New Zealand’s First Great Luxury Hotel: Why Staying At The Chateau Is Still So Worth It

The Chateau in Tongariro National Park, central North Island.

I’d always wanted to stay at The Chateau. As far as historic hotels go in New Zealand there are few so iconic. So with it being my birthday last week I decided to see what the 86-year old dame is like. And given the lakeside town of Taupo is enroute to alpine landscapes of The Chateau in Tongariro National Park, we thought we might have a couple of nights there too. What we saw was so beautiful that whether it was the blue-sky days of Taupo or the misty scenes of Tongariro, both were equally stunning.

Here are 10 things we did that I strongly recommend if you are exploring this part of the North Island. 50 of my favourite photos from the trip are below as well.

  1. Instead of just driving up to Huka Falls and walking one minute from the carpark, we did the far more interesting (and very scenic) one hour walk from Taupo Bungy. This goes through bush and is by the turquoise river all the way. The views were relentlessly pretty and you pass little secret thermal areas suitable for bathing. Looking across the river to the famed Huka Lodge was fantastic too.
  2. We visited arguably the most dynamic thermal area in the country and according to Lonely Planet, one of the absolute best in the world, Orakei Korako. It’s about half an hour north of Taupo and you catch a boat across the river to access the surreal landscape. This place was breathtaking and is seriously flying under the radar due to most tourists interested in thermal wonders staying in Rotorua. Orakei Korako has recently expanded to include some very good boardwalk-based bush walks.
  3. We stayed at the extremely chic hotel The Cove in Taupo with a private spa pool on our deck. Click here to read why this has been my favourite lakeside hotel in Taupo for some time. The Cove now has a brand new cafe (Espresso) that almost feels like it’s at the bow of a cruise ship. The scrambled eggs were first class.
  4. We tried (and failed) to land a ball on the green at the Hole in One golf challenge on the lake. This attraction eats my money every time I’m in Taupo but I can’t resist.
  5. In Tongariro we did what is up there with the most varied and spectacular walks I’ve done in the North Island. A 90-minute round trip from The Chateau, we walked to the Taranaki Falls. In such a smallish area we were astounded by the lush rainforests that seemed enchanted that would then suddenly give way to the most brightly colored tundra and tussock. And then semi-desert before going back to rainforest again. The waterfall was magic and not a disappointment like waterfall walks can sometimes be. On a fine day snowy mountains add to the incredible backdrop.
  6. We stayed at The Chateau in the McLaren Suite – a two-room character-filled suite named after  regular guest Peggy McLaren who would always pick that as her room, year after year. When she died they fittingly named the suite after her.
  7. We asked reception at The Chateau to give us a full tour of the building to which they enthusiastically obliged. The hotel is a never-boring combination of history (built at the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929), opulence and faded glamour. But faded glamour can be glorious and the old wing is so much fun and the biggest suites are everything you’d wish for in a hotel like this.
  8. The Chateau’s main lounge / ballroom is one of the most charming of any old hotel I’ve stayed at. The indoor, low-ceiling, blue-lit swimming pool is also my contender for being New Zealand’s craziest, most atmospheric indoor pool.
  9. We dined in The Chateau’s main restaurant and I’m very pleased to say that while some parts of the hotel may be due their next touch-up, the entire ground floor (including lobby / lounge, bar and restaurant) is still luxuriously 5-star. The steak was delicious and the service from the young, international staff both fun and professional. They sang me Happy Birthday to add to the complimentary champagne we’d had in the suite.
  10. Driving back to Auckland we spotted an alpaca farm near Tauramanui – I’m obsessed with alpacas! Such hilarious, placid and cute creatures. So we stopped to cuddle them, met the owners and bought an alpaca toy. And I’m 34 years old! Oh well. Check out Nevalea Alpacas website by clicking here.
The bedroom at The Cove with the deck-spa just visible.

Many thanks to both The Cove in Taupo and The Chateau in Tongariro for looking after us so well. If you want updated 80s chic with a gigantic bed and a private spa pool on your balcony then The Cove in Taupo is for you. The hospitality at The Cove is first-rate too with managers Garry and Cheryl two of the nicest people in hospitality I’ve met.

As for The Chateau, if you love history, 1920s glamour and a spectacular natural setting with a quirky touch then this most famous of Kiwi hotels still delivers. I can’t wait to return. Here are my 50 favourite photos from the trip:

The view from our balcony at The Cove.
Aimee with her sturdy swing at the Taupo Hole In One golf challenge.
With Aimee in Taupo.
With Aimee at Orakei Karako, 30 mins north of Taupo.
Islands in the stream – near Huka Falls, Taupo.
The Taranaki Falls in Tongariro National Park.
I wish it was a yellow brick road. The Chateau in the distance after emerging from the rainforest.
Taupo Bungy.
A jumper being lowered to the boat, Taupo Bungy.
More islands in the stream, near Huka Falls.
Turquoise waters near Huka Falls.
One of New Zealand’s most exclusive hotels, Huka Lodge.
Jet boat riders at Huka Falls.
Huka Falls.
My notorious #casuallean pose with Huka Lodge behind me.
Aimee near Huka Falls.
Colourful algae on the river across from Orakei Korako thermal area.
The view when crossing the river to Orakei Korako.
Orakei Korako.
Looking like a caramel dessert, Orakei Korako.
Orakei Korako.
Thermal holes in the ground, Orakei Korako.
Bubbles and steam, Orakei Korako.
The colourful ferns of the new Orakei Korako bush walks.
The ferns of Orakei Korako.
Snowy mountains across from Lake Taupo.
Feeding time for ducks at Lake Taupo.
Children with (I’m guessing here) their Grandma feeding ducks, Lake Taupo.
Tongariro National Park.
The lounge at The Chateau.
The library / front room at The Chateau.
The bedroom in the McLaren Suite.
The lounge in the McLaren Suite.
The Chateau’s premier accommodation, the Te Heu Heu Suite.
The bedroom of the Te Heu Heu Suite.
The Te Heu Heu Suite.
The bathroom at the Te Heu Heu Suite.
The mesmeric indoor pool in the basement of The Chateau.
I asked for ice-cream for dessert and it came out like this – a wonderful surprise.
The Chateau as seen from the top of the nine-hole golf course, the mountains obscured by mist.
A side-on view of The Chateau.
The different colours and landscapes of Tongariro National Park.
Beech forest, Tongariro National Park.
I loved the reds, oranges and greens of the national park.
An icy river, Tongariro National Park.
It was cold and misty but still beautiful, Tongariro National Park.
Heading back down into the enchanted rainforest, Tongariro National Park.
The cutest, most placid, most weird animals on earth? Alpacas would have to be a contender for the title.
A docile family of alpacas sheltering from the rain, Nevalea Alpaca farm, Taumarunui.
So cute!

Click here to link to The Cove’s website.

Click here to link to The Chateau’s website.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful to follow your trip and beautiful pics Tim R. A very memorable birthday I would imagine 🙂

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