Saturday, 24 September 2016

Mangaweka - a Heartland Stopover

Mairenui Rural Retreat

Mairenui Rural Retreat is not what you would expect to find deep in the farm country of the central North Island and not too far from the dramatic waterfalls and stunning scenery of the Rangitikei Gorge.

This is a quirky cottage, architect designed by John Comeskey in the 1970s. The style is one you will see around New Zealand and in Wellington in particular. The house twists around a sturdy brick core which rises up through the centre. The circular stairway winds its way up through the brick tower and ends in a ladder. This ladder takes you to the second bedroom tucked into a loft at the top of the house.

This house is all about odd angles, exposed timbers, hefty beams, bricks and arches. Cut outs upstairs look down onto the sitting room below.  Part sunken lounge, this sitting room is clustered around the wood burner stove which warms the entire house. This stove will be lit for you and pumping out its radiant warmth if you arrive in the colder months. Lovely!

This is a farmland property and outdoors there are beautiful old trees - a 700 year old stand of native trees in fact. Across the fields there is a visible rift which drops away to a gully and small stream below. The drive to Mairenui will take you past stunning tall waterfalls which plummet steeply to the Rangtikei river.

Mairenui Rural Retreat is faintly reminiscent of the castles and forts of centuries gone by. The brick barrel core and the arched windows conjure up visions of the past and create a touch of  medieval drama to awaken the imagination.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Featherston Historic Stables

The Headmaster's Stables

In the south of the Wairarapa is Featherston - a small town, quiet except for the rumble of a train from time to time. In Featherston the cafes come and go, the shops shy away from mainstream and lean further towards the niche market. Crafts, crystals and quality cheeses can be found. 

The Headmaster's House in Featherston is a grand old house, two storied and dignified, as befits a headmaster who would in those days have been a recognized pillar of the community. This house was built in the 1880s and would certainly have been a very grand family home at that time. Today it has a category II heritage listing in place.

Behind the Headmaster's House stands a building which was once the stable for the grand house in front. This old stable has been subject to much loving care and is now converted into charming cottage accommodation. The cottage is ivy clad and appealing. It is compact yet not crowded. Its loft-bedroom sits under a steep gable roof and the bedroom is all the more attractive with its complex folded ceiling lines. 

Downstairs the bright Mexican- inspired colours make the decor warm and inviting. Small ball-lights decorate the steep stairs. An eye catching original painting picks up the colours of the settees and the rug. There is no kitchen but breakfast provisions are there for you, and so too, is an excellent bottle of local sparkling wine. Much appreciated!

Wrapped around one side of the cottage is a sheltered porch, a chimenea, and mountains of wood ready to use. This is a cottage with lots of charm and heaps of personality in its quirky ornaments and eclectic style, - even  a horse shoe found from the original stable decorates one wall. A good place to spend a night.

Monday, 2 May 2016

The Spaceship - Nelson

     Beam Me Up

Pippy McCurdy

Ever thought about spending a night in a spaceship? This you can do if you choose to go to Nelson, because on a high hill overlooking the harbour entrance, aliens have landed! Well to be more factual this is actually a Futuro House produced in New Zealand in the 1970s - but it is surely as close to sleeping in a spaceship as anyone who hasn't been abducted by aliens is ever likely to get.

Futuro Houses were  designed by the Finnish architect Matti Suuronen and sold around the world for a short time. Of 96 altogether, twelve were fabricated under license in New Zealand. Only a handful remain.

The Futuro in Nelson is a gleaming white saucer but in the dusky light of  evening it glows a warm gold amongst the flowers and bushes of a charming hillside garden.

 Entry into the Futuro is by fold out porthole steps. The oval windows stare out unblinking but inside the cabin is comfortable and warm. Furniture remains almost unchanged from its original assembly, it would seem. Circular shaped furniture is of course not that easy to come by -  meaning that any change in style would necessitate custom made selections. Hence 70s style predominates.

The Nelson Futuro has great views. It has a generous garden and plenty of outdoor spaces. Slightly above is a second building - this time a small cottage with a sheltered deck overgrown with climbers laden with flowers and colour. With a barbecue handily situated on the deck this cottage is the ideal spot perched just high enough to look out over the Futuro and capture the harbour views below.

Staying in a spaceship is an experience not to be missed and has to be recommended. The Nelson Futuro only seems to be available occasionally. I would say make the most of the chance if you find it free on one of these occasions.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Auckland House Boat

 Afloat in Beach Haven

Pippy McCurdy

The sprawling city of Auckland provides so many types of accommodation; so many places to stay...but not so much in the way of unusual accommodation. However it is there, if you look for it. On the North Shore there is a unique option tucked away - visible never from the street, only from the water. This special offering is The Houseboat at Beach Haven.

The Houseboat is tied up to its new jetty close to the shore, afloat on about four hours of the tide each day, otherwise resting comfortably on the water's edge. It becomes a fascinating moment as the hull kicks into life and floats up on the incoming tide.

