In case you didn’t know, New Zealand is THE specialist in boutique accommodation. Our clients love the personal hosting they receive. We’re talking about experienced hosts/owners operating boutique, purpose-built accommodation and depending on your budget, there’s plenty of choice, from a touch of luxury, to masses of it!
These heroes of New Zealand’s tourism are known for marking the special milestones in the lives of their guests – this gorgeous wedding anniversary cake was prepared in advance by the owner of Clifftops Luxury Retreat at Ruby Bay, Tasman:
You might be invited to catch to some crayfish with your hosts or get a surprise tray of port and chocolates delivered to your suite, like we did a few years ago at Breakfast on the Beach Waiheke Island.
..or complementary use of a Mini Cooper S Convertible to zip around the Sounds region as provided by the exclusive Sounds Retreat in the Charlotte Sounds. Aren’t we the bees knees!
The breakfasts at Boutique accommodations are often amazing – this breakfast table at Arrowtown House only shows the first course!!
We had a couple who had a morning helicopter flight. When the host at their accommodation realised that it would be cancelled because of bad weather, she rang the helicopter pilot to reschedule a flight later that afternoon. (helps that all these operators usually know each other)
A good host will think ahead for their guests, anticipate possible obstacles and work towards removing them e.g. unforeseeable events like a bridge being closed because of weather due to a big overnight rainfall – no problem, the host advises the guests and recommends an alternative route already mapped out over a relaxed breakfast. Good hosts will also know when to step back – not everyone wants to talk. Also, expect them to be honest with their restaurant recommendations too.
Our personal fav for Host of the Decade, has to go to Anne of Eliza’s Manor House in Christchurch, who with her husband Harold, painstakingly restored Eliza’s to and beyond it’s former glory after the Christchurch Earthquake. It’s now regarded as one of the most structually secure buildings in New Zealand! Nothing is too much trouble to Anne and her guests love her.
Yep, sometimes it’s the smaller guys that make the biggest difference to the travel experience.
We recently took off for a 2-night getaway to Ruby Bay. Not exactly big mileage as Ruby Bay is only a 25 minute drive from our house. But at the turnoff to Mapua, we already felt part of a different world – a slower and less peopled one. We stayed at the Ruby Bay Vineyard where owners Ivy and Andy offer 2 lodge rooms and a gorgeous elevated cottage. We chose the cottage which overlooks 9 hectares of gently sloping grapevines…..soooo private and wait’ll you see the views!
The blue dot in the foreground is me and yes, this is how much glorious space we had to ourselves:
The cottage interiors are decorated in pristine white and warm creams with dark wooden floors. The rainhead shower in the bathroom and lavender bathroom products added a nice layer of comfort.
Ivy and Andy are very generous hosts. The fridge was groaning with food e.g.- export Portabello Mushrooms. tomatoes and cherries, eggs, fresh fruit, PICS Peanut butter (arguably the best in New Zealand), yoghurt, orange juice and milk. The cupboards were stocked with cereals, condiments and baking ingredients. On arrival, Ivy welcomed us with a huge gourmet platter and a bottle of their award-winning wines – we chose the Riesling – luscious!
On day 2, we finally wrestled ourselves off the deckchairs to explore the Kina beach area, passing by the gorgeous (9-hole) Tasman Golf club at Kina Cliffs. Non-members are welcomed to buy a drink at the clubhouse and relax outside to enjoy the views of Tasman Bay at the Mt Arthur Ranges. Instead, we joined the locals at the Kina Beach Reserve:
There is a common misperception that you pay more for exclusive occupancy in New Zealand, but when you look at what’s provided, it’s excellent value. We didn’t eat out once! But perhaps the true value of our stay was the peace and privacy we found here away from our busy lives…ok, Michael, just one more look:
The advantage of using a small tour company like White Heron Tours is that you’ll probably gain closer access to the subject – in this case, the nesting colony of the beautiful White Heron at Waitangi Roto Nature Reserve. This is a 2-3 tour and commences from Whataroa, which is on the way to Franz Josef Glacier. The tour is divided into 3 parts: firstly a short minibus ride to the river to connect with the jet boat…
…and then if you’re really lucky, a majestic White Heron will escort you into the Sanctuary.
The 20 min boat ride takes you to a jetty. From there, it’s a short boardwalk through native bush to the viewing platform. Here you can stay 30-40 mins to view the birds. Dion, our guide, has been doing this tour for years and the protection of the White Herons (Kotuku) and their environment, is his passion. You’ll find youselves falling into a respectful silence as you sit, mesmorised by the angel-like wings of the adult Herons swooping down to their nests.
They fuss about feeding their chicks, oblivious to our presence, although I suspect they’re probably used to visitors by now.
It’s here that you’ll also see the stunning and unusual Spoonbills (yes, their black beaks are really shaped like a spoon). The pristine rainforest environment refreshens the spirit and I can pretty much guarantee the memory of this tour will stay with you forever. It did for me.
Racing Day in New Zealand is an event that brings people together – it’s affordable and sometimes the smaller towns offer the best experience. Great for travellers looking for a local experience. We spent an enjoyable afternoon at the Richmond Harness Racing yesterday. (Btw, Harness Racing is is a form of horse racing in which the horses race at type of trot, pulled by a two-wheeled cart called a sulky.) – isn’t this horse magnificent!
Some folks had bought their own supply of bubbly and food but there were plenty of food stalls as well. Lordy, there were some sights and not just the four-legged variety! Style and taste versus total fashion failure. These ladies got it right though.
We strolled over to the stables and struck it lucky when one of the trainers kindly led his horse out of it’s stall for a photo shot with Michael. Just as I was about to click the camera, “Royal City” bought his hoof down on Michael’s foot. We had to delete that photo. This one’s good – all is forgiven.
Harness Racing is incredibly atmospheric. Before the start of each a horse race, the runners are paraded in the birdcage – the enclosure in front of the grandstand. This is where everyone gets a chance to assess all the horses before placing their bets. If a horse is badly behaved in the birdcage, chances are they won’t race well.
I had forgotten the old-timers of my childhood, permanent fixtures at these events – blokes with history leaning on the bar, big bellies straining at the effort - these great characters never die and they’ve seen it all . Another perfect day in paradise folks.
We had a bit of trouble finding Cranbrook cottage. No one had advised our GPS about the temporary detour. After a bit of “recalculation” we drove along beautiful rural pastures and turned off into a long driveway leading up to the main property. The owners of Cranbrook Cottage, Keren & Ian Mitchell, were a bit doubtful about showing us the cottage “I think it’s probably a bit too basic for your clients” Keren said. The seeds of doubt had been sown…..until I saw the cottage.
Cranbrook Cottage is a 150-year-old self-contained hideaway set among the vineyards and gardens of Keren and Ian’s beautiful Marlborough property, just outside Blenheim. The cottage is privately positioned away from the main house and has beautiful vineyard views. The cottage walls have been stripped back to their original rustic state,which is softened by Keren’s stylish textiles, the whitest, fluffiest towels wrapped in satin ribbon and vases of red and white bougainvillea.
The cottage may be rustic but the silver service breakfast tray delivered each morning is definitely NOT.
I think Cranbrook cottage is a destination, rather than a convenience. You can linger here and enjoy sunsets while sipping on a stunning Marlborough Savignon Blanc.