Getting a taste of country life, fine cuisine and cycling at Taupō's Whakaipo Lodge
Getting there: Taupō is pretty much in the middle of North Island. Or if you fancy flying, Air New Zealand and Sounds Air both fly there, and the lodge is 10km from the i-site.
Arriving: Whether you arrange to be collected from the airport, or the bus stop, or you're in your own vehicle, driving in is a treat as you wend your way through Acacia Bay and into countryside that looks like a postcard.
Check-in experience: Driving into Mapara Valley and up the prettily planted driveway into the park-like grounds, when you arrive at the extensive board and batten home, it feels a bit like a luxurious DoC hut. Then, when hosts Garth and Angie welcome you like you're old friends, you know you've come to the right place.
The hallway: Not something you'd usually mention, but this house is full of memorabilia and artefacts, from the old wooden skis and boots at the front door to antique fishing equipment, as well as original engravings and historic photos (with storyboards) of colonial New Zealand.
The room: We were in the Tongariro Suite, which is so roomy the king-size bed didn't overwhelm it. With two private patios, the room also has a heat pump - or aircon if you put it in reverse - a TV and DVD library, not that you'll need it.
The bathroom: En suite with an excellent shower, rock star bathrobes, a hairdryer and luscious artisan toiletries from Casa Lavanda, from Hawke's Bay.
Minibar: There are tea and coffee-making facilities and a fridge, and you can snack on Angie's home-made cookies – but you don't need a full minibar because when you arrive you'll be offered afternoon tea, and the coffee machine would make Ponsonsby proud.
What's in the neighbourhood? The Great Lake Cycle Trail, Whakaipo Bay walks, swimming and fishing. L'Arte Cafe is just down the road and slightly further afield you'll find Huka Falls, Wairakei Terraces and golf.
Breakfast: Home-made muesli, yoghurt, amazing fresh fruits and compote as well as a full country cooked breakfast with everything from free-range bacon, sausages and eggs or fresh buttermilk pancakes. There are also home-made preserves, bottled fruit and baked delicacies like croissants, brioche and pain au chocolat. If I lived here, I'd be round as a button.
Home from a busy day: Enjoy a pre-dinner glass of fine New Zealand wine, or a local craft beer and canapes, like venison crostini with lodge-grown damson jelly, artichoke olive and parmesan gougeres or house-smoked salmon.
Food and drink: Dinner can be arranged for an additional charge and guests can enjoy gourmet home-made pizza or something more lavish and, being fully licensed, the wine list should please the most ardent wine snob.
Other facilities: Speedy Wi-Fi, a laundry service if you need a load done.
No surprise: Whakaipo Lodge deservedly won the 2020 Bed & Breakfast Association's Supreme Award.
But wait there's more: With the astonishing Great Lake Cycle Trail starting or ending at Whakaipo, Garth and Angie also have a little side hustle, Adventure Shuttles, hiring out bikes and sherpa-ing cyclists and walkers.
Perfect for: Embracing nature, getting away from the rat race, snuggling in front of the fire with a book and taking advantage of all the wonderful activities Taupō has to offer.
For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, go to newzealand.com