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March 22, 1992|JERRY HULSE

Everyone who goes there gets hooked on Solitaire Lodge--a fisherman's retreat in New Zealand. A friend who returned recently describes it as "the most delightful place I have ever stayed in my life." This from a world traveler who has circled the Earth in search of top-of-the-line fishing/hunting hideaways. Proprietor Reg Turner built Solitaire to satisfy both the fishermen and their wives.

The upscale lodge near Roturua rises on a promontory overlooking Lake Tarawera (containing some of the world's largest trophy rainbows). Luxury suites with king-size beds, sun decks, stocked refrigerators, panoramic views of the lake and Mt. Tarawera. One suite features a bath with a spa. A huge fireplace in the lounge. Another in the dining room. A serve-yourself bar (all drinks included in the tariff).

Solitaire is known for its cuisine as well as accommodations/fishing. Smoked New Zealand bacon, venison, sausages, ham, fresh trout for breakfast. Among dinner selections: pumpkin and orange soup, chicken and mushroom crepes, rack of lamb with kiwi mint sauce, John Dory amandine, wild pork with Calvados/prune sauce, venison Marsala with pine nuts.

Besides fishing, Solitaire provides ballooning, bush walks, riding, water skiing, mountain climbing, white-water rafting, picnics on a beach with thermal waters. Reg Turner insists: "Solitaire is where the magic begins."

Solitaire Lodge, Lake Tarawera RD5, Rotorua, New Zealand. Rates from $300 New Zealand (about $167 U.S.) per person, including breakfast/dinner, an open bar, house wines, use of dinghies/yachts. Note: This is a nonsmokers' lodge. Other details from your travel agent or the New Zealand Tourism Board, 501 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 300, Santa Monica 90401, (800) 388-5494 or (310) 395-7480.

Singles: Gallivanting, the New York-based company that specializes in trips for singles, has the hook out for travelers ages 25-55. Matches clients in order to cut costs, eliminate the irksome single supplement. Dozens of trips. A three-day ride into the Rockies combined with rafting on the Arkansas River in Colorado figures out to $675. In California, a six-day package ($1,075) features white-water rafting on the American River, a spa treatment, tour of a winery, hot-air ballooning and shelter (combining camping plus hotels in the Napa Valley). Overseas, Gallivanting is putting together a two-week Hong Kong/China trip ($2,699) that includes the jet hop from the West Coast. On the books: a total of 28 tours to six continents. Call Gallivanting at (800) 933-9699.

A Letter From Iowa: B&B proprietress Ruby Black writes: "Have you thought of coming to Iowa?" and good-naturedly adds, "You can stop laughing now . . . you can't get much simpler than Clear Lake (in northern Iowa). We have earth, wind and water but no pretentious waiters who think they're authors or actors, and you don't need a money belt. In fact, by big-city standards, you barely need money at all. So if anyone would like to visit, we have room at our house and offer peaceful rides in our classic boat. We think after a weekend here most people would just have to tell the world about Clear Lake. It isn't exotic--but isn't that nice?"

So if you're searching for the simple life and wish to avoid crowds, Ruby and Jay Black's North Shore House Inn could provide the answer. The hull of a boat makes do as a coffee table. A sailboat tiller is used as a towel rack. Antiques and a wood-burning stove. The sort of laid-back lifestyle that comes to mind when you see a replay of the movie "On Golden Pond." The Blacks will take you for a spin on the lake in their vintage '47 Chris-Craft, drop you at a lakeside restaurant and pick you up later for a moonlight cruise home.

North Shore House, 1519 N. Shore Drive, Clear Lake, Iowa 50428, (515) 357-4443. Rates: $50/$55 with a full breakfast.

New Mexico Inn: A dirt driveway leads to the door of the 150-year-old Adobe & Pines Inn in Rancho de Taos, N.M., where guests are greeted by a mutt named Rascal. Rooms with queen-size beds, down comforters/pillows, private baths, fireplaces. Proprietors Chuck and Cheril Fulkerson (a couple of transplanted Southern Californians) spent six months restoring the inn with its 80-foot-long grand portal, where guests gather to study Taos' storied sunsets. A stream runs through the property. And there's an old stone bridge. Blistfully silent nights. Four acres of pine/fruit trees and a pasture where a mare and her colt graze. A separate cottage features a canopy bed, a jet whirlpool bath, two fireplaces, a kitchen. Hors d'oeuvres/beverages are served each evening in the inn's living room, where artists' works are displayed. Adobe & Pines Inn is less than 10 minutes from Taos with its plaza, galleries, shops, restaurants. Half an hour from Taos Ski Valley. Within walking distance of famed St. Francis de Assisi Church. Others visit the Rio Grande Gorge. Area activities: riding, fishing, golf, white-water rafting.

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