Five of New Zealand’s most unusual places to stay

New Zealand boasts plenty of unique accommodation options from which to enjoy the fantastic views. 

New Zealand boasts some of the most singular scenery in the world and plenty of left-of-field accommodation options from which to enjoy the views. 

New Zealanders pride themselves on their ingenuity, and this round-up of some of the more curious places to stay around the country is a good example – choose from silos, tree houses. Take your pick and enjoy great Kiwi hospitality, and the beauty of Aotearoa. 

Over the Water – The Lighthouse, Wellington

Why a lighthouse? Well, when Bruce Stokell decided to build a painting studio for his wife, he soon realised that if it was situated high enough, you would be able to see the South Island from the site in the seaside Wellington neighbourhod of Island Bay. And so, in 1994, The Lighthouse, “the only kind of structure with any integrity next to the sea,” came into existence. “Because it’s a lighthouse, and it’s tall and it’s in the view – there’s no grass or bush around it – [it’s like] being on the prow of a ship,” Stokell says. Then there are the connotations that come with lighthouses, Stokell says – the romance, the isolation, cosily tucking up with a loved one while the weather rages outside. And there’s plenty of the latter: “The sea in Island Bay in a storm is beautiful – the waves crash against the rocks, the spray goes 20 or 30 feet up in the air. It’s just beautiful to see.”

Travel Tips

326 The Esplanade, Island Bay, Wellington (+64 4 472 4177)

Island Bay is 15 minutes from downtown Wellington, so your stay here can easily coincide with all the highlights of the capital, including Zealandia wildlife sanctuary, Weta Studios and Te Papa Museum. 

Charming Incarceration – The Jailhouse, Christchurch

Built in 1874, Christchurch’s The Jailhouse has served a variety of functions: a men’s prison, women’s prison and military camp. Decommissioned in 1999, it lay unused until 2006, when it found its second life as a hostel. Manager Nikki Hayhurst says that guests “love the uniqueness of staying in a prison”. Many of the original features still remain, and most of the rooms started life as cells – and one can only imagine who else may have previously slept in your room. The 80-bed hostel contains numerous accommodation options, from dorms to a family room. Guests, Hayhurst says, also relish staying in a historic building in a city that, since the earthquakes, has fewer than before. 

Travel Tips

338 Lincoln Rd, Addington, Christchurch (+64 3 982 7777)

Addington is a fairly central Christchurch suburb, so The Jailhouse is a good option for travellers who want to check out the city’s revival – the Cardboard Cathedral, the redevelopment of the CBD, the riverside precinct. Further afield, the beach town of Sumner is charming, and the bars and cafés of Lyttelton are well worth a trip. 

Against the Grain – SiloStay, Little River

SiloStay is a striking addition to the landscape: metal silos, traditionally used to store grain, have been repurposed as accommodation, and now loom above the hamlet of Little River, on Banks Peninsula, just south of Christchurch. Operations manager Lisa Ashfield says guests are routinely blown away by SiloStay. And why not? The silos blend cutting-edge design and a commitment to the environment with the high-end accommodation you might not expect from the agricultural look of the complex – some people, Ashfield says, think it’s a shop that sells silos. The space inside surprises guests, too. “Some people think it’s going to be claustrophobic and pokey, but it’s not,” she says. “And people are quite surprised when they see inside that it is luxurious.”

Travel Tips

Christchurch Akaroa Rd, Little River (+64 3 325 1977)

SiloStay is located in Little River, halfway between Christchurch and the township of Akaroa. The latter is a lovely little spot, full of French influence, and offers a great base for exploring the Banks Peninsula. Numerous operators offer cruises to meet and swim with Hector’s dolphins, the world’s rarest marine dolphin. 

Up in the Air – Hapuku Lodge + Tree Houses, Kaikoura

Hapuku Lodge + Tree Houses opened in 2003, established by the five siblings of the Wilson family just north of Kaikoura on the South Island east coast. Originally offering just six beds in the lodge, the family soon realised that the opportunity for something far grander existed, something that would take in the multi-faceted beauty of Kaikoura – soaring snow-capped mountains and white-capped waves. So the Tree Houses were built, putting guests closer “to the birds, to the mountains, to the ocean and the sky”. The five Tree Houses are perched 10 metres above the ground in a grove of native kanuka trees, with views over verdant farmland and dark green hills. The owners have a distinct green focus, with a keen interest in maintaining this spot of special beauty - true luxury in one of New Zealand’s most spectacular places. What could be better?

Travel Tips

State Highway 1 at Station Road RD1, Kaikoura (+64 3 319 6559)

Kaikoura is three hours north of Christchurch and is the best spot in the country for whale-watching, both from the air and on the water. Additionally, there are excellent spots for surfing, hiking and skiing in the area, which makes it an great year-round destination.

Sleep with the stars – PurePods Greystone, Waipara

The new Greystone PurePod sits on a spur in a paddock, high above the Greystone Winery. Tucked away a private oasis, guests are treated to vast views down across vineyards and up the Waipara Valley. In this beautiful private landscape guests bid farewell to the world and are immersed in nature. The only intruders on this unforgettable break will be birds in the trees and stars in the sky above. Found nowhere else in the world, PurePod accommodation is a first-of-its-kind glass structure made for two. The modular build, with surround glass floor, sliding walls and roof, is styled for luxurious off-the-grid comfort.  PurePod’s can be found in four locations in the Canterbury region each with their own spectacular views and unique vibe. 

Travel Tips

376 Omihi Road, Waipara 7483 (+64 3 314 6100)

Greystone PurePod is an hour by road north from Christchurch, and five minutes from the country town of Waipara.  When you book you will receive instructions on how to find your secret slice of paradise. For couples only, a one-night stay includes a picnic platter, plus you can pre­order a dinner and breakfast food package (for one or two days) made from fresh local ingredients. Greystone Wines offers tastings and there is a bike trail through the vineyards, along with all the foodie destinations of the Waipara Valley.