Justine Tyerman no longer has to peer furtively in windows to check out prospective holiday baches.
In the days before websites and the internet – yes, I was alive back then, along with a handful of others – we had a quaint, old-fashioned habit of dropping fliers into mailboxes or slipping them under doors when we were looking for a holiday bach.
We found a few gems - some places we stayed at for years - but it required considerable effort and you had to be on the spot, of course. Apart from the view and the exterior of the house, you never quite knew what you were letting yourself in for. The bathrooms were sometimes marginal and occasionally, there was evidence of 'visitors' other than human. Attempts to peer in windows were usually frustrated by closed blinds and curtains, and the disapproving looks of the neighbours.
Nowadays, with online booking sites like Bookabach, finding the right place to stay is a breeze. The choice of Kiwi baches - from rustic to palatial - is literally at your fingertips. You can sit at home in front of your computer screen or mobile device, inspecting and critiquing every aspect of every property. And the filters allow you to refine your search right down to the minutiae - the availability of electric blankets, an Xbox, wheelchair access, a BBQ . . . No need to peer furtively in windows to see what's inside. The problem now is there are so many to choose from. But you can share your favourites with your wider family and friends to reach a consensus of where and when to go.
There have been other changes over the years too. The good old days when we could bung all the kids in a bunkroom have long since gone. While living and working overseas, our daughters have acquired 'significant others' and discerning tastes in accommodation. Venues for shared holidays now have to be sufficiently spacious and up-market to cater to these well-travelled, sophisticated young people . . . who, I'm delighted to say, are also happy to share the costs.
Looking ahead, here are my top 12 wish-list baches for 2019. There's one for each month!
Oke Beach House – Rawhiti, Bay of Islands
In the far north of New Zealand's North Island near Rawhiti, you will find Oke Beach House, a gorgeous six-bedroom, five-bathroom holiday house in the beautiful Bay of Islands.
Set high above the sea, the house is cleverly positioned to enjoy lovely ocean views of both Hauai and Oke Bays and is just a three-minute walk to two sandy, safe beaches, and the world-renowned Cape Brett walkway.
Outstanding features of Oke Beach House are the sublime living areas that open onto expansive decks on both sides of the house not to mention the fabulous outdoor log fire. I can picture myself right now, reclining on one of the loungers, bubbly in hand, gazing out over a bay studded with jewel-like islands.
Lantern House – Waiheke Island
This dramatic, award-winning architectural masterpiece is cantilevered 90 metres above the sparkling blue waters of Onetangi on Waiheke Island.
Winner of the 2018 Auckland Architecture Award, the design and décor of Lantern House is striking, featuring teak floors and ceilings and herringbone tiled floors.
The views of the ocean stretching as far as the Coromandel Peninsula in the distance are sublime.
Accommodating six guests in five-star luxury, the three bedrooms all feature super-king beds and sumptuous ensuite bathrooms with high-pressure rain showers.
Outstanding features include a 2.5 metre-deep plunge pool with an outdoor shower, wind-resistant courtyard, infinity-edge sun deck, outdoor fireplace and built-in gourmet gas BBQ.
While quiet, tranquil and ultra-private, Lantern House is close to popular Palm Beach and Onetangi Beach, and is a three-minute drive to Ostend and 10 minutes to Oneroa.
There's even a car available to hire with this property.
Puriri Valley Lodge – Church Bay, Waiheke Island
Imagine waking up to views of the sparkling Hauraki Gulf and mystical Rangitoto Island . . . and being able to share the experience with 18 members of your extended family or friends. The eight-bedroom, six-bathroom Puriri Valley Lodge is a dream location for families or groups to stay in the lead-up to a wedding at one of the many world-class wineries on the island.
The lodge sits in six acres of pristine native bush and Bordeaux grape vines and has a distinctly French chateau feel to it. There's even a pétanque court.
The outdoor entertaining area has an open fireplace and the master bedroom has a roof top spa pool with glorious views.
Surrounded by lush lawns and gardens, fruit trees, grape vines and private paths which link to a network of public walking tracks around the western end of Waiheke Island, this is a truly special place to stay.
