Location: The resort-style heritage hotel built in 1889 is situated on a hilltop with beautiful sprawling views in the distance of the lake - and on a clear day, of Mt Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngāuruhoe. The short cab drive from the airport costs around $20. The hotel does a great transfer service, too. It's a 10-minute drive away from the main town centre, so you're in prime position here.
Check-in experience: Having only officially re-opened post lockdown on July 1, our check in at the tail-end of July was still fresh with excitement, with that buzz of being back in business. Staff were quick and helpful to check us in, despite being rushed off their feet because of 100 per cent occupancy the weekend we visited. There's herbal tea and fresh water in the foyer if you need refreshment. If your room isn't ready, the main eatery, Bistro Lago, offers sprawling fireplaces and leather couches to hang out.
What's in the neighbourhood? It's conveniently situated right next to Taupō De Bretts Hot Springs, with a waterpark and day spa facilities. Take a short, five-minute drive to the start of a two-hour hike up Mt Tauhara, or take a morning stroll to Industrie French Kitchen for fresh croissants and coffee.
The rooms: We stayed in the newer addition to the hotel built in 2004, a building consisting of several apartment style rooms. The King Guestroom Plus is spacious and came with a private terrace – a stone's throw away from the gym and pool facilities. The heritage building of the resort has recently been refurbished, and we were lucky to get a private tour of the old-world charm of these rooms, which had all been fully booked by the time we got there.
The bedroom: Super king bed, crisp sheets. Slept like a baby. The room is cleaned daily. As the hotel gradually builds its confidence back post-lockdown, the mini-bar facilities have been put on hold for the time being.
Bathroom: Generous. We were excited to see a bath tub as well as a shower. The hot water did stall for a couple hours in the morning one day because of a mains pipe fault, but the team were on the case quickly and efficiently.
Toiletries: Crabtree & Evelyn. There's a decent hairdryer available, bathrobes and slippers too.
Wi-Fi: Easy, free and no password.
Exercise: You can access the pool and spa-pool anytime of the day. There's also a fitness centre and a tennis court.
Noise: Because of the busy weekend, there were a lot of families with young kids, so as a couple with no kids, we had to pick and choose our moments in the pool. Otherwise, generally tranquil.
Price: Rates start from $230 a night for King Hilton Guest Room through to $632 a night for a three-bedroom apartment – not bad, particularly for bridal parties and groups of friends looking for a swanky weekend getaway.
Food: I had a gorgeous medium rare scotch fillet, beautifully cooked with roast vegetables for dinner one night. There's a great selection of New Zealand wines on the menu. They also do great platters for sharing or as a main meal, as well as good vegetarian options. For breakfast, it's standard fare – continental or buffet-style hot food. The resort has recently welcomed Adrian Walker as executive chef, who hails from some of Melbourne's best fine-dining establishments.
What's so good about this place? The rooms are generous and there's a cosy vibe here. Whether you're going for a morning stroll down the driveway to a local cafe or sitting by the fire at Bistro Lago with a glass of wine, the hotel has leaned into its resort and wellness atmosphere. This is a place to chill after a day on the water or hiking in the bush. The staff are also amazingly friendly and helpful.
And the bad? The strong smell of cleaning products when we first arrived took some getting used to; but I can appreciate now more than ever, hotel cleanliness is top priority across the board.
Bottom line: This is a great spot for couples or familieslooking to spend a little rest and relaxation together. It's perfectly positioned to be close to the main town centre and lake-related activities.
The Hilton Lake Taupo, 80-100 Napier Rd, Hilltop, Taupo 3330. (07) 378 7080. hilton.com
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