Solitaire Lodge

Lake-side, casual, peaceful

10-12 Ronald Road, Lake Tarawera 3076, New Zealand

(64) 7-362 8208

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At a Glance

New Zealand’s second-oldest lodge (after Taupo’s Huka), the aptly named Solitaire Lodge sits on the edge of Lake Tarawera surrounded by lush, serene landscapes.

Indagare Loves

  • Waking up to the sun rising above the lake with dormant volcano Mount Tarawera in the distance
  • The delicious cuisine prepared by two top chefs
  • The location: in driving distance to buzzing Rotorua but seemingly worlds removed
  • Special experiences the lodge can arrange like a heli tour to the White Island or bathing in a hot spring across the lake


In the early 19th century, Europeans who came to visit New Zealand were usually drawn by a single destination: the Pink and White Terraces near Lake Rotorua. Formed by geothermal waters, the terraces were often referred to as the eight wonder of the world. They were destroyed when Mount Tarawera erupted in 1886 in a blast so powerful that it could be heard on South Island. Today, the spacious guest rooms of the aptly named Solitaire Lodge look toward this now dormant volcano, reminding in-the-know visitors that they are staying in New Zealand’s original tourism center – and in one of its most beautiful regions.

Rotorua itself has become a commercial hot bed for extreme sports and a touristy scene (although the excellent Rotorua Museum deserves a visit). How refreshing then that Solitaire is about a 30-minute drive east of town, nestled in a valley that’s studded with lakes (in all, there are 17). The lodge has been around since 1980, and some of the architecture looks a bit dated. The current owners, however, have wisely invested in the room interiors, which feel fresh and modern with floor-to-ceiling windows, skylights, new carpets and a chic cream-and-white color scheme. The nine guest suites have sizeable bed, living and bathrooms, and come with beautiful views. All have a separate shower and bathtub – the best of which are positioned in a window for prime lake views.

Not that you are limited to bathing in your room. Even today, the Rotorua is full of hot pools warmed by geothermal steam, and right across the lake from Solitaire, guests can visit a series of pools (early in the morning, you have them all to yourself) tucked into a lush green forest. The Solitaire team works hard overall to show their guests the authentic parts of an area that has become a bit too commercialized for their taste. There’s a rugged mountain biking trek through a thermal forest; a hike to a secluded waterfall; a helicopter tour to the steaming White Island, with a touch down on a volcano crater closer to home. On property, activities are a bit more limited – the grounds are not massive – but guests can take advantage of a number of water toys, including kayaks for lakeside exploring.

Back in the main lodge, the ambience is laid-back and casual. The library is full of great books about New Zealand, the fire starts going mid-afternoon, and the bar is stocked with local wines and whiskeys. Dinner at the moment is a five-course affair with a menu that changes every night (all rates at Solitaire include all meals due to the remote location), but the owners and the chefs are considering adding some small-plate, a la carte dining options. Judging from the current, extremely high level of cooking here, it will be interesting what the chefs dream up for a more tapas-style New Zealand–inspired menu.

After dinner, some guests linger by the fire for a night cap but many head to bed in order to be up again with the rising sun. It erupts from behind the mountains, transforming the smooth lake into a limpid palate of yellows, silvers and blues, and looking out from your room at Solitaire, you feel an affinity with those first Rotorua visitors in the early 1800s who saw those same landscapes and – surely – felt the same awe.

Who Should Stay

Couples and families with older children who can entertain themselves (there are not a ton of activities for children). Travelers who don’t mind self-driving – the location is remote – or those who arrive via helicopter.

Getting There

From the Rotorua airport, it’s about a 30-minute drive to Solitaire Lodge. Many guests choose to avoid the winding, narrow roads leading to this secluded spot by chartering a helicopter (10 minutes from the Rotorua airport; 60 minutes from Auckland) that lands directly in front of the lodge.

Written by Simone Girner

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