Clifftop Cape Cod Retreat – Onetangi, Waiheke Island
Clifftop Cape Cod Retreat is mind-bogglingly beautiful, the epitome of style and luxury. This meticulously-renovated beach-style house is the ultimate luxury hideaway. Located at the top of Onetangi Hill on world-renowned Waiheke Island, the retreat commands splendid views from Onetangi to Coromandel Peninsula.
Surrounded by expansive gardens, the four-bedroom, three-bathroom retreat is a private, sun-drenched hideaway that accommodates 10 guests with ease.
The restaurants and cafes of Onetangi Beach are just a three-minute drive away.
The ground floor living/kitchen/dining space opens, by way of 10 huge glass sliders, onto a huge two-level deck overlooking the 13m infinity pool which merges into the Pacific Ocean.
A luxury kitchen and seamless indoor/outdoor flow make this home perfect for stylish entertaining – whether seated at the huge island bench, outdoors on the deck or by the elegant poolside fire and BBQ area. A holiday home for all seasons.
Blackhouse Lodge – Wainui Beach, Gisborne-Tairawhiti
The 360-degree panorama from The Blackhouse takes your breath away. I was there just recently and stood on the lawn in front of the house, taking in the vista of the vast blue Pacific Ocean, the golden sands of Wainui Beach, historic Tuahine Lighthouse, Young Nick's Head and the verdant green of Tairawhiti's rolling hills. Had I been there on November 11, I might well have seen Rocket Lab's latest launch from the tip of Mahia Peninsula.
Gisborne, the first city in the world to see the light of each new day by virtue is its extreme easterly location, is only minutes away, but the ridge-top location creates a sublime sense of peace, seclusion, lightness and tranquillity.
The three-bedroom, three-bathroom lodge accommodates 10 and is often used by VIPs who bring their own chefs to cook in the fabulous industrial-style kitchen. The generous open-plan living space with its stunning central fire place is ideal for cosy winter entertaining, and in the summer, doors and windows open wide to a wonderful expanse of lawn . . . and that spectacular view.
Activities include walks and mountain biking on the 1000-acre farm property, surfing at one of New Zealand's top surf beaches, deep sea and trout fishing, golf, feeding stingrays, winery tours, exploring Eastwoodhill Arboretum, Mahia Peninsula, Morere Hot Springs and the remote beaches of the East Coast.
Horotane Lodge – Mt Pleasant, Christchurch
Horotane Lodge is nothing short of palatial. With seven bedrooms, five bathrooms, multiple living areas, a large kitchen and indoor/outdoor entertaining area, you can host an event for up to 200 guests here.
Exceptional features include the splendid stacked stone walls and fireplace, a huge indoor swimming pool, sauna, spa pool, and beautiful lawns and gardens. The stone-pillared pavilion in the garden is a superb spot for a glass of champagne or two on a balmy summer evening.
Nestled in a valley surrounded by the Port Hills, the lodge is 15 minutes from the CBD, 30 minutes from the airport, and a few minutes from the Christchurch Gondola, one of the city's main attractions. The quaint village of Lyttelton is only 5 minutes' drive from the property, through the Lyttelton Tunnel.
Lakehouse Joela – Queenstown
If you haven't been to Queenstown yet, you have never lived. Here's your opportunity to visit the adventure capital of the world and stay in the luxury of a five-bedroom, five-bathroom private home looking directly at the iconic Remarkables . . . and Lake Wakatipu, Cecil Peak, Walter Peak and Kelvin Heights.
The huge feature windows bring the lake and mountains right inside the house.
It's tranquil here away from the hustle-bustle of the tourism hotspot but a short drive or 15-minute flat stroll takes you right to the heart of the township via the popular Frankton Walkway just below the house. I've walked and biked the track all the way to the Kelvin Heights Peninsula - it's a must-do.
A huge gas fireplace sits between the living, dining and kitchen areas radiating warmth throughout the house. Foodies and entertainers will swoon over the kitchen with its stunning quartz benchtop, induction hobs, and brand new stainless steel appliances.
A separate media room at the top of the house features a 65-inch curved Smart TV with SKY channels.
No less than four separate outdoor areas take in different breath-taking views and there's a beautiful stone fireplace and outside spa pool to relax in at the end of the day.
