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Body & Soul: New Zealand's Huka Lodge

An exclusive New Zealand resort provides seclusion and respite in the most unspoiled of settings

Written by Jenny Bradley Pfeffer

The Huka Lodge website pitches the resort as “deliberately understated,” but there’s really nothing restrained about the escape this renowned getaway can provide.

Huka Lodge started life as a fishing resort in Taupo, New Zealand. Today it offers a serene private escape in one of the world’s most beautiful natural landscapes. 

Perched on the banks of the crystal-clear Waikato River in Taupo, New Zealand (a three-and-a-half hour drive from Auckland), this secluded, 17-acre gem routinely tops travel “best” lists—and rightfully so. 

Located on the banks of the Waikato River, Huka Lodge offers guests magnificent views and a host of outdoor activities, including extraordinary fishing.

Alan Pye founded Huka in the 1920s as a simple fishing lodge. Through the years the retreat garnered considerable acclaim as it welcomed guests as celebrated as Charles Lindbergh, Queen Elizabeth, and James Michener. After Alex van Heeren purchased it in 1984, the no-frills lodge with glorious river views took a spectacular turn toward the sumptuous. Where canvas tents pitched on wood floors once stood, 25 luxurious guest suites built for comfort now hold court—each designed with total respite in mind. 

While the unspoiled setting reigns supreme here, designer Virginia Fisher ensured that each guest suite and cottage is a star in its own right. “The natural beauty strongly influenced my color palette,” Fisher says. “I chose a number of very soft and subtle colors and used them in layers so they did not compete in any way with the physical presence and power of the Waikato River.”

Named for Huka Lodge’s founder, the two-bedroom Alan Pye Cottage has an Arts and Crafts influence, both inside and out. 

Throughout the lodge, Fisher incorporated European paintings, antiques, and a mix of textures—from rich velvet to tartan wool—and Maori artifacts.

A neutral palette ensures that the interiors of the four-bedroom Owner’s Cottage won’t distract from the surrounding natural beauty. “I want the interiors to convey a certain formality,” says designer Virginia Fisher, “yet feel sophisticated, chic, relaxed, and contemporary, while always generous in terms of comfort.”

Created by landscape designer Suzanne Turley, the property’s gardens are equal parts native New Zealand and manicured English. Redwood trees that date to the 1920s mix with Japanese maples, magnolias, and rhododendrons. Native birds and plants thrive in the property’s water garden. 

Private dining is offered (both indoors and out), but guests more often opt for dinner in the main lodge, where they easily share stories of the day’s adventures—from fishing and hiking to helicopter tours and white-water rafting.

Executive chef Paul Froggatt’s cuisine—from five-course dinners to casual country breakfasts—is served indoors or out.

One visit just isn’t enough for some people. Fisher says, “It’s the great style, privacy, tranquility, and stunning natural beauty complemented by manicured grounds and a very small number of guests” that brings them back to this paradise. 

Interior designer: Virginia Fisher
Architect: Sumich Chaplin Architects