Chateau Tongariro in Tongariro National Park. © blagov58

Chateau Tongariro: style and grandeur at the foot of Ruapehu

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You can sense it, really, the pressing of history, as you enjoy a hot beverage by the roaring open fire.

It was the ‘Roaring Twenties’ that gave birth to this magnificent hotel, although what they were roaring about then it’s hard to say, with nearly a century having now passed since the Chateau’s construction. Not the need for wi fi access, anyway. Such a twenty-first century necessity is available, should you require it, although, really, at this hospitable venue in a potentially inhospitable spot, you should be checking the view, not your email.

Opened in 1929, the iconic hotel was designed by Herbert Hall from tiny Timaru, who did an outstanding job of harnessing all that was characterful and exotic about similar mountainside retreats popular in Europe at the time. And think of the effort he went to: he couldn’t just Google them, could he now? But he got the detail, and the grandeur, just right.

It remains today as you stomp snow and shingle off your boots before negotiating the swirly carpet of the foyer. Inside you can snack, eat and stay, indulging in everything from a high tea to a sauna (though clearly if you choose to do both you’ll need to access quite different parts of your wardrobe). Outside you’ll just want one more look at the way this country pile sits just so against the snowy backdrop of magnificent Mount Ruapehu.

It’s a slice of something alluring and appealingly historic, where travel felt a little more pioneering and frontiers-ville than it might these days.

The Chateau brings all that back — you half expect to see Errol Flynn stride in with a basket full of freshly caught local trout or Churchill sipping a single malt by the fire.

As a place to relax after a day negotiating the chair lifts and tobogganers, it’s pretty hard to beat.

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