Hotel Review: Solitaire Lodge and Rotorua


Flying into the capital city of Auckland from the amazing Hawaiian Islands we drove our rental car extensively, not wanting to miss a thing. After a dew days of touring the capital city of Auckland we ventured north through the mountains and along the stunning coast. Our appointed destination was the area known as Coopers Beach. A small coastal town near the very northern tip of the island. On the second day of our visit we arranged for a guided tour. The warm and knowledgeable man picked us in his four wheel SUV and three hours later we were driving along the amazing 90-mile beach. The beach was only accessible when the tide was out and the window of opportunity was limited. The entire drive was definitely and absolutely unforgettable. The beach was deserted and void of any life, or so we thought. As we proceeded to precariously dart in and out of the wind swept surf we remained silent…held captive in awe. The rolling sand dunes were ever so sparsely covered in patches of tall grass and as we topped a particularly high dune we saw a herd of wild horse.

They were the descendents of horses left by foreign visitors from a long ago era. They were alert and ready to run as we cautiously approached on foot. Creeping ever so closer I managed to shoot numerous photos and several moments of film, before they bolted back into the shadows of the coastal fog. We continued driving for another hour and reaching the very tip of the Northern Cape we parked and hiked to the top of the cliff. In the presence of the 200-year-old lighthouse even the biting sting of the cold wind could only add to our exhilaration as we watched the sun set into the turbulent waters of the Tasman Sea as it was truculently absorbed by the overwhelming mass of the Pacific Ocean.

Spending an entire day venturing to the rugged cliffs of the Northern Cape was a day we will not soon forget. We barely made it past the tide as it rushed back in to claim its beach as it has every night for thousands of years. 

Three days was not enough, but our continuous adventure around the world could not be delayed any longer and so we reluctantly bid farewell to our host at the Beach Lodge, Mrs. Margaret Morrisson and commenced our long, but enjoyable trip south. Passing back through Auckland we spent five days discovering the beauty of the land to the south of the capital city. 

On the 16th of June 2002 we entered the prehistoric landscape of the Rotorua Park. Everyday and every mile unfolded new and even more picturesque landscape. Being far south of the equator New Zealand was in the middle of winter and the mist and low hanging clouds offered low visibility, but what we could see instilled sheer bewilderment. An eerie glow fought its way through the fog and transformed the twilight into an eerie kaleidoscope of gray and subtle colors of pastel.

We had read several articles about the Park, but nothing could have prepared us for what lay ahead. We had booked our accommodation at The Solitaire Lodge. We had no idea of where it was, only that it was in the park. After taking advantage of a brief clearing of the misty fog to shoot some photos we pulled into a gas station to use the phone. The lodge manager gave us detailed directions and we gave him a time for our arrival. But as usual, we would be late…even in the fog we managed to spend another hour stopping constantly to shoot more photos. The land was a canvas and the artistic ability of Mother Nature was evident throughout the unbelievable land.

It was almost dark when we pulled our rental car into their driveway. The area was private and very exclusive…hidden from the road and difficult to find. We parked the car and as I commenced probing my pockets for a business card a gentleman appeared from the lodge. Introducing himself as the manager, Mr Callum Farnell, we shook hands. It was a very welcoming experience as he stood outside for several minutes awaiting our arrival. They had patiently held off serving dinner to the other guests not wanting us to miss the last meal of the day. We left our baggage, as he insisted that it would be taken to our rooms and walked into the lobby. The interior was tastefully balanced in rich decor, but not overwhelmingly so. We were led into the lounge to meet the other guests. They were seated around a warm and beckoning fireplace with wine glasses in hand, they stood for hearty greetings. We then proceeded into the dining room.

The dining area has decorated in original art by Raymond Ching, internationally renowned New Zealand wildlife artist. The long, elaborate table was ordained with fresh flowers and covered with fine china. The entire setting was eloquently presented and the open kitchen filled the room with tantalizing smells as the chef created his masterful dinner. The food was gingerly prepared and not overly seasoned. The wine, chosen from the best New Zealand vineyards was slightly chilled and quiet robust. The service was proficient and within minutes of savoring the tantalizing appetizers the deliciously prepared main course of local fish and steamed vegetables were served and my I say…quickly enjoyed. I was content and even more so after devouring the exquisite desert. What a delicious way to end a perfect meal. The atmosphere and the entire dining experience was nothing short of perfection.

