Taupo is three hours and 20 minutes from Auckland, says Google Maps. For me it often feels more like 16 hours, so on this trip I bit the bullet and flew (50 minutes). The flight was delayed in both directions. Conclusion: Get over it and drive. The Reef Resort is right on the lakefront, on the southern (airport) side of town, and has direct lake access.
Check-in experience: The most welcoming check-in ever, with the very patient Sharon waiting up on a Thursday evening for me to arrive. With a newspaper, some fresh milk, and a few tips and tricks, I was sorted.
Room: A very nice Luxury Studio on the first floor with a lake view — which was absolutely made the most of, thanks to the panoramic windows and sliding doors opening on to the patio. This had tables and chairs and sun loungers, and I also had a large bathroom with a big spa bath, lounge area, dining table, kitchenette, sofa bed and tea and coffee-making facilities. One and three bedroom apartments are available, all rooms have the spa baths.
Price: Studios start from $160 a night; the Luxury Studio I had is available from $270 a night.
And the bad? Unless you are up for a bike ride on the complimentary cruisers into town or a decent walk, you'll need a car.
Toiletries: Heritage Hotels' own brand.
Food and drink: A couple of minutes' walk away is the Millennium Hotel & Resort Manuels which has fine-dining Edgewater Restaurant, the Lakefront Bar and Beach 243, a more casual eatery. Otherwise, you'll have to go into Taupo (10 minutes' drive). You can order a continental or cooked breakfast, which will be delivered to your room ($11-$18), and there are a couple of restaurants in town you can charge back to your room.
The bed: King-size and comfy.
Bathroom: That spa bath is really quite something. Note that the hours you can use it are slightly restricted because of its grunt. Love the robes in the room too.
Noise: During the night I thought it was raining (#Aucklander) but it was actually the lake, at the tail end of Tropical Cyclone Debbie, crashing into the shore. That's how close you are to the water.
Exercise facilities: There is a heated freshwater pool and a thermal water spa pool (that lake is pretty, but mostly freezing), and you can access a gym in town, just ask at reception.
Other facilities: I was slightly alarmed, on a chilly but glorious autumn morning, to see some kids swimming in the lake not far from the front of the property — but, of course, there is a natural hot spring here, flowing into the lake. There are free bikes for use (the flat lake-front path will take you right into town in about 15 minutes), and a guest barbecue. There's also a guest laundry.
Perfect for: Couples looking to relax.
The Reef Resort is at 219 Lake Terrace, Taupo. Phone: 0800 733 378 (0800 REEF STAY) or +64 (0)7 378 5115.