In Scottish Gaelic, Kinloch means “head of the lake” – an apt name for the picturesque holiday town nestled into the northernmost bay of Aotearoa’s glassy Lake Taupō, near some of the region’s top landmarks.

Kinloch is a 20-minute drive from Taupō (the town) or 28 minutes from Taupō airport, and it’s here you’ll find luxury lodge Kinloch Manor and Villas, with 10 black-stained cedar wood villas accomodating 48, atop a rocky escarpment on 254 hectares of land. Stays include pre-dinner drinks and canapes, dinner and breakfast, and high-flyers can arrive via helicopter – the property has two helipads.

The manor

Owner and developer John Sax took over the property and golf course in 2011, and opened the accommodation in 2016. The monolithic manor and surrounding villas were designed by architecture firm Patterson Associates alongside interior designer Virginia Fisher (Huka Lodge, Eichardt’s, Wharekauhau, Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers). The manor’s exterior is clad with bagged stone on blockwork and turret-like chimneys, and the interiors feel dense and cave-like (notwithstanding the high ceilings). An impressive art collection studs the walls, including a piece by New Zealand artist Nigel Brown in the bar, as well as a Ralph Hotere, a Jenny Mehrtens, and a Picasso lithograph in other rooms.

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The inviting bar, grand room, dining hall and conference room have oversized fireplaces, wide European oak plank walls, and deep-set windows that frame each view while you’re parked on a cowhide chair or golden velvet sofa. If the sun is out, though, the patio is the ultimate vantage point.

Food and drinks

At cocktail hour, the drinks are free-flowing, and served alongside canapes such as smoked salmon vol-au-vent and venison tartare in a bar space with glass windows overlooking the stunning views.

The restaurant has a rotation of head chefs and exclusively serves Kinloch Manor & Villas guests. Expect four set courses for dinner involving seasonal produce – including ingredients from the market garden tucked behind the villas – and the wine list has a strong focus on New Zealand varietals.

The villas

While the manor is classic, the villas switch to a lighter, more modern palette. Each villa is designed to be fashioned into either a junior suite, or a one- or two-bedroom residence with a bright open-plan living area and sleek kitchen, as well as a cosy den and two generous bathrooms. In some villas, the den can be turned into a third room if you have a party of six.

The minibar is stocked with free soft drinks, coffee, teas and snacks, as well as an assortment of local wines and liquor to buy. These are best enjoyed either in the two-person tub or by the wood fire as you take in the view through the large glass sliding doors.

The activities

Nearby Taupō is known as New Zealand’s adventure playground, with its mountain bike trails, ski sports at Mount Ruapehu, famous walks such as the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, natural wonders like Huka Falls and geothermal hot springs, and fly fishing for trout.

Or, borrow one of Kinloch Manor & Villas’s mountain bikes. Cycle for 10 minutes and you’ll hit the lake where you can cross the rocky shoreline shaded by Lombardy poplars, and swim through the crisp water to a pontoon.

Once you’ve finished biking and sightseeing, hit the tennis courts for a game. A sauna and pool are also in the works, and will complement the Manor’s lower-level spa, with on-call therapists specialising in massages, body treatments and facials.

For golf fans, The Kinloch Club is arguably the property’s biggest drawcard. The links course has tee times every 10 minutes from 8.30am, with an average playing time of around five and a half hours.

From NZ$2200 a night for two people, including breakfast, dinner and pre-dinner canapés and drinks. The writer stayed at Kinloch Manor & Villas as a guest of the lodge.