in tow? I have wrestled with this dilemma for aeons but there is a very short shortlist … the city of Vancouver, or Taupo in New Zealand.
One day I will write about the attractions of Canada’s “City of Glass” but for now it’s a 24-hour plus journey from London to Auckland … and then a 3-hour drive (or 45-minute helicopter ride) to the centre of the North Island. Taupo sits beside the country’s largest lake that also shares its name. And nestled next to the Waikato River that feeds the lake is one of the most celebrated properties in the southern hemisphere – Huka Lodge.
Founded in 1924 by Irish immigrant and fly-fishing guide Alan Pye as a simple riverside camp; guests slept under canvas by night and caught their suppers (trout and carp) by day. In the 1980s, a decade after Pye passed away, the Lodge was purchased and the new owners realised that they were sitting on a veritable goldmine, surrounded by diamonds, sapphires and pearls.
Huge investment over the next 30 years has seen the Lodge become the country’s premier retreat and one of the top resorts in the world. The Lodge has just 25 bedrooms – all suites. In the inventory, there are also two cottages that boast their own swimming and spa pools. These are ideal for families or fishing parties.
Set in 17 acres of “listed” gardens, the Lodge offers its guests tennis, mountain biking, croquet, fishing (catch & release) in the river, and in-room spa treatments. If you have travelled over a day to get to Taupo, there is much to see and do in the area although it is tempting not to leave your own Garden of Eden.
Just five minutes’ drive away is a championship golf course, and five minutes more you will arrive at the Lake where you can water-ski, kayak, sail, and swim. For thrill-seekers, Taupo offers sky-diving and the country’s highest water-touch bungee jump.
The Huka Falls are a must. The sheer power of the water draining from the Wiakato River into the Lake is breath-taking. The river narrows from 100 metres to just 15 metres and 220,000 litres of crystal blue water plummets 11 metres into the Lake below every second … the din is excitedly immense.
Maoris have inhabited the area for over seven centuries. Taupo is short for Taupo-nui-a-Tia – the Great Cloak of Tia…Tia being the discoverer of the lake. The Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings were completed in 1980 and celebrate the indigenous people of the area. You can see these 14-metre high carvings from the Lake … and they are the highlight of any visit to Taupo.
History, culture, excursions, fresh fish, world-class properties, acres of lush and verdant land and amazing golf courses – a move to Taupo? Just need to convince the family…
• The “all-inclusive” rate at The Lodge
• Every guest is “A-list”
• Watching the river flow from your suite
• The cuisine is possibly the finest in New Zealand
• The impeccable service
• Air New Zealand – the friendliest carrier in the world
• The Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings on Lake Taupo
• The all-inclusive rate is of second mortgage proportions
• Hunting of animals is permitted nearby
• It takes over a day to get to Taupo from London
Varun Sharma is the host of Inside Luxury Travel – a television show that focuses on high-end travel. The show airs in over 120 countries, in 21 languages and is beamed into 1 billion homes worldwide.
He likes nothing better than playing a round of golf, Davidoff in mouth and flask of Royal Salute in his back pocket!
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