A boutique lodge on the fringe of Northland's Waipoua Forest has been named New Zealand's best hospitality business.
Winning the supreme award in the 2016 New Zealand Hospitality Awards is a coup for Waipoua Lodge owners Ian and Fran Farrant, who bought the century-old homestead only six years ago and entered the awards for the first time this year, yet won a hat-trick of accolades.
At last night's ceremony in Auckland the Farrants also scooped the awards for best accommodation (30 rooms and under) and excellence in customer service.
Judges said the lodge, which has just four luxury suites, represented "the absolute pinnacle of natural and genuine Kiwi hospitality".
The Farrants ensured customer comfort by "not only having a beautifully presented luxury lodge, but creating an ambience which envelopes the guests with a sense of serenity and history".
The lodge's finishing touches were well thought out and beautifully executed, creating "a truly special place that seriously over-delivers, with owners that really go above and beyond for their guests", the judges continued.
The Farrants said they were thrilled to take home a trio of titles at their first attempt.
"When we bought the lodge six years ago it was a pretty daunting prospect — a totally new venture for us, coming from backgrounds in management and finance — but we fell in love with the place the moment we saw it," Mrs Farrant said.
"It's been such a rewarding journey, and an absolute pleasure to be able to share the experience with our guests. We're tremendously proud to have been recognised in this way."
More than 450 people attended the awards ceremony at SkyCity with 64 finalists in 16 categories.
Last night's top hospitality award is not the Farrants' first gong. In the 2014 Westpac Northland Business Excellence Awards they picked up the prize for best business owner-operator; in the same year travel publisher Fodor's ranked Waipoua Lodge among the world's top 100 hotels.
The other Northland finalist was Paihia restaurant Charlotte's Kitchen in the category for best new or redeveloped bar/restaurant. That category was won by Mangapapa Hotel in Hawke's Bay. The owners of Charlotte's Kitchen also own the Duke of Marlborough in Russell, a past winner in the best country pub category.