We departed early from Wellington for our quick, nonstop, forty minute flight on Air New Zealand to Rotorua, which is located in the north central region of the North Island. We were met on arrival by Colin McAnnalley from Travel Time. We work closely with his team in New Zealand coordinating a lot of our client transfers, guided sightseeing, rental vehicles and hotel arrangements. It was great to see an old friend. Colin worked in the area for many years at the New Zealand Tourism Board. It was especially nice to have someone so knowledgeable show us the area. After a quick tour of town and a brief visit to the Rotorua Museum and to St. Faith’s Anglican Church with amazing Maori carvings, we headed out to visit the very best properties in Rotorua that we frequently recommend for our customers.
Located in the North Island’s Lakes District, Rotorua is a small city, deep in Maori culture. Here you will find sparkling lakes, stunning scenery, countless geothermal attractions and a myriad of outdoor activities to pursue. The eighteen lakes and three major rivers dotted around town make the area an aquatic paradise. Visitors also enjoy Hobbiton, which was rebuilt for the Hobbit Trilogy and was also used in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Hobbiton has remained open as an attraction for “Middle-earth” fans. Visitors also enjoy discovering the glow worm caves and freshwater springs by kayak or stand-up paddle board. There are lake edge thermal hot pools, mud baths, and, of course, fly fishing in the various lakes, rivers and streams.
Our first stop was Treetops Lodge & Estate, providing luxury accommodations amongst magnificent native forests and valleys. The estate’s twenty-five hundred acres of secluded native forests give you the feeling of being miles away from civilization, but you are actually in close proximity to Rotorua and all of the all the activities in the region. We were hosted by the General Manager, Luke Harley, and he gave us a thorough tour of the eight villas, four lodge rooms, the spa and the magnificent main lodge. It was one of the prettiest days on our trip, and he arranged for a delightful lunch for us outdoors overlooking the valley.
From Treetops, we headed to Solitaire Lodge, located on a private, secluded peninsula overlooking the historic and beautiful Lake Tarawera. The new operator, Wayne Tomlinson, greeted us and gave us a full tour of the property. We were most impressed with the improvements and upgrades to Solitaire, which was one of the first luxury lodges on the North Island. For our clients who want a very relaxed lakefront experience, Solitaire is a terrific option!
In Rotorua, we also went to The Springs, a luxury bed and breakfast located conveniently right in the town of Rotorua. There are lots of great restaurants—some of which are easily walkable from this comfortable property with manicured gardens. Colleen and Murray Ward are spectacular hosts and bend over backwards to make sure all guests have a thoroughly enjoyable stay. The Springs was purposefully built as a B&B lodge. The spacious rooms are all identical—each very comfortable with full, private ensuite facilities. From a value standpoint, The Springs is perfect for our customers looking for an outstanding bed and breakfast experience, while not sacrificing at all in terms of comfort and privacy.
Just in time for the cocktail hour, we were welcomed at Wildwood Lodge, on the shores of Lake Rotoehu. We were met by owners and hosts, Simon and Cath Robertson. Right out of the car, we were thoroughly impressed!
Wildwood caters to a maximum of only six guests with two large well-appointed suites in the main lodge and an adjacent guest house. They have spectacular views of the lake. Over 200 meters of totally private lake frontage is only steps away. This lodge gave us a great feeling of seclusion, but we were only twenty minutes away from the airport. The large, open plan design incorporates expansive decks and great indoor / outdoor dining and entertainment space.
As nice as the lodge is, we were even more impressed with Simon and Cath. They are special hosts, extending the warmest of Kiwi hospitality. Most of their guests are there to take in the beautiful sights, activities and scenery throughout the Rotorua region. Having said that, Simon is a world-class fly fishing guide, and he has been with many of our clients through the years chasing trout on secluded North Island rivers. He also has extensive gear for loan if our clients do not want to bring their own. In terms of quality, ambiance, and value, we feel that Wildwood Lodge is a tremendous option on the North Island. The culinary experience was also superb. It was nice to enjoy our last dinner in New Zealand with lamb (the best we had on the trip!) matched with an incredible North Island Pinot Noir.
We look forward to returning to Wildwood for a longer stay with fly rods in hand! Tomorrow, we are heading to the tropics for a few days in French Polynesia before heading back to the States.
By: Mike and Kristene Fitzgerald