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The Queen and I

On a trip to New Zealand JON UNDERWOOD has a brush with royalty at Huka Lodge.

The visitor’s book left for hotel guests to sign on their way out is usually quite a dull affair. Bill and Fanny from Omaha love the shower curtain and will be sure to come back next year – that kind of thing.


But when the visitor’s book contains the Queen of England, you know you’re somewhere pretty special.


Huka Lodge is New Zealand’s oldest luxury lodge, having been originally founded in the 1920s on the banks of the Waikato River. It has hosted celebrities, billionaires and royalty – Queen Elizabeth has stayed here three times.


She probably wasn’t paying the bill but you can get a room here for $NZ795 a night during the low season. If that’s too rich for your blood, dinner can be arranged for a mere $NZ225 (not including drinks with your meal).


At those kinds of prices, you’d expect luxury a plenty and Huka Lodge delivers, with the kind of understated elegance that befits such an august establishment. The rooms are delightful, the17 acres of gardens are superbly manicured and there’s a wine cellar containing some 5,500 bottles. All in all, an experience not to be missed if you’re in the area and have the cash. Which I was...and which I didn’t, unfortunately!


Slightly less expensive but just as thrilling is a jet boat ride to the base of the Huka Falls, the most visited attraction in New Zealand. According to Liam, our expert driver aboard our Huka Falls Jet boat, a million people came to see this impressive aquatic spectacle last year. The boat ride is entertaining enough, with enough spins to keep the adrenalin seekers happy, but the trip right up to the spot where the falls tumble into the river is the highlight.


The Lake Taupo area offers a plethora of activities so if jet boating is too fast paced for you, try a day on Lake Taupo aboard a Chris Jolly charter or cruise boat. You’ll get to see modern Maori rock carvings, catch a trout or two and if you’re mad enough, jump into the lake, which was a nippy 15 degrees when we visited. After that, warm up with a visit to the Wairakei Terrraces for a dip in their thermally-heated waters. This area is oozing with volcanic activity and the healing powers of the waters are undeniable.

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Written by: Jon Underwood
Published: 22 May 2015

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