The Lodge at the Kinloch Club, Taupo NZ
By SHERIDEN RHODES
A toss up between watching molten sunsets over the lake from the bar with a gin and tonic and cranking up the Bose sound system while taking a bath.
The weighty (read back-breaking) fire door in the two-bedroom villa meant my friend and I felt cut off from each other.
The Lodge at the Kinloch Club, Taupo NZ
Elevated on a hillside overlooking the 18-hole Jack Nicklaus course at Taupo and the small township of Kinloch, the new Lodge at the Kinloch Club offers far-reaching vistas of Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest freshwater lake and rugged rural farmland. The lake is a 20-minute amble along a charming woodland path (get staff to draw a map though, as it's not signed). The touristy town of Taupo is a 10-15 minute-drive away.
New Zealand's latest super lodge certainly offers the wow factor, with its commanding gangway entrance at the end of a sweeping driveway which meanders through the lush links course. Built from local schist stone and designed by renowned New Zealand architect Andrew Patterson, the main building affords dramatic framed vistas of the lake and the rolling fairways and greens of one of New Zealand's best golf courses. The imposing entrance leads to a lush central courtyard with outdoor fireplace and reflecting pool. Inside, Virginia Fisher, renowned for her interiors at properties including Huka Lodge, Dolphin Island and Matakauri Lodge, has woven her trademark magic. The whitewashed dining room is bold yet calming with banquettes and sofas, while the masculine bar has a clubby feel with cowhide, goat fur and burnt wood flooring.
Striking chain mail chandeliers, massive fireplaces, gilt-edged mirrors and slate floors invoke the feel of a Scottish castle, yet with a decidedly 21st century twist.
A short walk or golf buggy ride from the lodge, the 10 two-bedroom luxury villas are designed to meld with the lakeside setting. Outdoor patios and furnished terraces lead to interiors decked out with carbon-neutral fireplaces, oak floors, handmade New Zealand rugs and stand-alone tubs. The villas can be booked as either a one-bedroom suite or with a one or two-bedroom configuration. Both king-size bedrooms have 100 per cent Egyptian cotton sheets, vast marble bathrooms stocked with Nellie Tier toiletries, walk-in robes, and plush rugs. There is also a cosy den with a writing desk and a kitchen stocked with local goodies.
Where possible the on-site restaurant adheres to the 'estate-to-plate' organic philosophy, using produce sourced from the 2000-ha owners' private estate paired with a wine list featuring some of the best local and overseas wines. Ever-so-humble executive chef Jeremy Talbot serves up breakfast dishes to order, such as egg white omelette with herbs, mushrooms and truffle oil. For dinner, five-course degustation menus may include milk-cooked pork fillet, cured salmon with compressed cucumber, dill, preserved lemon and caviar and citrus and mascarpone cheesecake. It's like eating at a Michelin-star restaurant every meal.
If you're a keen golfer, every waking hour may be spent playing the challenging par-72 course, ranked New Zealand's number one by golf professional Andrew Whiley. A lesson with Tom Long, one of Kinloch's two PGA-qualified teaching professionals, has me (a novice) contemplating taking up the game. For non-golfers, an intimate spa specialises in therapeutic and organic treatments. There's also a tennis court and in September an infinity pool opens.
Beyond the lodge, take a swim in the freshwater lake or test yourself by walking the famed Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Staff can book a table for lunch at the iconic Huka Lodge nearby (it's a must). You can also take a short helicopter ride to sister property Treetops Lodge at Rotorua for a fascinating foraging and cooking lesson with executive chef Rhys Thornton.
New Zealand's newest luxury lodge is an incredible addition to the country's renowned inventory of such lodges. The food, the setting and the sumptuous, baronial feel make you feel like a modern-day manor owner.
261 Kinloch Rd, Kinloch, New Zealand. A one-bedroom suite from $NZ956 ($853) per couple per night in low season including breakfast, pre-dinner drinks and canapes. Golf from $NZ235 a round per person, also in low season. See thekinlochclub.com
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