When you're on a family holiday, it's often the accommodation that becomes the main event — whether you head back to the hotel for afternoon naps or early bedtimes, jumping on the beds and racing around checking out the "new home" is as fun for the kids as the holiday activities, especially on wet days. Here are some options to inspire little (and big) imaginations:
Woodlyn Park, 1177 Waitomo Valley Rd, RD7, Otorohanga. Ph (07) 878 6666.
Stay in railcar accommodation, featuring a refurbished 1914 railcar looking a bit like the Red Caboose of children's books. There's also the option to stay in a 1950s Bristol freighter plane, fully refurbished into two self-contained motel units or on a ship named The Waitanic, originally built for anti-submarine patrol during World War II, now converted into a motel, including a honeymoon suite. While you're there, watch the sheep shearing farm show, visit the Waitomo Caves or watch Billy Black's Kiwi Culture Show in the official Kiwiana Town of New Zealand.
Dargaville Campervan Park and Cabins, Gladstone St, Dargaville. Ph (09) 439 8479.
Stay in a KP railway carriage and visit Ernie's live Kumara Box show or take a 90-minute cruise on the Northern Wairoa River. Next door is Jo's Home Cookery restaurant for a taste of home.
Further afield is The House Truck, contact Golden Bay Hideaway, 220 McShane Rd, Wainui Bay, Golden Bay. Ph (03) 525 7184.
Restore your pioneer spirit with a stay in a restored house truck, complete with an outdoor bath and a wood fireplace. It's situated to make the most of sea and mountain views in a private bush location and features leadlight windows and antique finishes.
A slice of history
The Old Post Office Guesthouse, 3247 Paparoa-Oakleigh Rd, Paparoa. Ph (09) 431 6444.
The quaint Paparoa Post Office served the community since 1903. It's now open as a country-style bed and breakfast with olde worlde Holiday for a good cause charm. Home cooking is available — from a specially-prepared picnic basket for a day out to homemade soup and bread or a 3-course dinner.
Cowboys and Indians
Mellonsfolly Ranch, contact Sheriff Black Pete and Miss Maggie on (06) 385 3346. They don't take kindly to visitors, so call first to find the secret location.
Get a group together and rent out a wild west town an hour's drive from Ohakune. It's the ultimate hideout, complete with onsite courthouse, blacksmith, newspaper office, hotel and saloon. Shoot tin cans with a Smith & Wesson six-gun air pistol or try your hand at horseshoe pitching.
Later, watch a spaghetti western movie before a round of blackjack or poker, or a cowboy cookout under the stars. Family get-togethers will never be the same again. All meals included in the price, as well as use of town facilities.
Solscape Eco Retreat, 611 Wainui Rd, Raglan. Ph (07) 825 8268.
Channel your inner Native American and stay in a tipi in the Raglan bush. The tipis (twin, double or sleeping four people) have traditional smoke flaps, which can be left open for stargazing on clear nights. After cooking in an open-air kitchen, eat your meal in a covered dining area sheltered among punga ferns and manuka. Tipis are available from December to April. Solscape also has an "earth dome" and caboose accommodation options for colder weather.
Te Hana Te Ao Marama Maori Cultural Centre, 317 State Highway One, Te Hana (near Wellsford). Ph (09) 423 8701.
For a modern marae with beautiful features, such as ceiling lights mimicking the stars at night as well as an impressive replica pa village, try Te Hana Maori Cultural Centre. Sleep on separate mattresses arranged inside the comfort of the marae's meeting hall and you will be initiated into the marae protocol with a welcome ceremony, such a beautiful part of the Maori culture.
The price includes a powhiri, marae accommodation, cooked breakfast and fresh linen.
Further afield: Consider Wwoofing (working on an organic farm) at a living marae such as Tapu Te Ranga, 44 Rhine St, Island Bay, Wellington. Ph (04) 970 6235.
The Lighthouse, 326 The Esplanade, Island Bay, Wellington. Ph (04) 472 4177.
If you're visiting Wellington with little lighthouse aficionados, The Lighthouse in Island Bay is a must-stay location jutting out from a rocky outcrop across the road from the beach and tucked into the bottom of a hill.
It is the perfect place to pretend you're a lighthouse keeper for the day (and night).
The Boot, Jester House Estate, 320 Aporo Rd, Tasman 7152, Nelson. Ph (03) 526 6742.
Nestled within a grove of hazelnut trees is The Boot, for anyone game enough to sleep inside — you guessed it — a giant boot.
Dubbed the "boot of love", it's a fairytale romantic getaway straight out of a picture book. The boot has two levels, a winding staircase, and the tongue has become a balcony. It's meant to provide old-fashioned romance, though if my husband booked a romantic getaway for us here I think I would run for the hills — my kids, on the other hand, would love it.