A beautiful weekend getaway can really enliven your soul. in Aotearoa, we’re spoilt for choice.
We all work so hard these days. Without a nice weekend away to look forward to, the year can really drag on. This is especially true in the period between Easter and Anzac Day, and Labour weekend. There is only one public holiday (Queen’s Birthday) to break up the monotony of the year. Quelle horrible.
But, fear not! New Zealand is full of wonderful places, easily accessible, that you can explore to refresh the soul. I love finding out where I haven’t yet been, and planning a trip to discover new spots or re-discover an old favourite. Northland, Auckland, the Hawkes Bay, the Wairarapa and many more places all have attractive and romantic spots which are beautiful to visit.
A few weekends ago Matt and I attended an engagement party that a friend celebrated in the Hawkes Bay at Waimarama beach. I had to find us accommodation but I found that it was a bit tricky initially. The beach had places for hire, but many of them were big shed like places which slept 12-16 people. Totally inappropriate for just my boyfriend and I. I had to look further afield. So I thought I would dedicate this blog post to how I seek out new and interesting places to stay - which also have a charming and unique ‘je ne sais quoi’.
1. Decide whether it is the destination or the accommodation which is more important.
For some weekend’s away, you have a certain specific area you want or need to be in. Other times, it can be a joy to allow the accommodation to dictate where you stay.
Certain websites, like Canopy Camping, display all their unique boutique accommodation across New Zealand in one place. They have a high standard to which they hold their host and very specific vibe (glamping). This means that you’ll be able to take your pick of the spoils (assuming you can get in - some places book out months in advance, especially on the weekends).
This has, in the past, led to Matt and I deciding to choose to stay in the Baton Valley near Nelson at Honeywell Hut. It was so picturesque that one of the fashion world’s most famous bloggers (Jessie Bush of ‘We the People’) had recently gotten married there just a few weeks before we did. I had no idea until we returned and I turned my phone! I really wanted to give Canopy Camping a go because I knew they curate wonderful places to stay and the fact that Nelson was one of the only places available on New Years eve meant we fell into a magical New Year getaway we really enjoyed.
On the other hand, for our weekend at our friend Erika’s engagement, we knew we needed to be around Havelock North and Waimarama beach. Unfortunately, there weren’t places still available that was suitable for a couple at the beach so we had to cast our net a little wider (Matt didn’t drink that night so we had a safe drive home). Fortunately, we found the beautiful Tom’s Cottage, right under the gaze of Te Mata peak. (I share more about it below).
2. Determine your accommodation personal style
Do you like chic or cosy? Natural or sleek? Large or small? Do you have to have a restaurant close by? What about a pool? Or an outdoor bath? Or maybe you’re searching for somewhere which is out of Wi-fi range…?
Everybody has different preferences when it comes to staying somewhere on a weekend getaway. Personally, I love cute cottages which have a rustic charm and, dare I say it, look beautiful on this blog. Tom’s Cottage was therefore my absolute dream location. To clarify your ideas, write them all down on a big piece of paper, or in your journal. This will help you prioritise what is most important to you by seeing it all laid out. On review, you might find that it isn’t as important to you to have a pool but you really want a good bed. Everyone has different priorities.
Personally I love cosy cottages, like Tom’s Cottage where we stayed. Tucked away up a side road, it is situated in an olive grove. The cottage has a large deck and an outdoor bath which can be stoked and made hot with a fire. The cottage is private, tucked away behind large bushes. Painted green with ochre doors, I honestly felt like I was in Provence. Inside, the owners have used traditional french country style to accent the overall feel of the cottage, and give it a slow-living-style. We found eggs, bacon and bread for our breakfast already there, and the softest, most cloud-like bed with french doors overlooking Te Mata peak. I felt like I had died and gone to heaven. Watching hang-gliders jump off the cliffs was a particular highlight.
3. Work out your budget - and then be prepared to add a little more - but note the extras
If you are keen to find a hideaway which you can truly make memories in, be prepared to spend a little bit more than you usually would per night. A night at Tom’s Cottage is $200-$300. This was a bit more than we as young people in our twenties like us would pay would while travelling around on a big holiday, but is fine for just one or two nights. Many gorgeous hideaways are priced to include the whole experience and a more personalised approach to your stay. They’re often owned by small private owners, who do all the work themselves. We received farm eggs, bacon and home baked bread which meant we didn’t have to pay to go out for breakfast. Our host also gave us local tips about where to get a great coffee very close by. We were also advised about an excellent and cute shop called The Resort Store which stocks colourful jewelry and beautiful clothing in Havelock North. It is so wonderful to find local boutiques like this.
These added extras can be worth their weight in gold. So be realistic about what you can afford, know that you’ll probably end up feeling like it was excellent value from your experience plus the added extras, and remember to take lots of photos.
4. Research, research, research - think wider than Air BnB
Yes, you can absolutely find some beautiful hideaways on Air Bnb. It should be on your list to review, absolutely. But don’t just stop there is you can’t find something within 30 seconds. A good hideaway is worth hunting around for. Consider it the thrill of the chase.
Make sure you spend a bit of time searching out your perfect New Zealand hideaway, rather than settling, because in my experience the best places to stay are never easy to find in a rush. Know what you like, know where you need to be (approximately) and how much you can spend up to, and then set aside at least half an hour to do a proper bit of thorough research.
Many hideaway owners run their business independently. Some might be listed on websites like www.booking.com or similar sites. Some might not be listed anywhere at all, just have their own website. I found Tom’s Cottage by using good old Google. Turned out it had been rated by The Times UK as “The best wilderness hideaway in the world.” I have to agree!
Now is the time to go in the details - does it have a kitchen? How far is it from your venue? Does it have an outdoor area? Read travel articles or blog posts for good tips - they can be invaluable because someone else has done the research for you. You’ll find particular attention to these kinds of elements in a written story rather than a review where people click boxes.
5. Soak it all up - and take photos!
For our weekend away at Tom’s Cottage, I left my laptop at home for the first time in ages. We drove to the Hawkes Bay, checked in, and immediately didn’t want to leave. While we did have to go to the engagement party, we fortunately had the whole next morning to lounge in bed and watch those hang-gliders. I even had a bath as the water wasn’t that cold and the sun was warm (I didn’t light a fire). Matt thought I was mad but I loved it. We got coffees from across the bridge and had some delicious breakfast. I read my book and we really enjoyed the overall experience. It was fully worth the 10 hour round trip to get to. The owner said that people have been coming back to the property for twenty years! I can see why. I know I’ll be back - Tom’s Cottage is the most perfect place for any Kiwi or international tourist to put their feet up and relax for a weekend. I wanted to re-model my future home on it. Glad I took lots of photos…