Janetta Mackay checks into a self-contained bungalow that calls itself a hotel in Havelock North.


Top of the main street in a quiet stretch just beyond Havelock North's boutique selection of shops and opposite one of the Hawke's Bay town's drawcard destinations in Pipi Cafe.

The owners of the popular evening eatery, Alexandra Tylee and Chris Morris, have renovated an old wooden bungalow to provide the sort of home-away-from-home that holidaymakers crave.

What's in the neighbourhood? Good cafes, gourmet groceries, up-to-date stores and a cinema, all within a few blocks. It's a short drive to vineyards, fruit stalls and more vineyards. Napier and Hastings are within easy reach, but there's ample to do for a weekend around Havelock North alone.


Time your trip for a concert at nearby Black Barn or head to lunch as we did at the classy Craggy Range vineyard on the Gimblett Gravels above the Tukituki River.

Check-in experience: With emailed directions and a door code it was easy finding our way in. An information sheet on the bench invited us to ring the cafe manager over the road if we needed any help or food delivered.

House: From the shortbread in the biscuit jar, lemons on the bench, board games and DVDs to delve into and velvet throws on the beds, the place is immediately inviting.

Its mix of shabby chic furniture, clean white walls and modern creature comforts make this like the first home of a stylish and clever friend. Renovators take note: old woollen check blankets repurpose well as heavy curtains, lino makes a smart-looking cheap floor covering, and a pop of colour does add the "wow factor" TV home shows waffle on about.

Exercise: There's a daybed on the verandah for a mid-afternoon stretch or another in the lounge if it's a bit chilly outside. If you must don trainers, take a short hike up the leafy hill to check out the town's elite schools or try the long haul up Te Mata Peak. We opted to drive, but one way or another do check out the panoramic view.

The bed: Queen-sized comfort and definitely not vintage, as are the lounge armchairs.

Bathroom: Walk-in black tile showers add a contemporary touch to the en suites of the hotel's two double bedrooms. No rubbish bins strangely, given the attention to detail elsewhere including a compost bin in the kitchen for food scraps.

Toiletries: Ecostore.

Noise: A few cars passing by mid-evening, but all parked up later on.

Price: From $250 per night, seasonal rates and weekly deals available.

Free Wi-Fi? Yes.

Food: Free eggs, Vogel's bread and home-made muesli mean you can self-cater in the morning, with a supermarket nearby for re-supplies, but don't miss venturing out or ordering in. Pipi Cafe does a mean pizza and tasty homely meals. Down Joll Rd you'll find Hugo Chang's for a cocktail and Asian bar snacks, and fun Mexican joint Mamacita.

What's so good about this place? If you can't afford a luxury lodge and don't want to stay in an anonymous motel, you'll love Pipi Hotel. There's ample room for two couples or a small family.

Would I return? Next time I'm in Havelock North for sure, and knowing about this little gem makes the destination all the more enticing.

Pipi Hotel is on Joll Road, in Havelock North, Hawke's Bay.