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Five Places to Stay in the South Island that Don't Involve Camping

From a converted railway wagon to an old gaol cell, these unique locations are way better than your tent.
By Marissa Ciampi
October 08, 2018
By Marissa Ciampi
October 08, 2018

A visit to New Zealand's South Island is filled with breathtaking views, invigorating treks and some seriously fine drops of wine. What to do is the easy part. But, with so many accommodation options out there, deciding where to stay can become a bit tricky.

While camping within the country's incredible national parks is an excellent choice, camping may not be your thing — even if it is glamping. But, there are still tons of out-of-the-ordinary stays available. On your next trip to the South Island, do things a little differently when it comes to your accommodation — whether that's by staying in tiny homes, converted railway wagons, two-storey silos or on a floating catamaran. Here, you'll find five alternative places to book on a South Island journey.cp-line


Little River's multi-award-winning SiloStay "goes against the grain" and puts up visitors (instead of farm grain and feed) in two-storey cylindrical silos. Inside the one-bedroom metal structures, the ground floor is fitted with a custom-built kitchenette, living room, small toilet and balcony. Take the winding steel staircase to the upper floor bedroom, and you'll find the bedroom and a balcony. While the silos may have a rustic feel (originally being grain-holders and all), each comes with a flat-screen TV, DVD player, a mounted stereo unit in the headboard and free wifi, as well as bike and kayak racks. Plus, the silos are eco-friendly, using a sustainable pellet boiler system, a planet-friendly waste-water system and natural wool insulation. SiloStay also offers one-level accessible silos with the same features.

Prices range between $200–$230 depending on the season, with discounts available for bookings of two nights or more.



Comforting, soothing — there's just something about being rocked to sleep. Those babies really have it good. Enter Aquapackers. This converted catamaran offers floating accommodation set in Anchorage Bay in the centre of the Abel Tasman National Park where you can be rocked to sleep by the gentle ripples of the bay. And when you're not enjoying that rock-a-bye sleep, you can relax with some sun on the upper deck or a trek around the peaceful national park. After something a bit more energetic? Sign up for a coastal trek or water sports like sailing and kayaking — Aquapackers specifically offers guided kayaking and coastline walking tours.

Rooms range from shared backpacker dorms ($110 per person) to private cabins ($245 per cabin) and each night's stay includes breakfast and a barbecue dinner, plus complimentary tea and coffee throughout the day.



Though Wainui Bay's Golden Bay Hideaway offers five secluded, solar-powered and energy-efficient eco-home options, our favourite is the House Truck. Set in a remote bush location and overlooking the sea, this restored 1950s Commer truck has been transformed into a two-storey tiny house. The home features a woodfire stove, fully equipped kitchen, outdoor picnic table, two queen beds and, the best part, an outdoor bath looking out over the bay towards the mountains. The isolated setting means guests can comfortably enjoy a long bath under the stars with a glass of the region's finest wine in hand. All of Golden Bay Hideaway's homes are also solar-powered and energy efficient so you won't be

Prices range depending on the season, with discounts for longer bookings — which can get you down to $110 per night if you book four or more nights.



Set in the heart of New Zealand's wine country, 45 minutes from Christchurch, the team at Waipara Sleepers has converted a group of 1940s railway cars into stationary accommodation. The owners have maintained the original features of each upcycled wagon, securing each to a piece of train track in their country garden. Cars range from traditional four-berth bunk rooms ($25 per person) to more homey fit-outs with brass double beds, refrigerators and televisions ($50–$70 per room). All wagons have internal heating, a balcony and a separate seating area.

Accommodation ranges from $25 per person in the shared bunk rooms to $50–$70 a night in private accommodation. For a cheaper, private space, there's also the Railway Hut ($40–$60 per night) — a tiny cabin that once housed railway workers.



If you've ever been even the teensiest bit intrigued by what it's like to spend the night in gaol, St Bathans Police Camp is happy to give you a little (but certainly more luxe) taste. The owners have repurposed the tiny town's historic 1864 gaol into a self-contained apartment. Plan a trip to the historic St Bathans, founded during the goldfields mining era (and now only home to six permanent residents), to wander the reserve formed by the gold mining processes and to check out some of the town's historic architecture. The gaol cell accommodation is located near the old constable's cottage — a much bigger three-bedroom option you can also rent — and looks out over the pristine Blue Lake. The old cell is now fitted with a queen bed, and the former lobby and office are now the kitchen, with an ensuite bathroom and veranda also installed. It's an old-fashioned fit-out, complete with rocking chair, timber walls and jail-house door.

St Bathans Jail (Gaol) is available for $145 per night, including a continental breakfast.


Start planning your trip to New Zealand's south with our guide to the South Island journeys to take here.

Published on October 08, 2018 by Marissa Ciampi
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