Ok, so you may not be able to stay with Grammy award-winner Sam Smith, but you can follow in their footsteps by locking in a glorious lakeside holiday in the Tarawera area – just like Sam did.
The British singer’s been here a number times in recent years, referring to New Zealand as “heaven” the last reported time they visited for some R&R, just two months after they performed here during their The Thrill Of It All world tour.
We reckon that if Aotearoa was an album, Sam's got us on repeat (and we’re not mad!). In fact, rumour has it they are no stranger to the shores of Lake Tarawera.
Where exactly did they stay? We can’t say for sure, but here are a few possibilities.
A luxury lodge?
Solitaire Lodge (pictured above and at top) is a strong possibility, given it’s a premiere luxury lodge and perched on a peninsula jutting out into Lake Tarawera. Although just under 30 minutes from the Rotorua city centre, and the same from Rotorua Airport, Solitaire feels a million miles away. The only road to the lodge isn’t heavily travelled, making it easy to arrive unnoticed. But, perhaps Sam lapped up a bit of luxury and arrived via helicopter and touched down straight onto the property’s own landing pad, or rocked up on a private yacht.
Regardless of what mode of transport you use to get there, once you do, this Qualmarked property offers beautiful views over the lake. Lush natural bush and volcanic landscapes provide the backdrop, with the nine suites designed to bring the outdoors in. You’ll be encouraged to relax, unwind and soak it all in, but when you feel like getting out amongst it, the options are vast.
For example, take a 15-minute private launch excursion to soak in the lake’s natural hot springs. Or combine the thrill of a Volcanic Air heli tour with an awe-inspiring walk along the summit of Mt Tarawera and a through the geothermal wonderland of Orakei Korako Cave & Thermal Park.
Along the way, you’ll enjoy breath-taking vistas of the mountain’s 17km rift, 65-metre-tall Tarawera Falls, Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, mountain ranges and beyond.
Glamping?On the other end of the accommodation spectrum we’ve got glamping (fun fact: “glamping” is a sniglet likely derived from combining the words “glamourous” and “camping”). Do you think Sam’s the type to enjoy sleeping next to native bush on a queen-size bed in a large, private tent just metres from the shores of the lake?
Kanuka (above) is one of two glamping sites operated by Totally Tarawera, and on secluded DOC land. The site has everything you’ll need for a very comfy stay, including a camp kitchen, dining area and bathroom.
Access is only by water taxi, which is included, or you can walk in and/or out, which takes most people about three hours. You can also pre-order breakfast or dinner hampers if you prefer not to BYO food.
There’s plenty to do here, too, such as swimming in the crystal-clear lake, canoeing around the bays, fishing for trout, looking for glow worms at night, and walking the 1.5-hour Tarawera Trail to the natural hot pool for a luxurious soak.
A holiday home?If Sam was looking for something that fits between luxury lodge and glam camping, they might’ve chosen one of the many holiday homes overlooking or with direct access to the lake.
Spencer Lodge (above) is a luxury lodge style holiday home nestled in 18 acres of farmland, landscaped gardens, and native bush. To enjoy tranquillity and total privacy, they’ll find it here. Plus there’s loads of space for Sam to invite their closest Kiwi friends (pick me!) to cook up a feast in the large kitchen and the BBQ on the deck, snuggle up in front of the two-storey stone fireplace, and relax in the hot tub. Four bedrooms with king-size beds and spectacular views offer lots of space for guests to stay.
Another great spot for the singer to chill is at Tarawera Views, an architecturally designed five-bedroom home perched on the hillside with native bush behind and the lake and mountain views out front. The view from the master suite upstairs is phenomenal, while the expansive lower level also affords panoramic views and a wrap-around deck for loads of space for entertaining.
Surely one of these locations will inspire a song about Sam’s heavenly country!