Friday, 7 April 2017

Sandy Bay Cabins in the Far North

Sandy Bay Cabins

The east coast bays and coves of Northland are bays of white sand, gentle waves and few people. Sandy Bay Cabins are on rolling farmland, not quite on the coast but walking distance if you wish. The encampment is at present made up of two off the grid cabins, and a larger cabin set a little way apart, where there is not just electricity but also cooking facilities, a fridge and a shower.

The cabins are an act in progress. The area has been developed with a view to expansion and the two smaller cabins - as cute and appealing as you could wish,- are side by side on a grassy plain, where easily there might be five or six cabins at next glance. These cabins face a small stand of native forest where the tall trees predominate but the forest floor is easily accessible with a small stream running through the forest valley.

The larger cabin is timber lined, with a porch to sit on and take in the views, the forest, the sunset, or the well looked after garden out front.

The encampment lends itself to family entertainment. The pizza oven is set alongside a man-made pond. There is a waterside , canoes for a short lap around the pond, and plenty of leaning tables for a family meal gathered around, or a late night gathering.

Outside the main cabin there is a fire bowl ready and waiting. This provides a great gathering place as dusk falls. From here it is just a short distance down the path to the shower and bath - where you can celebrate the great outdoors with views out across the rolling hills yet still private. With hot water at your fingertips for the bath and shower, it could not be easier to  take a quick shower while enjoying the forest surrounds.

This is a a great spot to relax in.  With intermittent cellphone reception it is time to relax, turn off your connections to the outside world and enjoy some time with friends and family in the great outdoors.

Friday, 24 February 2017

The Tinker's Cottage, Clyde, Central Otago

The Tinkers Cottage

In the heart;and of Central Otago is the Tinker’s Cottage, a beautiful schist cottage in the small but fascinating town of Clyde. The Tinkers Cottage in the 1860s, was the home of an itinerant tinsmith or a tinker. -  a mender of pots and pans, - not to be confused with the more recent version of tinker - another word for gypsy in some lingoes.

Clyde is a fascinating place. At the start of the renowned Otago Cycle Trail it is  a town which has reinvented itself. Here you will find one of the best restaurants not just in Central Otago, but in New Zealand. Here also you will find craftsmen, artisans, shops of unique and fascinating wares. This is also a town of turbulent history. There is the gargantuan Clyde dam  and its hydro lake just to the north of the town.This dam was a source of great controversy and protest in times past.

The Tinker’s Cottage is a unique snapshot of early New Zealand. It is a historic cottage in a beautiful garden, a cottage made of  local stone with its plastered joints and its compact setout. The cottage has been treated with the greatest of respect as it is brought into the twenty-first century. It is comfortable, charming and just the nicest of places to spend some time. It is in the heart of Clyde, - walking distance to absolutely everything. It is warm, well appointed and delightful. Whether you choose to sit outside or maybe barbecue in the sheltered garden, or whether your preference is to use the kitchen or go out for a meal, this is a great place to be.

At the cottage the artifacts of the past still remain. An elderly bicycle is the sign post to your cottage. The pot belly stove may not be there for cooking, but it is still present. There is a modern ensuite - a relatively recent addition, - and there is history on every side. Clyde is a time warp - a charming and exceptional time warp.

The dam is probably the key to the preservation of historic Clyde as it stands today. After the controversy had died and the dam was built, Clyde became a symbol of failed protest under the shadow of this massive monolith. Now, today, the dam is just a symbol of the march of progress, - beautiful in itself and its massive suppressed power. How strange the twists of fate.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Glamping by the Lake

Glamping in Glenorchy

Not too far from the thriving tourist mecca of Queenstown in New Zealand, is the small and isolated town of Glenorchy. To reach Glenorchy you will need to follow a scenic road beside the lake edge for around forty minutes. This is a quiet road and there are plenty of places to stop and capture a photo or two as you will almost certainly want to...

Once you reach Glenorchy you will be at the head of Lake Wakatipu, surrounded by majestic mountains - usually snow covered - with only a handful of tourists and locals around. But keep in mind we are talking isolated here, but not uncivilized. The food is great and the cafes and bars are welcoming.

There is a  new camping ground complex being developed in Glenorchy - fully sustainable and community focused. At present the project is not quite in full stride but there is an excellent alternative to fill that community gap, and that is Mrs Woolly's Camp Ground.  It is here that you will find the two glamping tents that have recently been installed.

