The sprawling Wairakei Resort Taupō is a 3.5-hour drive from Auckland or 4.5 hours from Wellington, in the heart of the region’s geothermal valley.
This historic, low-rise hotel sits on 169 acres of landscaped grounds with tall overhanging trees and steaming hot spring pools bringing a charming, fairy-tale vibe to the surroundings — it certainly helped that we booked in the winter.
Some of Taupō’s best-known attractions are a short drive away, while New Zealand’s largest lake and bustling village are just 5km down the road.
* Warm the soul: hot pools to keep you warm during the winter
* Back Your Backyard: The Natural Gems of Taupō
* Inside New Zealand’s first hot pool bar
There is everything you could need around the sprawling, park-like property – for business, leisure and relaxation.
Over 180 rooms are spread across four main accommodation blocks and smaller stand-alone buildings. The reception wing houses the restaurant and bar and the property can accommodate up to 600 people.
While it’s nothing fancy, the property’s nostalgic old-hat appeal and family-friendly convenience is enough to see families return year after year. I am currently looking to book another stay for later this year.
Located down a wing from the main reception building, our junior suite had just enough space for two adults and a toddler. The space was split into two, with a king-size bedroom and a separate living room with comfortable seating, basic tea and coffee making facilities, and a patio overlooking a small garden. The outdated bathroom fixtures were nothing to write home about.
Some of the other buildings also feel like they need a refresh. My parents stayed in a budget room which was smaller in the older heritage wing of the resort, while my older brother and his family of four booked a family villa. It came with a full kitchen – washing machine and dryer included – as well as a spacious open-plan living room where the two additional single beds were located – not ideal if you plan on entertaining or rubbing pots after hours of bedtime.
Many rooms are interconnecting with studios, twins, or king-size beds, making them ideal for large groups. Our rooms were all in different buildings which meant we were quite close but not breathing each other down.
This is where things get very enticing for a family vacation. On-site, there are two geothermally heated outdoor pools — one for laps and the other for lounging. During the warmer months, the lagoon pool houses a waterside bar.
The resort is also home to six outdoor hot tubs, a gym, squash court, health spa and a 9-hole golf course across the road. The fenced children’s play area includes slides, swings, climbing structures and a large trampoline. Right next to the playground are two full-size tennis courts.
In the reception wing is a large lounge where the chairs are sofas that recline towards the TV during movie nights.
The Pavilion Restaurant’s high wooden ceiling and vintage carpeting in dark autumn tones match the resort’s nostalgic vibe. Here, breakfast is served buffet style, including a generous selection of classic hot and cold dishes. By booking directly with the resort, we managed to get free breakfast each day.
In the evening, the restaurant focuses on a la carte dining, serving hearty but random dishes like steak frites, lamb shank, and a curry of the day.
Worth going out
After checking off all the on-site activities, head five minutes down the road to see 220,000 liters of water per second spew over Huka Falls. Another free attraction is the Aratiatia Rapids (five minutes the other way), where you can see the dam release several times a day.
Craters of the Moon is a geothermal walkway that takes visitors between craters and steaming, gushing vents.
For a quiet moment, cross the road to Wairakei Terraces and Thermal Health Spa where there are adult-only thermal pools heated by a geyser. Elsewhere, learn how the region’s famous honey is made at Huka Honey, take a jet boat ride with Rapids Jet or grab lunch at Huka Prawn Park.
Impossible to leave without seeing the lake which is less than 10 minutes away. Stay in the village for several other dining and dining options.
We never ran out of things to do – the only problem was trying to fit it all in on our short weekend. The lagoon pool was steps from our room.
Some buildings and rooms could use a refresh. Just like the restaurant menu.
A great accommodation option for families with some of Taupō’s best attractions on its doorstep.
The resort has four wheelchair accessible rooms – request or reserve a Tauhara King. The rooms have king-size beds and accessible bathrooms.
Wairakei Resort Taupō starts from $152 per night. Join as a member (it’s free) and get 5% off the room rate and free daily breakfast. Stay longer and save 25%.
Stay safe: Check safetravel.govt.nz before you travel to keep up to date with the latest travel advisories.