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The hospitable Whakaipo Lodge owners dish up gourmet home cooking and thoughtfully appointed accommodation, as well as garden concerts and fireside canapes, extensive local knowledge and plenty of rural tranquillity. Main meals – think whisky marinated smoked salmon with sauteed citrus leeks and cress – may be sociable gatherings or a candlelit dinner for two, served on a private patio amidst lush gardens and mature trees.
Every guest is personally welcomed, often with an afternoon tea treat, and given all the privacy or guidance they desire while staying.
A knack for pre-empting and meeting people’s needs has seen the couple continually scoop top national awards from the likes of Qualmark, TripAdvisor and the Bed & Breakfast Association of NZ. They have won the latter’s supreme award three times and take pride in living up to the name of their establishment.
Whakaipo, which translates to “woo, cherish, treat with affection,” is also the pristine beach and bay two minutes’ drive from their Mapara Valley doorstep.
Garth and Angie’s care is evident in the small things; treats available for people with special dietary needs, the sourcing of luxurious Casa Lavanda products for guest bathrooms, provision of sunhats and fishing gear to their guests.
The Londons chose to abandon the corporate world – he was in construction, she worked in printing – to move to the central North Island and dote on others.
“It was just time to make those crazy decisions, to pursue our passions. Both of us had been involved in the outdoors sector and Angie’s always been a passionate cook."Garth London
“We wanted to do something more aligned to our personal values, that was very much about people, about sustainability and the environment. It’s about combining all our great loves in one place and making them full-time rather than after-work pursuits.”
After purchasing the property, they renovated extensively to create a comfortable guest lodge based on the best of everything they had experienced travelling in New Zealand and overseas. Then they added furniture to sink into, stacks of books and games, carefully chosen artwork and photos that are personally or historically significant. Look out for Garth’s paintings on the walls, too.
The four hectare property is home to a thriving orchard, a flock of Romney and black-faced Suffolk sheep as well as tui, piwakawaka (fantails), korimako (bellbirds), cuckoos, riflemen, nocturnal ruru (owls) and a host of other avian residents.
On summer days, doors are flung open to birdsong and the barbeque area where Garth likes to sear eye fillet for the crostini appetiser that is served with lodge-grown damson plum jelly.
In winter, the log fire draws visitors to the guest lounge where pre-dinner drinks are offered alongside plenty of Taupō travel tips.
These hosts know all the best places to sail, ride, dine, fish, shop, soak and explore in their own region and beyond. They can recommend artisans to visit – their handmade espresso cups are from neighbouring Tukairangi Pottery – alongside massage therapists and thermal swimming options.
Both have extensive outdoor experience courtesy of their own hiking and biking adventures, as well as a stint managing a mountain bike destination lodge, and years spent running alpine instruction courses.
Garth has ridden all the notable local cycle trails himself and the couple’s side business, Adventure Shuttles, sees him transport walkers and bikers to and from trailheads. Electric mountain bikes are also available for guests to hire.
Of course, no-one leaves the property hungry, courtesy of cooked breakfast options that might include free-range eggs and dry cured bacon from a nearby butcher, freshly-made pancakes as well as marmalade and jams made using their own fruit.
That’s on top of brioche pastry and muffin offerings as well as Angie’s homemade bread and muesli, locally-roasted Volcanic organic coffee and a selection from the Webster’s tea range.
“Where I grew up, if dad didn’t grow it, we didn’t eat it. I mean that literally, other than meat. Here, we have a big veggie garden and have recently planted heaps more fruit trees. In the last 12 months alone, we’ve put in more figs and persimmon, peach, nectarine, quince, walnuts.
“Growing your own delivers a satisfaction you don’t get sitting behind a desk.”
The Londons take their environmental and ethical responsibilities seriously, too, from the passive solar design of the building itself to the choice of water and energy-efficient appliances and fittings inside. Water is sourced from the local aquifer and treated on-site, while waste is minimised, recycled or composted wherever possible. The property is carbon-negative.
They also roll up sleeves to help with local revegetation programmes and actively trap pests on their own land.
Twice a year, the lodge hosts a fundraising concert to showcase Kiwi talent and support charities such as the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter.
Wherever possible, the business uses local tradespeople and suppliers, like their favourite fruit and vegetable shop or butcher or wine shop. They always have Taupō-made Lakeman beer available to guests and buy oyster mushrooms from their local mushroom grower.
“This is a special community. For us, coming from outside Taupō, it’s just been welcoming and we want to support and build that. Because we’re a young community that’s growing really fast there’s a vibrancy, there’s a warmth to the people."
"It’s a progressive place - you only have to look at the development that’s happened in the town in recent years – and our visitors always say it’s got a safe, warm, friendly feeling here.
“Of course, it’s also beautiful. And we all enjoy the lake, the mountains, the bush, nature and all the activities those things provide.”
Whakaipo Lodge Summer Concert on Saturday, 24th February 2024, will support Greenlea Rescue Helicopter’s work in the Taupō community. Hobnail and the Andrew London Duo will entertain with original Kiwi music.
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