Pick of the best baches in New Zealand

By Sheridan Rhodes

It's time to start dreaming of your summer escape.

360 Degrees over Waiheke offers views for sunrise and sunset. Photo / Supplied
360 Degrees over Waiheke offers views for sunrise and sunset. Photo / Supplied

About now most Kiwis gain a faraway look in their eye - seeing past the election, the end of year children's events, Christmas, and on to their escape to a bach.

It could be humble, with tents and caravans sprawling on the lawn to accommodate the overflow of family and friends; it could be stylish, in one of the new, architecturally designed houses on fantastic stretches of coastline, some with waves literally lapping at the door.

All have one thing in common - they transport their occupants to another, simpler world, away from their day to day cares.

That's how New Zealand architect Ken Crosson feels when he steps into his modern interpretation of the Kiwi bach.

"It's a complete switch off. The building itself is a little unusual, it's remote and connected to nature. There are no TVs or computers: just the beach, good music and generations of friends and family. It's wonderful."

We've travelled the North and South Islands to bring you some of the best Kiwi baches, to help you plan your escape this summer.

NORTH ISLAND

Whare Midge, Raglan

Two hours southwest of Auckland, Raglan is a magnet for surfers, alternative lifestylers and musicians such as Kiwi blues legend Midge Marsden, who owns quirky Whare Midge. Raglan has a dramatic black sand coastline and what's said to be the longest, most accessible and consistent left-hand break in the world is located at Whale Bay. It also attracts some pretty hardcore surfers because the water is mighty chilly.

Midge's bach overlooks the pretty inner harbour and we strike it lucky with the weather, which bathes the town and coastline in sunshine. The three-bedroom character home has a laid-back vibe and a fantastic deck overlooking the calm waters of the harbour. Originally built as a boathouse in the early 1940s it has been Midge's home for the past 27 years and provided a temporary refuge for friends, family and fellow musos. The master bedroom at the front with French doors opening on to the deck is the pick of the bedrooms. There's also a super comfy lounge beneath bi-fold windows, which is a great spot to curl up with a book.

Whare Midge is ideal for a family or group of friends travelling together and is managed by Rohi Manu who also have other terrific baches on their books. It can be chilly first thing in the morning, so make use of the electric heating and woodfire.

The best place to eat in town is Orca Restaurant and Bar. If you're looking for the best coffee however, it's tucked away in Volcom Lane at a little hole in the wall called Raglan Roast, where the locals, surfers and backpackers hang out. Order a latte, pull up a pew and soak up Raglan's unique, bohemian vibe.

* Whare Midge rents from $200/night. Ph (07) 825 8838.

360 Degrees Over Waiheke

Aucklander Jane Ingle gave the bach concept a makeover at her property, 360 Degrees Over Waiheke. The stunning, three-level house positioned high on Burrell Rd peninsula, 360 Degrees overlooks two beaches, giving guests both sunrise and sunset vistas. The retro chic kitchen adjoins dining and living areas with high ceilings, fireplace and huge glass doors opening on to the "sunset" balcony. The upstairs master bedroom opens on to the "sunrise" deck.

You could spend your stay gazing at the view with a glass of Waiheke red in hand but it'd be a pity not to get out and enjoy a coffee at Spice or Charlie Farley's, or lunch at Stoneyridge Vineyard. Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant offers possibly the island's best dining. Take a stroll to Oneroa village for the boutique craft shops and stock up on everything from cheeses to organic beers and breads at Waiheke Fruit and Veg.

* 360 Degrees sleeps six and costs from $475 a night. Phone (09) 3765 248.

Millar Road, Hawke's Bay

Inspired by Grandad's bach but with a modern twist, these two cottages are tucked into the Tukituki Hills overlooking the property's vineyard, Te Awanga, and the Hawke's Bay coastline from Cape Kidnappers to Mahia. Ginny and Jeremy Collinge and their son, Greg, bought the property in 2002, replanted the vineyard with sauvignon blanc and pinot gris vines and purpose-built the cottages. Inside, the comparisons with Grandad's bach end. Local artworks grace the walls, there's locally designed linen, a cosy wood fire, fully equipped kitchen and en suites off each of the two bedrooms, plus a separate bathing room with luxurious cradle bath. There's also a handy list of places they love which saves you wasting valuable time hunting out the best cafes, shopping and restaurants. Try Pipi's in nearby Havelock North for rustic Italian-style pasta and pizzas, while the Frying Dutchman five minutes' drive away at Clive serves up some of the best fish and chips around. Last year the Collinges added Haumoana House, a luxurious 300sq m residence at the property's highest point and facing north to maximise the panoramic views. It'd be a stretch to call it a bach, however it's ideal for large groups. All of the accommodation shares a fabulous pool and pool bar and all guests receive a bottle of organically farmed wine called The Supernatural.

* Millar Road rates start at $400 a night per cottage, sleeping for up to four people. Phone (06) 875 1977.

