Bored with flash hotels and lodges? Then plan to spend your holidays in a houseboat, or a teepee, or a barn.

Holiday lock-down

An American couple booked months ago to spend Christmas in jail. Come the holidays they'll be staying in the historic St Bathans Jail, built in 1884, immersed in tales of the gold rush days and overlooking the Blue Lake, created by the frenzy of sluicing and dredging for gold.

The quaint township dates from the 1860s and among its cluster of historic buildings, the old jail and the adjoining Constable's Cottage provide unique boutique accommodation - complete with ball and chain.

Angela Middleton bought the cottage and jail about two-and-a-half years ago from former All Black Anton Oliver. Visitors can explore heritage buildings, nearby towns, Oteake Conservation Park or join up with the Central Otago Rail Trail, which is just under 20 kilometres away.

Camping with a difference

If you want to sleep under the stars with sweet dreams of Hiawatha and peace pipes, the Tipi Retreat, run by Solscape of Raglan, could be your perfect choice.


Overlooking Manu Bay and Ocean Beach, you can stay in one of their contemporary eco-baches, a recycled New Zealand railway carriage, or one of six American Indian-style tipis (teepees).

"The tipis are great place to rejuvenate and nestle into nature — they're very comfortable as beds are made up with quality linen," says Assistant Manager, Anita Lucas.

Each tipi (doubles and twins as well as a large one to sleep four) is set on poured earth or natural timber floors and water-proofed with a special rain-catcher.

There's solar powered LED lighting, solar heated indoor-outdoor showers, a fully equipped kitchen with an earth oven, composting toilets and fresh mountain stream water.

They also have traditional smoke flaps, which can be left open for stargazing on clear nights.

Rolling on the river

Cruising down the Waikato River on self-drive house boat, Kotare, offers 21 kilometres of pure escapism between Lake Karapiro and Arapuni Dam. You can water-ski, kayak down the glowworm grottos in the streams off the majestic river, catch a big trout and cook it on the barbecue or just loll on the sun deck.

Kotare is comfortably fitted out with two double and three single beds. There's an electric anchor winch, fresh hot water shower, gas stove and oven, barbecue and fridge, as well as kitchen utensils, crockery and cutlery and deck furniture.

All the usual safety equipment along with charts and instructions are on board. And owners Ian and Christine Fraser are happy to give guests a training session. The house boat is situated about 20 minutes south of Cambridge.


Garden of tranquility

Travelling overseas, Shona MacGregor likes accommodation with a difference. And when she bought two barns on a hectare of land in a picturesque rural valley near Thames, she knew they were perfect for conversion — one as her home and the other as a rustic bed and breakfast.

An hour from Auckland and five minutes from Thames, Totara Valley Barns is an ideal base for exploring the Coromandel. The accommodation is set in magnificent gardens, which guests love. There are two queen size rooms, each with their own ensuite, lounge and kitchenette.

A continental breakfast can be had alfresco-style with jams, marmalade and chutneys all prepared from the fruit Shona and husband Bruz grow. They're also happy to provide an iconic Kiwi barbecue using their own organic produce and meat.