Rustic mountain huts, baches on the beach and a miner’s cottage with vineyard views - Danielle Wright discovers humble holiday homes to book in advance.
This close to Christmas, it's sometimes easy to wish yourself somewhere else, away from the world. There's something infinitely more charming about a tiny holiday home full of character, than a big resort full of people. Here are some little places full of romance to spend your holidays in the year to come.
Vigne Cottage, Napier
468 Dartmoor Rd, Puketapu, RD 6, Napier
$195+ per night. Ph 027 378 5759
A modern twist on an old miner's cottage, Vigne Cottage is set on a 10ha vineyard surrounded by beautiful gardens and hundreds of white iceberg roses. One little climbing rose is called The Alchemy, also the name of the boutique wine produced here.
Owner Neal Cave says: "Couples ride their bikes around the 30km of cycle trails nearby or dive off into wineries - three are within a 15-minute bike ride - and any guests with kids usually find friends in our two daughters. There's also exploring the gannet colony, walking around the art deco centre of town or, on the weekends, visiting the two farmers' markets nearby." The cottage is decorated in a wine theme, from the bedside tables made from recycled wine barrels to the black-and-white canvas painting listing the names of different wines, or maybe that's just the order of wine you need to drink while staying here.
Moonlight Bach, Scandrett Regional Park
Scandrett Rd, Mahurangi
$94-$141 per night
Contact Auckland Council on (09) 366 2000
Moonlight Bach is set in a little bay with two other baches, the perfect spot for a few friends to book for a private retreat. Part of its glamorous past includes being owned by Trelise Cooper's family. It retains a retro feel inside with cocktail shakers in the cupboard and orange light fittings, as well as beautiful nature photography from original owner Geoff Moon.
The Scandrett Homestead, built in 1885, is also in the bay, with a little milking shed playing stories of a time gone by when getting away from it all was more of a sociable experience and many a holiday romance blossomed here. Now, be content to share your evenings with thousands of stars and the sound of water lapping at the edge of your deck at high tide.
There are farm walks, as well as a little row boat with wooden fish for the kids to "catch" or bring a line and fish from the deck. It's a charming and unforgettable place to stay. Just leave plenty of time for the rigorous cleaning schedule that Auckland Council demands before you leave.
860 Purerua Rd, Kerikeri
$140-$190 per night, pet friendly
Ph (09) 407 9240
If you long for a Kiwi bach experience on a waterfront vineyard property, head to Kerikeri near the white sandy beach of Tapuaetahi. This bach comes complete with a private beach, pizza oven, dinghies and boat launch. Fish off the rocks for mullet and snapper (there's bait in the freezer) then have a horse-trek along the beach.
"We wanted people to experience having their own little bach on the beach, one that's always beautifully made up, without paying silly money for it," says owner Vanessa Owen.
It's natural and simple, in keeping with the surroundings. It has with beautiful linen and even carefully mismatched china to give it that authentic bach feel. There's homemade marmalade, fresh bread and, as it's set on a vineyard, an honesty box for Driftwood wine for when you inevitably under-estimate how many bottles you need.
Misty Mountain Hut, Piha
152 Piha Rd, Piha
$100 per night
Ph 0274 413 301
Located along the Hilary Track on Piha Rd is the tiny Misty Mountain Hut, nestled in native bush and featuring an outside hot shower/bath. It's about getting back to basics, but in a tasteful way, and is close to Piha and Karekare beaches for long walks along the wild west coast.
Stay indoors with the smell of wood burning and read your way through an interesting collection of Haruki Murakami, Witi Ihimaera and local Waitakere books, play guitar on the deck or head out and raid the vege patch for dinner. It's cosy and romantic: even the "long drop" toilet has a heart carved in the door.
Connells Bay Guest Cottage, Waiheke
Connells Bay, Cowes Bay Rd, Waiheke,
$400 per night for one couple, $50 per person per night for additional guests.
Children not allowed.
On the remote eastern end of Waiheke is a beautiful Kiwi bach set just metres back from the beach, a white picket fence framing stunning views across to Rotoroa Island and the Coromandel, red roses set against the white wood and a lemon tree out the back.
Owner John Gow says: "It's very private and, from here, couples can kayak, take a fishing tinny out in the bay or walk around the sculpture park in the grounds. The cottage is about 120 years old, but fully restored. It's lovely and peaceful."
Tasting rooms at View East and Man-O-War Vineyards are nearby when you're ready to face civilisation again, albeit with delicious food and a glass of local wine in hand.
14 Mabel Thorburn Place, Mangonui
$150-$250 per night
Ph (09) 406 0040
If you ever wanted to write a novel, this would be the place to do it, especially if you're writing about a quaint little fishing village with a colourful whaling history, and perhaps a mystery or two to solve.
Set on the water at Mill Bay, Mabel's is almost 150 years old but restored beautifully with interesting artwork and everything to make a simple bach holiday perfect, from a row boat to muck around in on the water, to plenty of cooking equipment and fresh herbs to create foodie treats while looking out on the water just a few steps from the kitchen window.
Pohutukawa Cottage, Kawau Island
Stockyard Bay, Kawau Island
$250 per night
For an authentic Kiwiana bach experience on a sub-tropical island covered in bush and just a short boat ride from Sandspit, head to Pohutukawa Cottage on Kawau Island via water taxi or ferry.
While away the days at the bach or walk to the yacht club for Kawau burgers, take a boat to Mansion House for dinner and spot phosphorescence in the lapping water on moonlit nights. Kids will love jumping off the wharf and paddling about in the bay, or searching for shells under huge pohutukawa trees.
If you have a boat moored in the bay, you can also head up Matakana River to stock up on gourmet food for dinner, or get supplies from Warkworth New World, which delivers to the island three times a week.
The Love Shack, Rotorua
76A Te Akau Rd, Okere Falls
from $145 per night, pet friendly
Ph 027 222 6870
Take your sweetheart to The Love Shack on the edge of "the little lake", Lake Rotoiti in Rotorua, which owners Guy Nelson and wife Jess describe as "a simple bach, but done to a high standard".
The Nelsons have been hosting romantic getaways at the bach for the past couple of years. Originally built in the 1950s, it's a quaint cottage set in native bush with a deck and lawn sloping down to the lake's edge.
Guy says: "It's so private and from here, couples like to follow bush tracks to Kaituna River to watch the white-water rafting, fish for trout on the lake (the third largest out of the 16 lakes in the region), or visit the Manupirua thermal pools, only accessible by boat, with a glass of wine in hand for the trip over."
There's also the Okere Falls Store & Cafe about a 25-minute walk away, mostly off-road. It's a locals' secret and great any season, whether for organic muesli for breakfast, winter weekend bonfire nights or a drink in the sunny beer garden.