Siddharth Malhotra in Shangri-La

Siddharth Malhotra in Shangri-La

Sidharth_MalhotraAlia Bhatt might be a beach bum, but Siddharth Malhotra’s choice of holiday landscape is the picturesque forests of New Zealand. The Lord of the Rings fan couldn’t quite get over his wonderful trip to New Zealand late last year, where he sampled the luxury of Huka Lodge. Located on the banks of the same river that, somewhere along its verdant length, houses the Hobbiton Movie Set, Huka Lodge is literally a fantasy getaway.

“Enter through the gates of Huka Lodge and immediately begin to leave the real world behind”, the official website beckons. Hosting all of 21 exclusive suites and cottages, the Lodge is a truly exclusive experience that has attracted the likes of many a famous personality, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Bill Gates, Sir Edmund Hillary, Diana Ross, Tilda Swinton, and Michael Douglas, to name a few.


The place started off as a fishing lodge in the 1920s. Irishman founder Alan Pye had discovered a delightful little fishing spot on the rim of Huka Falls, perfect for fly fishing, his new favorite sport. Back then, he built a lodge that was spartan, no-frills, and pristine, marinating in the natural beauty of the surrounding wilderness. Even so, it’s fame grew to attract people from all over the world, in a very short time.

When Alex Van Hereen, founder of the Huka Retreats acquired the property in 1984, he fell profusely in love, enchanted not only by the extraordinary setting, but also the simple elegance of the lodge. He brought in promising young New Zealand designer Virginia Fisher to tackle the great task of doing up the resorts while preserving all the pristine beauty of its setting.

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Every building on the Huka property is designed to let the landscape dominate with its beauty.  All the eighteen Junior Lodge Suites face the hypnotic waters of the turquoise green Waikato river. Each suite comes with heated floors, an attached dressing room, and bathroom replete with deep bath and and twin basins.

The Lodge suite comes with a spacious master bedroom with its own king-size bed, and its own en-suite bathroom, with a meticulously detailed decor, a magnificent bath, under-floor heating, and shower. The master bedroom leads into a walk through closet and another connecting room, which houses a languid lounge with its own cosy fireplace, and the dining area. Each of the two rooms open out into a wooden terrace, with views of the river. The Lodge Suite also contains a mini-bar. The suite is surrounded on three sides by forest and Huka Lodge’s fantastic gardens, with the river beyond. The second room can be converted into a children’s room, ideal if you want to halt there for the holidays with your family.


The Alan Pye Cottage, a recent addition, named after the founding builder himself is a special attraction. Completed in 2008, it was built by Sumich Chaplin architects, and Virginia Fisher has entrusted the cottage with an Arts and Craft style decor. The interiors of the cottage are artfully crafted with heritage materials like stone, brick, timbers and cedar. The details are a contemporary reimagination of the refined chic of the English Arts and Craft movement.


The Stone Pavilion at Alan Pye Cottage

The turquoise, teal, and lime palette is intended to resonate the beautiful colours of the surrounding landscape. The palette allows for vibrant and bold contrasts without intruding on the beauty of the landscape. Fisher has said that she chose subtle palettes for all the buildings to let the physical power of the Waikato river prevail in all its mesmerising majesty. The cottage houses native Maori museum artefacts alongside rustic European vintage displays, making the decor eclectic, while keeping it intimate and cosy. The cottage accommodates two stylish guest suites, with their own limestone bathrooms. In keeping with the architecture and layout of the other suites, these bathrooms feature their own spacious walk-through dressing rooms, too. Even the study, a lavish room featuring an entertainment area, comes with its own bathroom. The Cottage has an in-built kitchen for those who love a home-cooked meal.


The Dining Room at Alan Pye Cottage

The cottage is also optimised for outdoor relaxation, with a snug stone pavilion tucked away in a private courtyard garden, with its own fireplace. The garden is done up in classic Gertrude Jekyll style, casually overgrown, just like a proper country garden in England. Additionally, there is an infinity style swimming pool, along with a private spa pool. The mellow dining room has two glass walls, one overlooking the infinity pool, and the other one overlooking the river. The Owner’s Cottage, the very house that founder Alan Pye inhabited, along with his wife, is done up in mellow hues of soft cream and caramel, complementing the bleached oak floors. The cottage has four guest rooms sharing a common floor with the central living room. A pretty rock garden, built into the courtyard fireplace, finishes the look.



The Rock Garden

The 17 acre garden that nestles the holiday retreat was laid by illustrious landscape artist Suzanne Turley. A fashion designer in her previous life, Turley bestowed the landscape with all the advantages of her skilled eye for tones, colours and presentation. The effect that the landscape has on its guests, of evoking memories and images of many different places around the world, is in large part due to Turley’s masterful landscaping. The property is host not only to native New Zealand vegetation, but also to flora that would typically be found in an English garden. Not to mention the Japanese maples, rhododendrons and other high-altitude exotics that complete the picture of an otherworldly Shangri-la. Notably, the site still retains some mature and mellow flora, like the Californian Redwoods that were planted in the 1920s. A must-see is the water garden outside the main lodge, which has the rushing river water broken down into miniature water falls through massive boulders, lined with water-loving vegetation. The gardens have been awarded the recognition of ‘Garden of National Significance’. Score a chat with head gardener Elaine Tocker, for a one-by-one, or simply explore on your own!


The Water Garden

If all this hasn’t quite convinced you, watch this tiny virtual tour. You’ll soon be booking one of their helicopter drops straight onto the gorgeous grounds (yes, the place comes with its own helipad, of course).


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