The Best of Taupo - New Zealand's "up and coming hot spot"
14 December 2017
Grace, our Sales & Reservations Manager, paid Taupo a visit last month to look at some beautiful accommodation options and see what this North Island town has to offer!
After crowning Taupo one of New Zealand’s “up and coming hot spots”, we’re absolutely delighted to feature Taupo as a MajorDomo destination!
Here is Grace’s itinerary featuring her insights into all things Taupo – there are some great ideas for what to do and where to stay in Taupo!
I flew into Taupo airport and picked up a rental car from there – it was so quick and easy! Then I drove into Taupo along the lakefront to town which only took 10 minutes!
Feeling peckish, I stopped for lunch at Cafe Baku which I quickly discovered is a popular 'locals’ spot!
My first stop on my jam packed first day, was the Hilton Lake Taupo which is only five minutes drive from town with amazing views over Lake Taupo!
I was shown around by the lovely Di Christie, who showed me four different types of rooms and the shared pool, gym, sauna and steam room.
Their most popular rooms are the three bedroom apartments as these have views of the lake and valley, and have a good size kitchen too! Two rooms can be interconnected which is super handy for families.
The Hilton Lake Taupo is a casual 40-minute walk to Taupo town for those who like to stretch their legs. Otherwise, the five minute drive is over in a blink.
I would recommend this as the ideal place to stop off if you want one or two nights to explore the area – perhaps as you move south down the country.
Poronui Lodge & Blake House Villa
From the Hilton, I drove out to Poronui Lodge which took 45 minutes. The experienced and friendly Eve Reilly showed me around the lodge and their private villa, Blake House.
Here I also met some passionate fishermen and women over a gourmet dinner cooked by the Poronui chef. It was a genuine experience and a great way to get to meet the guests.
Poronui is the ultimate fishing lodge. It’s not uber luxury in the classic sense of the word but it’s a true kiwi experience. The staff at the lodge make this place feel so relaxed and welcoming. One couple have been visiting Poronui annually for 10 consecutive years!
Eve has dinner with the guests most evenings - this obviously works for them and guests love the interaction. During dinner, the maître d’ brought around a wine match – gewürztraminer. Wine was included with dinner and flowed well.
Poronui provide airport pick up if needed and there is a heli pad if guests prefer. There are seven suites in the lodge which means there’s no more that 14 guests around the table at dinnertime, making for a lovely intimate experience.
From the lodge, the stables are just three minute drive away or guests can walk across the paddocks. Down at the stables is a gorgeous outdoor dining / BBQ area. Also close to here is archery and clay bird shooting. In the stable block there is a billiards room and an underground wine cellar where, once a week, guests can choose to dine. Being a true horse girl I found the set up at the stables really very special.
10 minutes drive onwards and you come to Blake House. This is a private villa with four identical ensuited rooms. It’s perfect for four couples. Down the far end of the house are two rooms that have four custom made luxurious bunks. If guests wanted to take exclusive-use of the house and use the bunks, then it can sleep up to 16 but I would suggest a maximum of 14.
From Blake House, you can drive further in land (here is where everything changes to thick Manuka and becomes more rugged) 20 minutes on to the Safari camp. Yes – safari camp! Not your everyday lodge that’s for sure! Here at the camp, are two camping huts. A chef can come to the safari to cook a lovely meal and get the fire going. There is a separate toilet block – including flush!! There’s even a basic shower. Located on the banks of the river, this is a gorgeous spot and the perfect retreat. This part of the Poronui offering is ideal for a couple if they only want two or three nights in the lodge and then one night at the camp.
After a luxurious night’s sleep at Poronui Lodge, I headed back into central Taupo to meet Elle from Lake Taupo Views – Luxury Apartments. These central Taupo apartments are located right on Lake Taupo and are perfect if you’re looking for a handy location!
Families will love the geothermal pool that kids can swim in while parents watch from the balcony – drink in hand. Lake access from the apartment is a real treat too!
Go Explore NZ
Next up, I went on a bit of a tiki tour with Logan who owns Go Explore NZ. He showed me all the great local attractions of which my favourite was the Aratiatia Dam.
Born in Taupo, these guys know all the best spots and how to avoid the busy touristy areas. They have four set tours but can also create private bespoke itineraries.
On my tiki tour I saw:
• The dam below Huka falls and Huka Falls Jet
• Crater of the Moon geothermal walk – this is a gentle 45 min board walk great for families
• Prawn Park – fun for kids to catch their own prawns and get them cooked up for lunch
• Honey Hive – they have everything honey. Even wine made from Honey.
Later that afternoon I drove out to Acacia Bay – a stunning peninsular just five minutes from Taupo. I visited Rick and Linda's lodge - Acacia Cliffs Lodge - with views over the whole bay.
