While the adventure packed visitor season may be coming to an end in New Zealand, don’t overlook the charm of experiencing fall at the Waitomo Caves Hotel two hours south of Auckland.
The changing of the seasons is taking place in New Zealand. Fall’s brisk breath has arrived and has left the adventurous visitors taking refuge indoors. There is no better time than now to burrow up and appreciate the beauty of the North Island’s blushing green hills and incandescent valleys.
It was time for this traveler to do just that.
The Waitomo Caves Hotel, perched on top of a hill is an erected presence of what was once an infamous symbol of retreat and relaxation. “It used to be the top place, it was very elegant. You’d come here with your diamonds and fur,” says General Manager Richard Howard, “There is still a taste of it today.”
One hundred years have passed through the swinging glass doors, now heavy with age. Upon entering, you can see the wallpaper is dimly past its prime, and the once bronzed staircase shines dull against antique chandeliers. Still, one can sink back into the past by way of a deep leather couch, imagining what it must have been like during the days the Queen of England visited.
“The real strength of this place is just being here and savoring it. Absorbing it,” says Howard. He saw the charm in the history of the hotel when he first took over management seven months ago. He isn’t timid about mentioning the deficiencies of the building to guests and says that most visitors are forgiving and appreciate the unique experience. But like me, he sees not flaws, but character. He has a sincere passion and vision for the hotel, “Take the best of what was, take what’s needed and create a treasure for the future,” he says.
Built in 1908, the original building revealed a stunning Victorian design and was named the Government Hostel of Waitomo. The rooms still to this day feature lush ornamental décor, delicate tea sets, and elaborate floral wall paper. A visitor can expect that no two rooms will be the same.
The popularity of the hotel increased so much that an additional art deco style wing was attached and completed in 1928. This contrast in style stands distinct in its symmetrical rooms with simple, no fuss furnishings and modern appeal.
The hotel also boasts a casual dining room with ceiling to floor windows and patio for continental breakfasts, a formal dining room for dinners, a lounge and adjacent bar, and a cozy sitting area by a fireplace. Over the years, the Waitomo Caves Hotel has also become known for its large gathering capabilities. Weddings, community events and conferences have congregated here in use of its conference rooms, elegant banquet hall and stunning landscape.
One of its finest appeals, especially when comforting a traveler in fall, is the team in the kitchen led by Executive Chef Kristin Katu. Dinner reservations can be made for the convenience of guests and the menu comprises a tasteful mixture of starters, soup, main dishes, desert and local wines to choose from. Being fortunate enough to stay for two nights with my husband, I thoroughly enjoyed divulging in the mushroom fettuccine, the fragrant rosemary lamb, hearty pumpkin soup, and the savory salmon. Desserts included hand seared crème brulee and a rich fruit and cheese plate. Guests can also indulge in a glass of Tohu a Maori produced wine and premium spirits from the bar. The flavorful combinations and quality of the food was simple, yet refreshingly and satisfyingly well managed. Every bite was thoroughly enjoyed and the service was genuine.
Howard and his staff work diligently to ensure that guests feel welcomed and cared for while staying at the hotel. My experience was just that. His passion for preserving one of Waitomo’s most historical symbols will be carried out in a major redecoration of the hotel in the very near future. He hopes to restore the intrigue and original elegance, while ensuring the locals are proud once again of this monument. “There is quite an emotional attachment to this building and what it represents to this community,” Howard hopes are that guests from near and far appreciate becoming a part of Waitomo’s history.
Waitomo Caves Hotel
Waitomo Village, RD 7
Otorohanga, New Zealand 3977
Reservations can be made online.
Hamilton International Airport
Directions From Hamilton Airport:
1 Hour Drive South on State Highway 3
Take Turnoff to Waitomo Caves Road
This post was written by Alexandria of Mr & Mrs A Photography. Journal, pen, and a certain striking Mr A are always by her side. She crafts the words, the stories, and the truths about travel and life as she sees them. To chase the adventure of a lifetime, she traded everything in California for a journey to inspire, provoke and burst through the boundaries of her prose. Across the Pacific and just getting started. You can follow them both on Facebook and Pinterest.