As an Australian, our lust for travel feels innate. Maybe its the isolation of our country that fuels this sense of wanderlust and creates a burning desire to explore, to dream, to discover. A 20+ hour transit is a journey we’ll happily endure. It’s something we very rarely think about. Nonchalantly jetting to far flung destinations is an attitude that never fails to surprise our U.S. or European friends blessed with a myriad of exotic locations just a stone’s throw away. Yet what struck me while planning a recent trip to New Zealand, is that when it comes to making a short 3 hour journey there, like a lot of Aussies, I’ve never made the effort. Considered it, absolutely. But chosen it over a long haul flight to the opposite corner of the globe, never.
A close friend and I had the opportunity to visit the breathtaking Huka Lodge recently, tucked away lakeside in Taupo. It came at one of the busiest times for me with work, and was the first time my friend and full time mum had been away from her two new babies, or had a weekend to herself full stop. Carving out time proved difficult but allured by a little adventure and a quick break amidst the chaos of work and life (in one of the world’s most renowned retreats which is almost always booked out!), we jumped at the chance.
Admittedly we both didn’t sleep a wink the night before trying to cram everything in to give ourselves a couple of days to relax over there. Delirious and coffee-fuelled we landed late afternoon and set off on our 3.5 hour road trip through the countryside. It was difficult to switch off at first, still taking work calls a lot of the way and minds dizzied with overflowing to do lists. Yet it wasn’t long before the wild air became intoxicating, and watching the sun fall over this wild, rolling landscape forced a still presence. Conversation drifted to deep contemplation, life reflections, and indulgence in the ideas and dreams that only surface when you give yourself space to breathe.
In darkness, we finally arrived at the entrance of Huka Lodge. Hidden from the outside by dense forest, it’s one of those beautifully deceptive places nothing like the imagery you’ve researched, and beyond anything your imagination could stretch to fathom. In an instant, you’re swept up in it’s magic. Staff at Huka Lodge don’t allow formalities to interrupt this dreamstate for a moment, whisking our luggage away, worrying about check-in later, and transporting us to dinner in a private garden enveloped by rainforest. Electricity is traded for open fire, music is replaced with the percussion of wild rapids which you can barely make out in darkness, glasses flow with the most exquisite wine while you dine languidly beneath a canopy of stars. In a heartbeat you’re transported worlds away.
The contrast of luxurious dining, with the sensory elements of nature that completely stir your soul was unlike anything I’d experienced, or expected. And it seemed that perfect juxtaposition is key to the magic that Huka Lodge taps into. Maybe deeper than just an experience at a luxurious retreat, the idea of contrast says a lot about what we truly crave, and what ignites us in life… Balance. Contradiction. Unexpected moments. Things that side step our overactive minds and force us to feel.
This dreamstate continues upon waking, finding yourself in a cosy timber cottage, accented with details that blend rustic warmth with effortless opulence. Greeted by ducks tapping at your glass side door (really!), a pathway trails past lush foliage to the edge of drifting rapids in a spectrum of blue so vibrant it doesn’t quite seem real. The walk through this enchanting landscape just to breakfast alone, is pure poetry. There’s a flow and rhythm to life here that you’re forced to quickly tune into; one that’s both wildly invigorating and quietly entrancing.
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After coffee and breakfast in the sun, Huka lodge becomes your playground, with an enthralling list of experiences to indulge in; Kayaking, Hiking, Jet Boating, White Water Rafting, Bungy Jumping, or for those wanting a little less adventure, an indulgent in-suite massage or beauty treatment, tennis, petanque and croquet. Or simply laze on sun chairs at the edge of rapids, wine in hand, and steal away a rare few hours to yourself to watch the world go by.
Dying to relive our stunning lakeside dining experience of the night before, in true Huka Lodge style, we were instead lead to the most divine candlelit table setting tucked inside a cave-like cellar and treated to an exquisite 7 course degustation menu. For anyone dreaming of an intimate wedding, we could not think of a more perfectly secluded location for a romantic tablescape accented effortlessly with trails of candlelight and wild blooms.
Main Lodge / With an enclosed garden terrace and stunning backdrop of Waikato River for up to 70 guests and the option to erect a marquee.
The Owner’s Cottage / A luxurious private cottage and secluded retreat which sits at the very edge of Waikato River for up to 30 guests. We loved the idea of an intimate wedding under the stars right by the river.
The Alan Pye Cottage / A private cottage spilling onto lush rolling green lawns & surrounded by manicured gardens for up to 40 guests. The perfect space for a dramatically long tablescape lined with chic, classic blooms.
The Jetty Pavillion / Think a magical candlelit dinner under the stars for 8 guest on the river bank.
The Orchard / An outdoor space with beautifully rustic accents for 20 guests.
Weddings, events and honeymoon perfection aside, thinking about all of the luxurious vacation destinations we spend months planning and saving for overseas, it seemed ludicrous that I’d never once taken the short 3 hour flight to New Zealand, let alone made it a regular weekend haunt when in need of a little escapism. Just two days in, this special part of the world felt so powerfully invigorating and transportive. Huka Lodge ignited something inside that had me craving new experiences, new ways of thinking about how we vacation, how we want to feel when we return, and a new way of thinking about luxury. But most importantly it revealed how essential it is to switch up your routine, seek out adventure and indulge in things that feed your soul. And that sometimes, the things we’re searching for are right there in front of us.