Ekara House – Queenstown Hill, Queenstown
Nothing would get done if I stayed at Ekara House. The five-bedroom, five-bathroom house high above the township on Queenstown Hill has heart-stopping, picture postcard views of turquoise Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding peaks and mountains. Located in the Peak Estate, Central Queenstown's only private gated community, it's secure and private yet just a few minutes' walk from downtown Queenstown with its mind-boggling array of shops, nightlife, restaurants and adventure activities.
You can watch the historic Earnslaw steamer plying the waters of the lake, sky divers and hang gliders sailing off various mountain tops and the night lights of the alpine village without venturing off the property.
Atuarohe – Queenstown Hill, Queenstown
'Atuarohe' meaning 'God's Zone' is one of Queenstown's finest residences. Perched high above the famous alpine town on Queenstown Hill, the elevated view of Lake Wakatipu with its necklace of majestic mountains is heart-stopping.
Substantial stone fireplaces and locally-sourced artwork and furniture are a feature of this magnificent, recently-refurbished home.
The bedrooms and open plan living areas open wide onto balconies for seamless indoor/outdoor entertaining while a large spa pool overlooks the lake and mountains. An idyllic spot at sunset . . . or anytime of the day.
With five generous king bedrooms and four bathrooms, this exquisite home offers guests a spacious, luxurious private residence in which to relax, entertain, daydream and unwind.
A short stroll or drive down the hill and you are in the heart of Queenstown with a myriad of adrenalin-pumping activities to choose from, not to mention dozens of world-class restaurants, cafes and boutiques.
Threepwood Farm – Lake Hayes
This stylish three-bedroom, three-bathroom home is tucked away from the world in a tranquil, private rural nook and yet it's only five minutes' drive to Arrowtown and 15 minutes to Queenstown. Threepwood has direct walking access to one of my favourite hikes, the track around Lake Hayes, famous for its mirror images of the mountains. Call at Amisfield Winery for a glass of renowned Central Otago pinot noir on your way around the lake.
Designed for entertaining, the property has a large kitchen with an extensive open- plan living and dining area that opens wide to outside spaces with a variety of seating options and fire places. Skiers can just look out the window at world-famous Coronet Peak resort to check the snow and weather conditions for the day.
The snug lounge/media room with cosy blankets is an inviting place to hunker down on a snowy winter night.
Pikorua – Dalefield, near Queenstown-Arrowtown
An imposing statue of a 'Pikorua' or 'Maori Twist', greets guests in the entranceway, symbolising two intertwined Pikopiko ferns, a delicate native New Zealand plant found in nearby forests.
The statue sets the theme of this unique rural abode with its eye-catching, contemporary artwork, design, décor and lighting features.
The five-bedroom, five-bathroom abode overlooks the spectacular Shotover River canyon and has a uniquely different view of the iconic Remarkables.
A massive floor-to-ceiling stacked stone fireplace is a striking feature of the living area, echoing the schist of the surrounding mountains.
Bi-fold doors in the open-plan living space open out onto the BBQ area and courtyard with mountains so close you feel you can reach out and touch them.
Close to world-famous Coronet Peak ski resort, Pikorua is an ideal winter base for skiers and snowboarders. Queenstown, a year-round mecca for international tourists and adventure-seekers, is just 15 minutes' drive and historic, picturesque Arrowtown, a gold rush town of the 1860s, is 10 minutes away.
With stunning views, modern design and generous living and entertaining space, this superb rural home is just far enough away from the tourism hotspots to guarantee privacy, peace and seclusion.
Release Wanaka, Te Kahu – Wanaka
I've often gazed at this beautiful property from afar. It sits so lightly on the landscape, you hardly notice it's there.
Accommodating eight guests in four-bedrooms and four bathrooms, the silhouette of the architecturally-designed villa follows the contours of the land allowing it to blend naturally into the tussock and bush on the 50-acre property.
A 25-minute drive from the alpine village of Wanaka and a 15-minute drive to Treble Cone ski field, Te Kahu is an ideal location for skiers and snowboarders during the winter months.
A sheltered outdoor living area and open fire provide the perfect spot to enjoy the breath-taking lake views.
Te Kahu holds a fine collection of New Zealand art and furniture from the world over.
With cedar cladding inside and out and bathrooms featuring schist rock, tile and timber, I'm not surprised Te Kahu won the New Zealand Home of the Year for Architecture.
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