Lorna Subritzky enjoys a winning bach in acclaimed surroundings.
There's various reasons for booking a bach: a romantic getaway, attending a wedding or other family occasion, a family holiday, or just wanting to escape the rat race for a night and explore new surroundings. It's the latter reason that motivates my husband and I to head for Beech Hill in Mapua, about 30 minutes out of Nelson in the heart of the Tasman region. And if we don't need the break before we leave, we certainly do by the time we eventually reach our destination (a long story involving a nightmare drive to the airport, a fog-diverted flight, and the generosity of strangers putting us up for a night).
I have high hopes for Beech Hill before our visit, especially as it was voted the Supreme Winner in last year's Bookabach Golden Piwa awards. And I'm not disappointed. My first impressions are of a light, bright, simple yet beautiful cottage with quality furnishings, a well-stocked kitchen and (despite the semi-isolated location) all mod-cons, including wi-fi, Sky TV and underfloor heating for the cooler months. And it's quiet! So much so that Steve and I turn to each other with a simultaneous Castle reference: "How's the serenity?".
Beech Hill's forest setting means the only thing punctuating this serenity is the chattering of tuis and other native birds. Within the first five minutes of arriving, I'm admiring the Golden Piwa winner plaques on the wall with their fantail logos when a cheeky piwakawaka flies down beside me to check out the new arrival, a delightful irony that I can't wait to share with the kids. In fact, our children (particularly the youngest) would love it here.
The property boasts a a sandpit, treehouse, numerous swings and a spectacular glowworm gully (torches provided) to explore before tumbling, happily exhausted, into the bunk beds upstairs. And as Beech Hill was also the winner of the 2015 award for best pet-friendly accomodation, we know our pooch would also be welcome here. Not that we're starved of animal company even without her though — owners Nic and Wayne Picard and their daughters live just up the drive and their gregarious Old English Sheepdog Louis comes to visit; there's also cats, dog, chicken, ponies and goats on the property only too happy with some extra attention. Craving even more creatures? There's an animal park just two minutes drive away.
While I'd be quite happy to spend our time just hunkering down here, particularly with the sun blazing down on the inviting deck, we feel the urge to explore. One of the additional attractions of Beech Hill is its close proximity to all the sensational things the Tasman region has to offer: golden beaches like Kaiteriteri, superb local vineyards and craft breweries, as well as numerous walking tracks and bike trails for more active holidaymakers. The latter does not include us: instead we opt for a quick drive to Mapua Wharf on the banks of the beautiful Waimea Estuary. From our sun-drenched table at The Apple Shed Cafe, we tuck into a delicious seafood lunch while simultaneously devouring the view of blue water and white-tipped mountains, a glass or two of local wine capping things off nicely.
After a walk around the busy wharf area, teeming with visitors taking advantage of the numerous restaurants, bars, galleries and shops (the hat shop alone is worth the trip), we pick up some bits and bobs to make a simple dinner back at Beech Hill, along with another bottle of Nelson's finest (be rude not to, right?) and head back to our slice of sanctuary in time for me to catch the last of the sun's rays — and for him indoors, the big game on TV.
After a refreshing slumber in one of the most comfortable beds I've ever slept in, a nice dilemma — where to have brunch? Our hosts have suggested Mahana Vineyard but we fear we won't have time before our flight, so return to Mapua Wharf where it's once again bustling despite the rather inclement weather. We're impressed with the local produce on offer at Jellyfish, and the coffee puts many big city baristas to shame.
And then, just like that, it's time to head home: rested, inspired, and determined to get away again soon. No matter where in the country we decide to visit, and no matter what we are looking for, Bookabach makes the process pretty simple with easily applied search filters. Happy to bring your own linen in exchange for a cheaper rate? Sorted. Prefer the cleaning rate to be included in the tariff? Done. Want to bring the family pet? Doggone easy.
Many properties have minimum night stays, but others — like Beech Hill — are happy to take a single night booking. And if you're already a seasoned Bookabach user, then it's time for you to nominate your favourite, with voting for the Bookabach Bach of the Year Golden Piwa awards now open for 2016. It remains to be seen if Beech Hill can retain its crown as the ultimate bach — but for now, it gets our vote.
IF YOU GO
Beech Hill, in Mapua, Nelson, was voted the 2015 Bookabach Supreme Bach of the Year, as well as the Gold Medal Winner of the Pet Friendly category. Visit bookabach.co.nz to book.