Huka Lodge, New Zealand
New Zealand is an untouched realm of natural beauty untouched by the passage of time.
Crystalline glacial lakes tumble from majestic mountains, passing through a rolling emerald landscape, through meandering valleys and across sweeping plains on their passage to the sea. Snow-capped sentinels cast shadow across contemporary cities, rural villages and wilderness bearing not the smallest of human fingerprint. Urban borders break to unfettered scenery and the ardent recognition of New Zealand’s First Nations instill a sense of Māori harking back many hundreds of years into daily conversation and national heritage.
But for a gossamer web of small country roads and sporadic towns and cities scattered like a handful of marbles cast carelessly by infantile hand across a vast, viridian carpet, one might be wandering through prehistoric scenes or recently-established national parks without differentiation.
Unlike its more substantial island neighbor, New Zealand is recently settled when viewed on the timeline of humankind’s millennia of global exploration. Hailing from Polynesia, Māori forebears first came to the 600 islands of the atoll in the mid-1300s. An inherent connection to and assimilation with the natural world, their impact upon flora and fauna was minimal. Without predators or mammals of any kind, apart from bats, an encyclopedia of native feathered wildlife was allowed to flourish in harmony, many species of which are found nowhere else on the planet. It wasn’t until 300 years later that the first western settlers arrived, bringing rats, rabbits, stoats and goats, that the balance was disrupted. Though it was the Māori who hunted the mighty moa – a 12-foot (3.7m) relative of the emu – to extinction, it was their Caucasian visitors who significantly unsettled New Zealand’s 80 million years of evolutionary isolation.
Today, nationwide efforts are being successfully implemented to rehabilitate the most threatened species, with growing success, and the kea, kiwi, weka and many other birds are finally basking in a brighter future.
Rather than a wildlife destination, it is for the landscapes that many take a New Zealand vacation, and it is upon this unspoiled landscape that Huka Lodge laid its foundations.
Resting on a natural meander of the Waikato River, Huka Lodge was first established as little more than a collection of tents, its fisherman tenants reaping the bounty of the fertile waterway. The modern property is far more established, though gleaned its inspiration from its earliest iteration almost 100 years ago.
Its low profile seems to emerge from some subterranean source onto its verdant lawns, bowing un humility to the surging river that graces its threshold. The timber construction of Huka Lodge reflects the timelessness of New Zealand’s landscapes, luxurious, cozy, yet wonderfully indicative of a bygone era.
Hosting royal and famous guests over its tenure as one of the finest renowned New Zealand accommodations, the property offers 20 suites and two private lodges with two and four bedrooms respectively. Three and a half hours from Aukland, it lies at the heart of the country’s north island, wonderfully isolated yet conveniently accessible, with the lakeside town of Taupō just five minutes’ drive away.
The original lodge forms the central hub of the property, containing fine dining restaurant and, as one might expect in on of the premier producers of New World wines, a boundlessly-stocked wine cellar. Heavy timbers striate the low ceiling and French doors open to an al fresco patio, bathing the whitewashed interior in natural light.
The suites radiate from this nucleus, scattered along the riverbank in both directions, each in its own glade within the landscaped gardens. On the periphery, the two private lodges form parentheses to the property, and wanders through the magical gardens will reveal tennis and pétanque courts, swimming and spa pools and a tranquil yoga and meditation lawn – a haven of undisturbed tranquility.
As with so much in New Zealand, Huka Lodge embraces nature, with the undulating waters of the Waikato its magnetic focus, its babbling passage bathing the property in soporific song.
It is the natural world that inspires many of Huka Lodge’s experiences. So vast is New Zealand’s wilderness that it is from the air that it is best appreciated, and helicopter flights across Tongariro National Park give one a surreal perspective over the landscape. Cultural tours and nature walks allow guests to explore beyond the property in a more tangible way, and more dynamic activities such as jetboating and bungee jumping, provide exhilarating interactions with the scenery.
More sedate activities can be enjoyed at Huka Lodge. True to its heritage, guests can cast a wetted line into the flowing waters of the Waikato, the river’s trout fly fishing globally renowned. The gardens provide a serene haven for guided yoga and croquet, or simply to while away the afternoon on the soft grass with a good book, and nearby hot springs offer a therapeutic thermal plunge even when a glistening blanket of frost graces the ground. If even this is too much exertion, a spa and massage menu provides a host of relaxing therapies in the comfort of your own suite.
Huka Lodge has evolved to impeccably to impose the smallest of impacts on this stunning landscape while embracing it consummately. As luxurious and comfortable as each suite may be, a sense of natural immersion remains, the manmade structures almost incidental to the experience.
New Zealand accommodation is frequently influenced by Swiss mountain lodges and the natural materials from which they are made. Despite their chic, contemporary design, they seem to grow from the earth on which they delicately stand and, as with the Māori who first settled here, form a symbiosis with the organic world around them. Sustainability is prevalent throughout the island nation, and Huka Lodge is upholding this, with ecologically-sound water usage, recycling programs and organic produce contributing to a reduced plastic ethos. Upcoming renovations will both elevate the already-premier luxury of the property and install solar power, further minimising Huka Lodge’s carbon and environmental footprint.
A New Zealand vacation incorporates both natural wonder and impeccable accommodations. Luxury and comfort is of the essence, wherever one might rest one’s head, to drift away in dreams of the day’s environmental explorations. This is never more true than at Huka Lodge, arguably the country’s leading premium property, with the wind in the trees and the babbling Waikato River a pervasive, meditative mantra offering the media to paint the canvas of the sleeping mind.