These glamping tents are safari tents with a planked and sheltered deck out the front of each. The tents have solar powered lighting and powerpacks for all those essentials - cell phone charger, ipad, etc… The tents are one roomed, essentially for sleeping and nocturnal activities only, but a delicious light breakfast and good coffee is provided on the under-cover deck out front. Other facilities are in the amenities block a short walk away.

What you will love most about your glamping tent is the luxury linen, the sheepskin rugs on the floor the fresh flowers, and especially the possum skin hot water bottles. The tingling crispness of the Glenorchy mountain air is part of the pleasure of a stay in this unique area of New Zealand.

The multitude of stars in the deep velvet sky is breathtaking.

But snuggling into the cloud soft bed with your possum hot water bottle is hard to beat.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Gypsy Camping Wairarapa

Gypsy River Camping

Gypsy River Camping in the Wairarapa is so unexpected. This is a camp consisting of  hand made gypsy caravans - three of them in all -  plus a cook house, in a characteristic gypsy style semicircle grouped around a campfire. This is the perfect gypsy get-away. These charming little caravans of many colours are in the back of a field, not so far from a pleasant river, surrounded by tall willows and verdant pastures.

The gypsy camp is charming. There are three sleeping caravans plus a cookhouse and bathroom. One of the vans even has its own pot belly stove and electricity. The others are for you to enjoy the candlelight -  and the campfire light if the weather is kind. 

The kitchen has everything you could need including some delightful surprises: - Was that three tins of fresh baking ready to be devoured?? More than I might achieve in a year or three. Outside there is the barbecue all gassed up and ready to use-  and inside you will find every condiment and utensil you might possibly require to cook the perfect gypsy meal. What's more there are games for the bored, and for breakfast the fun of making toast over a retro frame on the gas stove. All your breakfast needs are supplied.

The bedroom caravan with the bunks is full of colour, not to mention luminescent stars in the deep blue internal sky.

Outside there is space to romp; space for games . What's more there is a flying fox and a giant swing to make the most of, as well as canoes if the river is playing ball. The outside bath is tucked into a private dell surrounded by bushes and flaxes. Your host will light the fire for you and show you the tricks of achieving a perfect bath. Here is a clue. Do not keep stoking the fire too close to bath time....

 Once the summer season has settled, the fairy lights come out to add an even more magical touch.

There is nothing more perfect than a bath under the stars and a campfire on a balmy night.  The gypsy camp is near to Masterton but it might as well be a million miles away.

It is a wonderful way to spend some time.This is the kind of place that needs a repeat performance.

Friday, 28 October 2016

The Dog Box - Funky Whanganui Accommodation

The Whanganui Dog Box

A night in the Dog Box does not sound like something you would want to experience. Were you banned from the house for the night? Were you being punished? Did it involve sleeping on the couch or worse still on the front veranda? This may not be so bad if the dog box you must spend the night in is in Whanganui, and the weather is warm, and the skies are kind.

The Dog Box in Whanganui is a modern architectural creation put together by a group of students fresh out of architecture school who understood that good architecture did not have to be expensive, did not have to be predictable and did not have to be a carbon copy of its neighbours. These particular students took a number of short cuts in the interests of economy. They looked for materials on line which could be useful but which no-one seemed to want: example, trusses -  discarded by someone and now a bright blue feature of this home.

They looked for a section in Whanganui and found that they could afford zilch. Solution - give up? Not likely . Instead they found a section that nobody wanted; - too steep, too inhospitable, - too hard. They  made the section their own. The stairs were still needed. Maybe they seemed irrelevant especially  if they had already lived in Wellington ....

The House of Dogness in Whanganui  was built with love, with determination, with semi- starvation, and with great success. It is exuberant, joyous and delightful. The huge windows slip slide away to one side or the other. |The decks are part corridor, part living space. |The materials are raw and unadulterated. Concrete is undisguised. Plywood is rich and natural. Perspex - yes perspex - turns out to be an exciting building material.

The Dog Box is now a short stay rental accommodation.  With its extensive decks jutting at angles, its outstanding hang out spaces and its fabulous summer feel, all I can say is if you are heading up towards the central north island for a break, this is the place to go.

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.