Virginia Fischer | New Zealand luxury lodges

There's an interesting story about Virginia Fischer, an Auckland-based interior decorator who has designed some fabulous New Zealand luxury lodges. 25 years ago, the owner of Huka Lodge couldn't find the right individual to bring his vision to reality. Meeting Virginia in a totally non-business context, they talked about the project, and Virginia offered to take it on. Though she was not a professional interior designer at the time, he took a chance with her, and the rest is history.

I like her design very much. She creates large, bright, airy spaces using lots of wood (floors, walls, ceilings, and exposed beams), making creative use of a variety of textures and colors. Her bathrooms are large with double vanities, walk-in showers, and her signature bathtubs with a view. During my recent trip to New Zealand, I visited five properties that bear her touch.

Huka Lodge, Taupo. The essence of Huka Lodge is experienced sitting in the lounge of the Main Lodge — a large, comfortable space with sofas, a cozy fire, green patterned carpeting, and big picture windows overlooking the Waikato River. Guests gather in this supremely beautiful setting at any time of day and especially for drinks and canapes before dinner.

Situated just 300 meters from Huka Falls, Huka Lodge offers luxurious accommodations and great food. The twenty suites along the river offer views of the river and forest beyond the lawn. Huka Lodge offers access to a vast variety of outdoor activities: fly fishing, hiking, golf, horseback riding, water sports on Lake Taupo, winetasting, and sightseeing. Although central to a lot of activities, there is a bit of a drive to many of them.

Wharekauhau Lodge, near Wellington, pronounced fah-ree-ko-ho, is located near Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand — either a 7 minute flight by small plane to the lodge’s private airstrip or a 90 drive over the mountains. The estate is on a working farm and was constructed a decade ago. The main Lodge building features large sitting rooms, a dining room, and a breakfast room right in the kitchen, and the guest cottages are scattered through the property, most with beautiful water views. Each cottage offers canopied king beds, a large sitting area in front of a gas fireplace, large dressing room, and a large bathroom (with two colors of beautiful limestone) with soaking tub overlooking the water, step-in shower, and twin vanities. Interiors feature painted T-111 paneling, rough hewn beams, glossy painted trim, with wonderful colors and fabrics in a range from off-white to ivory to peach and tan. The tariff includes breakfast and a five-course tasting menu, and our meal was superb ... highlighted by one of the most wonderful chocolate desserts I have ever experienced.

By all means, take advantage of the tour of the farm offered by the Lodge (there is a charge). Especially interesting to me was the opportunity to watch the sheep dogs herding sheep. The photograph at the top of this article was taken during my visit of the scenic farm (and the room, just above, was my guest cottage).

Kauri Cliffs, Bay of Islands. Located near Kerikeri, you can either drive or take a short 45 minute flight from Auckland via a very small, 20 passenger plane. Although I arrived at this property at nearly the same time as a tropical cyclone boasting wind gusts over 65 mph, my enthusiasm for this property is not dampened. Golf is the major reason to stay here; the property features one of Golf Digest’s top 50 courses of the world. Fifteen holes offer views of the Pacific Ocean, and six holes are played alongside cliffs that plunge into the sea. There are three beaches available for guests; the best swimming is at Waiaua Beach with its fine, white sand. Guest suites are spacious, a minimum of 840 square feet, with stunning views of the Pacific from both the bedroom and soaking tub, and a gas fireplace in each suite. The tarriff includes a breakfast and a three-course dinner.

The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, near Napier, is the sister property of Kauri Cliffs. The buildings are designed with a farm motif. The golf shop resembles a large barn - and in the guest rooms, the door between the bedroom and the bathroom resembles a sliding barn door. Rooms are large and comfortable with the softest, silkiest Frette sheets and plumpest, cuddliest towels I have ever encountered. I was in a Ridge Suite with a great view of the Pacific Ocean and the lights of Napier beyond the bay. The three-course dinners were excellent as was the cooked-to-order breakfast, both of which are included in the daily tariff. This is a very large property with a spectacularly beautiful golf course, rated one of the top courses in the world.

Eichardt’s Private Hotel, Queenstown, was recently renovated by Virginia Fischer. The rooms offer a traditional “country” style with a contemporary touch. However, she had to work with existing spaces in an old building. The Lakefront suite that I was shown had a strange layout, the room being too long and narrow for my taste. The sitting area had windows and a patio door overlooking the lake, but the sleeping area was farther back in the room, away from the windows (somewhat like the layout of the Garden Wing rooms of the Oriental Bangkok). Nevertheless, if you want lakeviews from your room in Queenstown, Eichardt's is the place to stay.

All five of these New Zealand luxury lodges are Virtuoso properties. Book through a Virtuoso luxury travel consultant for exclusive amenities at no extra cost.

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copyright (c) 2009 by David J. Ourisman. All rights reserved. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

1 comment:

Kiwi Host said...

Her name is Fisher and she does divine work. The best!