Where to stay: Hilton Lake Taupo

By Kerri Jackson

The Hilton Lake Taupo. Photo / Supplied
The Hilton Lake Taupo. Photo / Supplied

Volcanoes, they're like children - prone to volatile temper tantrums that can bring airports and the travel plans of thousands to a shuddering halt. But when they're calmly napping, they seem comparatively serene and beautiful and create the perfect backdrop by which to enjoy a drop of wine on the balcony of the Hilton Lake Taupo.

Unlike certain peaks in Iceland, Mts Ngaruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehu are blessedly peaceful right now, elegantly hemming the view across Lake Taupo as balcony drinks at the Hilton's Bistro Lago restaurant turn into dinner.

The restaurant is part of the Nourish group, owned by Kiwi superchef and MasterChef New Zealand judge Simon Gault, and which also includes Auckland eating icons Euro, Jervois Rd Steakhouse and Wellington's Pravda, among many others.

At Bistro Lago the food is outstanding (kids, I recommend the curly fries), with service to match. It's fast becoming a fine-dining destination for locals, rather than just hotel guests - where you can enjoy those views from the balcony or hunker down in front of the fire when things turn chillier.

But there's more to this newest star on the Taupo skyline than great food. The hotel sits on something of a landmark site in the town, once occupied by the famous DeBretts, perched on a ridge overlooking the equally famous hot pools of the same name, just out of town on SH5 towards Napier.

Here, you're within a five-minute drive of central Taupo's assorted shopping, eating or sight-seeing attractions, but away from that constant SH1 traffic that crawls around the lakefront.

The old hotel buildings are still there but now include fully redesigned and refitted modern, spacious rooms and suites, with all the gizmos and gadgets you could want. Rooms overlook either the lake and mountains, or face back towards the steaming hotel pool and grounds, where you'll also find the gym and steam rooms.

It's an hour's drive to the skifields from here or slightly less if you're after some of that world-famous trout fishing. And the thought of slipping into the pool's warm water at the end of a day outdoors is blissful. It's heated with those thermal waters Taupo is famous for - a nice reminder that volcanoes have their uses.

IF YOU GO

Getting there: Air New Zealand flies daily to Taupo from most major New Zealand centres. Alternatively, it's just under a 4 hour drive from Auckland.

Where to stay: The Hilton Lake Taupo hotel is located on the Napier-Taupo Highway, just minutes from the town centre and 15 minutes from Taupo airport.

- NZ Herald

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