New Zealand has some of the most singular scenery in the world… and plenty of left-of-field (well, weird) accommodation options from which to enjoy the views.
New Zealanders pride themselves on their ingenuity and creativity, and this round-up of some of the stranger places to stay around the country is a good example – choose from silos, gypsy caravans, tree houses and more interesting (OK, weird) options to lay your head, enjoy great Kiwi hospitality, and the beauty of Aotearoa.
Up in the Air at Hapuku Lodge + Tree Houses, Kaikoura
Hapuku Lodge + Tree Houses opened in 2003, established by the five siblings of the Wilson family just north of Kaikoura on the South Island east coast. Originally offering just six beds in the lodge, the family soon realised that the opportunity for something far grander existed, something that would take in the multi-faceted beauty of Kaikoura – soaring snow-capped mountains and white-capped waves. So the Tree Houses were built, putting guests closer “to the birds, to the mountains, to the ocean and the sky”. The five Tree Houses are perched 10 metres above the ground in a grove of native kanuka trees, with views over verdant farmland and dark green hills. The owners have a distinct green focus, with a keen interest in maintaining this spot of special beauty – true luxury in one of New Zealand’s most spectacular places. What could be better?
State Highway 1 at Station Road RD1, Kaikoura (+64 3 319 6559). Kaikoura is two-and-a half hours north of Christchurch and is the best spot in the country for whale-watching, both from the air and on the water. Additionally, there are excellent spots for surfing, hiking and skiing in the area, which makes it an great year-round destination.
Over the Water at The Lighthouse, Wellington
Why a lighthouse? Well, when Bruce Stokell decided to build a painting studio for his wife, he soon realised that if it was situated high enough, you would be able to see the South Island from the site in the seaside Wellington neighbourhod of Island Bay. And so, in 1994, The Lighthouse, “the only kind of structure with any integrity next to the sea,” came into existence. “Because it’s a lighthouse, and it’s tall and it’s in the view – there’s no grass or bush around it – [it’s like] being on the prow of a ship,” Stokell says. Then there are the connotations that come with lighthouses, Stokell says – the romance, the isolation, cosily tucking up with a loved one while the weather rages outside. And there’s plenty of the latter: “The sea in Island Bay in a storm is beautiful – the waves crash against the rocks, the spray goes 20 or 30 feet up in the air. It’s just beautiful to see.”
326 The Esplanade, Island Bay, Wellington (+64 4 472 4177) (Only one set of guests at any time.) Island Bay is 15 minutes from downtown Wellington, so your stay here can easily coincide with all the highlights of the capital, including Zealandia wildlife sanctuary, Weta Studios and Te Papa Museum.
Charming Incarceration at The Jailhouse, Christchurch
Built in 1874, Christchurch’s The Jailhouse has served a variety of functions: a men’s prison, women’s prison and military camp. Decommissioned in 1999, it lay unused until 2006, when it found its second life as a hostel. Manager Nikki Hayhurst says that guests “love the uniqueness of staying in a prison”. Many of the original features still remain, and most of the rooms started life as cells – and one can only imagine who else may have previously slept in your room. The 80-bed hostel contains numerous accommodation options, from dorms to a family room. Guests, Hayhurst says, also relish staying in a historic building in a city that, since the earthquakes, has fewer than before.
338 Lincoln Rd, Addington, Christchurch (+64 3 982 7777). Addington is a fairly central Christchurch suburb, so The Jailhouse is a good option for travellers who want to check out the city’s revival – the Cardboard Cathedral, the redevelopment of the CBD, the riverside precinct. Further afield, the beach town of Sumner is charming, and the bars and cafés of Lyttelton are well worth a trip.
Against the Grain at SiloStay, Little River
SiloStay is a striking addition to the landscape: metal silos, traditionally used to store grain, have been repurposed as accommodation, and now loom above the hamlet of Little River, on Banks Peninsula, just south of Christchurch. Operations manager Lisa Ashfield says guests are routinely blown away by SiloStay. And why not? The silos blend cutting-edge design and a commitment to the environment with the high-end accommodation you might not expect from the agricultural look of the complex – some people, Ashfield says, think it’s a shop that sells silos. The space inside surprises guests, too. “Some people think it’s going to be claustrophobic and pokey, but it’s not,” she says. “And people are quite surprised when they see inside that it is luxurious.”
Christchurch Akaroa Road, Little River (+64 3 325 1977). SiloStay is located in Little River, halfway between Christchurch and the township of Akaroa. The latter is a lovely little spot, full of French influence, and offers a great base for exploring the Banks Peninsula. Numerous operators offer cruises to meet and swim with Hector’s dolphins, the world’s rarest marine dolphin.
See everything, all the time at Greystone PurePod
This place is for those of you who love looking at the outdoors but might not want to be out in it. Greystone PurePod is entirely made of heavy duty glass so you can see everything – from the stars above to the native plants growing beneath your feet. It’s also been designed to be gentle on the environment and totally sustainable – but still luxurious. Hovering over the landscape you can spend your days wandering around nature, or just lie back and watch nature pass you by from the protection and comfort of your bed.
Greystone PurePod is located 20 minutes inland from Kaikoura, which is 2.5 hours from Christchurch. When you book you’ll get instructions on how to get there. Nearby is an organic winery in the Waipara Valley and you’ll have views to the alps. There are 3 other pods in other secret areas that you can also check out.
Air New Zealand flies direct daily from Singapore to Auckland with domestic connections to more than 20 destinations in New Zealand. Most international flights arrive into Auckland and the average flight time is around 10 hours. For more info, go to www.newzealand.com/getting-here.
Want some more travel inspiration? Read our story about great Bali villas that are less than $150 per night or the best, affordable boutique hotels in Southeast Asia. Want to go a bit further afield? Read our story on what to do in Melbourne and discover this Hong Kong hotel that we love.