The cabin and sleeping facilities are pleasantly comfortable on the boat. However it is up on the top deck relaxing and watching the sun set, the moon rise, or day break that is the most rewarding place to be. The steps down to the jetty are secure enough, but they are a work in progress.

 One suspects there is more to come for the Houseboat yet.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Upper Hutt Accommodation - The Akatarawa Tree Hut

The Tree Hut

Pippy McCurdy

The fabulous thing about Air BnB is that you never know what you are going to get.
The Tree Hut in the Akatarawas  is exactly as it's photos suggest - a wonderful little tree hut, perched happily halfway up a tall tree. As solid as a rock it could not feel safer. The leaves rustle outside in a typical Wellington breeze, but your perch will not cause you even a moment's concern. Like an old sailing ship an occasional gentle creak reminds you that this is not quite on land - in fact it is probably better.

The Tree Hut is lofty enough to provide an expansive view out over the homestead rooftop to the Akatarawas beyond. A short walk down a track and across some farmland leads to the river and a truly inviting looking swimming hole. If only the sun was shining just a little warmer ....

Inside the hut is a cosy space large enough for a double bed, and room to move around. The deck outside is the ideal place to roost and a veranda provides shelter should the weather gods frown. Other facilities are in the nearby farmhouse. An outdoor firebath looked tempting - but not tempitng enough to compensate for being in full view of the house.

This is Airbnb so as is often the case, the family was there to interact with , and what a bonus -  there was a sitting-room concert taking place with an international musician as a guest of honour. Mark White is one of only a few players of the Chapman Stick in the world. This was one of the great Stumble-Upon moments.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Kaikoura Accommodation - Wacky Stays Covered Wagon

Westward Ho!

Pippy McCurdy

Choose the slow wagon for your accommodation when you travel near Kaikoura in the South Island of New Zealand and you will not be disappointed.

The covered wagon at Wacky Stays Farm Park is an amazing, custom built wagon - a tribute to craft, intricacy and skill. It is in every way an early settlers wagon. However the elongated wheel base and the touches of luxury are indications that your stay will be a good deal  more comfortable than the travels of the early American settlers who originally used wagons such as these.

The wagon is double skinned canvas. The bed linen is luxurious and comfortable. The facilities are within the wagon. There is wool insulation. There is double glazing. There is  a pot belly stove. There is underfloor heating. There are fabulous views of the Southern Alps.

Included with your overnight stay is entry to the farm park linked to your accommodation. You will see llamas, wallabies,  peacocks, donkeys ...   Sometimes the llamas hang out outside your wagon.

At the farm park there are other places to stay - a yurt. a train carriage, a tepee.  Wacky Stays have worked hard to create a unique and fascinating environment for your stay.
To one side of the wagon there is a camp kitchen to cook in. Almost complete is an outdoor bath to relax in. Wacky Stays is essentially a step back into the simple life but with no element of luxury missing. It is a fabulous place to stay. You should go there!

Monday, 4 January 2016

Guy's Boat House, Wanganui

Guy's Boat House

Pippy McCurdy:

If you are not into roughing it, unexpected transport to your overnight accommodation on the back of a quad bike can come as something of a surprise. For the uninitiated, the back of a quad bike over rough and steep ( and slippery and scary) terrain can be quite challenging. So there I was, unprepared, balancing a bag, food, alcohol, and myself while we bumped and skidded our way over a dirt track to Guy's Boat House.

But it was fun. There were only really a handful of times I thought we would not make it.

It was a great moment to bounce over the crest of a small hill and see before us the Valley of Tranquility in all its glory with its peaceful little lake as a centrepiece, and there in the distance the colourful little boat house.

All by itself it sat on the edge of the lake. A cook house was a short distance away on the top of a hill. The toilet was a semi-outdoor shelter on the opposite side of this hill, and there on the edge of the surrounding pine forest was the solar shower - nicely heated by the afternoon sun.

Guy's Boat House is small, but it's colourful, clean, comfortable, sunny and pleasant  The deck reaches out over the waters of the lake. Board walks take you to and from the lake edge.
If it 's peace you want, it 's peace you will certainly get at the boathouse. There is no popping down to the cafe for a latte from here...  As the quad bike disappeared into the distance an absolute silence filled the air, broken only by the call of birds and the rustle of the bushes. As the day comes to an end the gathering dusk sheds a gently fading light over the trees and lake. It is a magic moment of peace and serenity

In the morning the birds wake first and exchange greetings.  The multiplicity and extensive variety of trees gradually ease back into definition as the sun rises again. At the arranged time the sound of the bike can be heard in the far off distance, gradually coming closer for the pick up and the hair raising ride back to the real world. Guy's Boat House is a beautiful spot and in many ways it was a disappointment to leave.

By the way not everyone will be transported by quad bike. Most times apparently the path in is quite suited to four wheel drive which is the more usual way in and out. But I'm kind of glad my trip was on the bike.

And one last note; - Leave yourself some time to see the glorious Paloma Gardens. What a beautiful spot; -  so many species, so well kept, so much variety, plush lawns, sculptures, ornamental bridges,  glass house plants, exotic plants, native plants. Just a tapestry of colour and delight. What a work of love.