New Zealand's River Birches
Published: April 2009
By Jaime Gross
Turangi, the trout fisherman's pilgrimage site on the banks of New Zealand's Tongariro River on the North Island, is typically associated with stodgy, seventies-era fishing lodges where deer heads adorn dark pine walls. The remote River Birches aims to change that. Opened earlier this year by Jason and Rebeca Bleibtreu, a globe-trotting couple based in Bangkok, the cedar-clad inn is an East-meets-West hodgepodge of Thai silk curtains, Maori weavings, doors carved from native rimu wood, Chinese and Burmese furniture, and framed works by Asian and Kiwi artists. The three guest rooms, located a stone's throw from the river's best angling pools and nature walks, are named after well-known fishing spots in the area; request the Admiral's Room, which comes with a minibar full of local wines and microbrews and a private cedar hot tub sheltered by monster ponga ferns. After a delicious breakfast of pancakes topped with honey and walnuts from the backyard, head to the well-stocked tackle shed to prepare for a day on the river, or venture slightly farther afield for a precipitous hike over the ridge of a volcano. At night, wrap yourself in a wool throw and listen to the chirping Tui birds and burbling water outside your room.
River Birches, 19 Koura St., Turangi, North Island, New Zealand; 64-7/386-0445; www.riverbirches.co.nz; doubles from $185, including breakfast.