After dinner, we retired with the guests to the den. Sitting close to the open fireplace we sipped sweet cognac and chatted amongst ourselves and with the guests. The discussion was varied and included pleasant exchanges about global cultures, travel, the joy of fishing and about life itself. Making new friends is always a rewarding way to end any day. The long day had taken its toll and the softness of the sofa was absorbing the last of my posture and not wanting to fall asleep I bid goodnight and the manager showed us to our separate rooms. I had the privilege of staying in the Presidential Suite and believe me…most Presidents would be unworthy.

The living room of the lodge's Villa Suite.

The living room of the lodge's Villa Suite.

I had become so relaxed I was having trouble retaining my posture and not wanting to fall asleep on the large inviting sofa, I bid goodnight and the manager showed us to our separate rooms. I had the privilege of staying in the Presidents Suite and believe me…most Presidents would be unworthy.

The lodge rests in a bounty of flora, tree’s and slightly rolling landscape. It was built next to the misty covered Lake Tarawera as a private residence and gradually recreated to become the outstanding Lodge that it is today. My thoughts became incoherent as I lay on the massive pillow top bed and I rapidly and deeply fell into a deep and restful sleep.

The next morning we enjoyed a hearty breakfast with several cups of strong coffee and afterwards spent most of the morning strolling around the property. Around noon we were invited for a lake cruise on the lodge’s private yacht. The adjoining lake was more than beautiful, it consistently yielded the largest number of trophy sized rainbow trout in the southern hemisphere.

The lake tours and fishing excursions was just another fine amenity offered by the Solitaire Lodge. The staff is more than pleased to escort their guests to their dock for a cruise aboard their luxurious yacht. They also rent fishing boats and will make sure their guests are provided with the right gear, even a cooler for their choice drinks. The serenity of the environment and the relaxing experience of the lake’s blissful tranquility will instill unforgettable memories and rejuvenate your soul. 

The lodge is in the Rotorua thermal region and the entire area is encompassed with ancient volcano’s, bubbling mud pools, steaming hot springs and wildly erupting geysers. The park is more than a major tourism attraction it is also the historical home of the local Maori culture. In the small town of Rotorua there are countless hotsprings will accommodating facilities for maximum enjoyment and contribute immensely to this geothermal wonderland. The Rotoura Park is definitely a place of extraordinarily natural beauty and offers a multitude of adventurous activities including summit climbing, boating, fishing, countless hiking trails to view native birds and wildlife and of course enjoying the thermals.

The lodge offers a phenomenal tour of the volcanoes, the lake, the town and the thermal fields in the lodge’s private helicopter. It is a ride to leave your breathless as you pass precariously close to the volcano’s summit and over the endless array of geysers shooting steam and scolding water into the air. We stayed at this heavenly lodge for two rewarding days and blissful nights and with style and grace we were served with delectable dining, offered warm conversation and provided with luxurious lodging. During our stay we enjoyed memorable tours and given a lasting and rewarding impression of New Zealand and its hospitable people.

The lodge's helicopter takes guests on unforgettable sightseeing tours.

The lodge's helicopter takes guests on unforgettable sightseeing tours.

The islands of New Zealand deserves a thorough exploration…from the tip of the North Cape to the ice glaciers of the Southern Island. Make sure you include the Rotorua Park and while there take some time to renew your soul at Solitaire Lodge…its name say it all! New Zealand is truly blessed by Mother Nature and in its entirety…is a land that time forgot!

The staff of Traveler’s Digest toured Solitaire Lodge on our Pacific Tour 2002. We rate this lodge as outstanding, inspiring, romantic and the only real choice in the amazingly beautiful park of Rotorua.

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Photo credits: Solitaire Lodge


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Michael Smith was the touring editor for Traveler’s Digest. His journeys took him across the world and on a series of unforgettable adventures!