A Kerikeri lodge has been named the best redeveloped accommodation in New Zealand's premier hospitality awards.
Stay Kerikeri - the former Abilene Motel, on Kerikeri Rd near the Heritage Bypass - was bought by Bill and Paula Schwass three years ago.
Since then they have put huge effort and about $500,000 into transforming the once run-down 1970s motel into boutique apartments and studios catering to holidaymakers and business travellers.
Their work paid off when the rebuilt, redecorated and rebranded Stay Kerikeri won the Expedia Best Redeveloped Accommodation award in the Hospitality New Zealand Awards for Excellence.
Mr Schwass said he and his wife had previously built a luxury lodge at Mahinepua, north of Matauri Bay, and wanted to inject some luxury into the mid range.
"We found there was a lot of high-range accommodation but the mid-range just wasn't being catered to."
Over two months in 2016 they gutted all the units, lined the block walls, installed new bathrooms and kitchens, replaced the furniture, added decks and decorated inside and out with a Bay of Islands flavour. The subtropical theme was continued in the landscaping and an upgrade of the pool area.
Mr Schwass said they were now two-thirds of the way through their five-year plan to turn the former motel around. Work they still had to do included landscaping at the rear of the units.
The larger units had been converted into one- and two-bedroom apartments geared at people who wanted to base themselves in Kerikeri for several days while they explored the North and made their own meals with produce bought at the markets. The smaller studios targeted short-stay commercial travellers.
Mr Schwass said the win helped benchmark the business and gave guests confidence they were staying in the right place.
Since the upgrade business had picked up markedly, much of it driven by word-of-mouth advertising and return visitors.
"So it's been worthwhile," he said.
The judges said they loved how the property had been "totally reimagined and fits beautifully into the Kerikeri landscape".
It showed what could be done, given thought and investment, with the many dated motels lining the main streets of New Zealand towns.
The winners were announced at a gala evening at Te Papa in Wellington on October 19 attended by more than 400 people from the hospitality industry. The awards, now in their 20th year, celebrate the best of New Zealand's food and beverage and accommodation sectors.
Stay Kerikeri was the only Northland winner this year. The supreme award winner was the "casually luxurious" Whangaparaoa Lodge, which also took out the best motel category.