Rick showed me two of their four suites. Three suites have lake views; while one suite has a garden view. The garden room is great for kids as three beds can be made in here and over the hall is a king suite for parents. The owners live on-site which provides a friendly personal touch.
Rick is also the chef, but if guests prefer to dine out, he is happy to drive guests into town and arrange a taxi cab back.
In the four suites, there are tea and coffee making facilities, a mini bar and snacks (all New Zealand brands).
Another 5 minutes around towards the end of the peninsular are The Point Villas. At the time I arrived, Peg (the owner), had the Melbourne Cup on the television - unfortunately no winning ticket! Despite the rain that night, the location was stunning and if the sun was out I would have been out on the kayaks exploring the Maori rock carvings that are just a two minute paddle away.
These villas have an absolutely stunning setting at the end of Acacia Bay, just ten minutes drive from town. They are located in a private gated community with pristine gardens, a two minute walk to the water’s edge. Bliss!
There were guests staying in villa one, so unfortunately I couldn’t view it. This villa is a two bedroom private house built into the hill with a private swimming pool.
Villa two has three bedrooms and three bathrooms. One bedroom is downstairs while two bedrooms are upstairs. The gorgeous bathrooms have floor-to-ceiling glass to make the most of the surrounding greenery outside.
I loved the Spanish design of these villas – I really felt like I was on holiday myself!
Guests at The Point Villas can use the tennis courts, petanque, kayaks and a heli-pad.
Large families could even rent out both villas which would give them use of five bedrooms.
For guest arrivals, Peg leaves warm fresh bread, seasonal fruit, eggs and other provisions, and a private chef can be arranged if required.
Wairakei Golf Course & Sanctuary
My first stop on day three was Wairakei, just five minutes drive from Taupo township. The Club House is open to the public for lunch, so even if you’re not playing golf here it’s a fabulous experience just to visit.
They offer beginners lessons but the golf course would be most appreciated by intermediate to advanced golfers.
As well as a golf course, there’s also a sanctuary onsite with predator proof fencing and over 30 different birds that call the golf course home. You can even feed the Kiwi if you call to ask and the timing is right – it’s not something they actively promote however, making the experience all the more special.
Stop number two was Huka Lodge. While I waited for my tour, I enjoyed a cup of tea in their drawing room overlooking the river. Luckily the rain had stopped so I got to see all their outdoor dining options for guests. My favourite would be their table down by the river.
Huka Lodge has the most beautiful grounds and outdoor seating/dining options. Guests don’t all sit around one table here like Poronui. As they have many suites and cottages, they have numerous tables in different areas around the lodge, the most popular of which would be outside by the fire. There are also outdoor heaters so that the outdoor seating can be used in winter.
There are three different indoor communal lounge areas, tennis courts, a swimming pool, two spa pools and a purpose-built wine cellar. Guests may wish to enjoy a wine tasting down here and/or dine here as well.
All suites in the lodge face out to the river.
Taupo is only 5km away so, despite the private feeling of the lodge, guests are perfectly located to access all the sights of Taupo.
The Kinloch Club is a new lodge, having opened in 2015, and is just 15 minutes drive from Taupo. The incredible golf course here was designed by Jack Nicklaus.
When you arrive at the Kinloch Club, you drive past the clubhouse on your right and up the bend until you arrive at the architecturally designed lodge. I was welcomed by Ken (Duty Manager) and Nicky (Assistant Manager) who were both very welcoming.
As I was shown around, I saw the communal areas in the main lodge and the individual villas which are scattered around the property. There are two different room types in the main lodge – an entry room and junior suite which can be linked. There are exciting plans to build an infinity pool and gym – watch this space!
Although the golf course is a key feature, The Kinloch Club is not just for golfers. There are famous bike trails accessible from the bay. Chris Jolly can arrange pick up and drop of private bike trips around the bays. Or guests can simply take bikes out from the lodge.
Dunalistair House is within the grounds of Kinloch golf course but still very private. This stunning villa has a lovely contemporary design, with lots of modern fittings and fixtures…and gadgets.
It overlooks the golf course and all four bedrooms have great views and their own bathroom. There’s one main living area and a separate media room - ideal for four couples or a large family.
The owner is passionate about the Kinloch area and very kindly gave me a tour of the area and introduced me to the hidden bike trails that are very popular in the summer.
After waking up from a deep slumber in Dunalistair House, I drove back to Taupo airport which took around 25 minutes from Kinloch. Back to MajorDomo headquarters in Queenstown!
Overall I loved Taupo! I really feel like it’s the Wanaka of the North Island. Everything is close by and easily accessible, and the Lake is never far away. There’s beautiful accommodation options for everyone and plenty of sights and activities to choose from. I would feel confident recommending Taupo to any MajorDomo guests now! I believe Taupo is truly an up and coming hot spot in New Zealand!