Otama Bach, Kuaotunu, Coromandel

New Zealand architect Ken Crosson envisioned his Kiwi bach as an ingenious "shipping container". His design folds open to form decks that afford sea views. At a flick of a switch it folds up into a neatly contained box, "as protection from the elements and from people".

Crosson, who rents out the property, says the home reinterprets the New Zealand building tradition - the crafting of wood - and gives his urban-based children a taste of nature.

Its remote location on the northeast coast of the Coromandel Peninsula offers dramatic views over Otama Beach and the Mercury Islands. "We targeted this bay as it's a white, sandy north-facing beach with only a small settlement and the whole beachfront is a reserve," says Crossan.

The bach bath is on wheels and can be filled with water and wheeled on to the deck to take in the view while you soak.

The living room is open to the outside but the bunkrooms are enclosed and cool. The large fireplace encourages cozy winter gatherings, and a cane swing seat is a great place to relax. "Family holidays are fantastic. I am from a large, scattered family and every second year we all get together there. Tents and vans accommodate the overflow. I love it."

* Otama Bach costs from $500 per night and sleeps up to eight people.

SOUTH ISLAND

Lands End, Golden Bay

The scenic two-hour drive from Nelson to Golden Bay passes seaside villages, orchards and vineyards until a winding road takes you over Takaka Hill, with views back to Nelson on one side and vistas of snow-capped mountains on the other. Takaka village is home to lifestylers, artisans and other friendly locals and is an ideal place at which to refuel with a coffee at the Wholemeal Cafe and to stock up on supplies for your bach stay.

Lands End is 50m from the sands of Tata Beach and is an original Kiwi bach, with a retro feel. It has two bedrooms with a double bed in each, a single bed and a rollout. Kayaks and lifejackets are free to use. There's also a fireplace, a deck with sea views and an unpretentious fit-out. Nearby you can visit the world's clearest springs, Waikoropupu Springs, then have a hearty meal washed down with home brew at the eclectic Mussel Inn. Tuck into breakfast and great coffee at Totally Roasted, in nearby Pohara.

* From $80 a night. Phone 0274 372 360.

As You Like it, Purakaunui, Dunedin

This restored 140-year-old crib sits on the very edge of the sheltered Purakaunui inlet, just a 30-minute scenic drive from Dunedin. Although faithful to its historic roots, this gorgeous fisherman's cottage now features home comforts including a modern kitchen and bathroom. There are three tasteful bedrooms, but be warned, all the rooms are in separate cottages on the waterfront, as is the bathroom. It's also a bit of a tramp along a dirt path to reach the cluster of four buildings, which have been known as "As You Like it" since the 1930s. There are no shops, no services and you may be deafened by bird calls. But if your idea of getting away from it all is kicking back with a good book, glass of wine at hand, and watching the tide literally lap the front of the crib, then this is your place. During the day soak up the crib's fabulous location, go bird watching, dig for cockles, row a canoe around the tidal inlet or head for Port Chalmers with it boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Also not far away is the renowned seafood restaurant Fleur's Place at Moeraki for a meal you'll be talking about for years to come.

* From $130 a night. Book here.

Wai Taha, Lake Hawea, Wanaka

This cosy, two-bedroom 1950s crib sits on the edge of Lake Hawea looking across to snow-capped peaks, just a 15 minute drive from Wanaka. Inside, there's a queen-size bed and single bed in one room and a double bed in the second bedroom. A divan in the living room means the bach can sleep five.

Nearby, the fast-flowing Timaru Creek is renowned for its fly fishing. Stroll the Timaru River Track, then it's back to the bach for a swim, followed by a glass of local pinot noir in front of a fireplace made of Otago schist.

* From $175 a night, minimum three-night stay. Phone Wanaka Holiday Homes (03) 443 2088.

Bach checklist

* Decide on your budget and desired location: beach, lake, alpine? Check to see where the nearest supermarket, cafe, restaurants and attractions are and whether you can access the bach by car.

* Determine what bach size you need: a romantic one-bedroom bach for two, or a sprawling bach that sleeps 8-10 guests?

* Surf the internet and make a shortlist of appealing baches and special deals. Good websites include bookabach.co.nz, holidayhomes.co.nz and bachcare.co.nz. Tourism New Zealand also has an extensive listing of baches at tourism.nz.com under accommodation/holiday homes.

* Ensure the bach has the facilities you want or need: portacots for babies, linen, towels, adequate heating and electronic equipment such as DVD and sound systems. Wi-fi access is rarely offered but check. Some baches have a phone to make local calls, and equipment such as kayaks and a dinghy for guest use.

* The Auckland Council offers nine traditional beachside baches to rent in its regional parks, ranging from $60-$200 per night. Ph 09 366 2000 or arc.govt.nz/parks (click on 'stay in a park').

- Herald on Sunday

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