Late Checkout

Sleep Inside a Restored Train Carriage on a Black Sand Beach In New Zealand

Experience the romance of the train travel era.

hapuku carriages


There’s a term for someone with a strong affinity for anything related to trains and rail travel— ‘Ferroequinology’. It’s not the easiest word to roll off the tongue, so instead, they like to go by ‘railfans.’ There is a long list of reasons why some people are obsessed with trains, but nostalgia seems to be the driving force for seeking vestiges of train rides past. For some, it’s the charm of an opulent interior and polished wood walls on the Venice Simplon-Orient Express ushering them back into the heyday of luxury steam strains. For others, it’s the chance to watch the world go by on a scenic rail journey. Either way, you can’t deny even today, there is still magic in train travel. Preserving that magic is a new wave of train carriage accommodations, providing railfans and anyone curious about what it’s like to sleep in a train carriage from a bygone era the chance to do so.

One particularly unique ‘train b&b’ is Hapuku Carriages, in the small coastal town of Kaikōura. Planted opposite a black sand beach on one side and colossal snowy mountains on the other is a restored carriage built in 1921. It was previously used as a guard’s van, then shearers quarters for workers. In 2007 it was removed from the farm and is now sitting on Mike and Susie-Lee’s little slice of paradise.

Mike is a collector of quirky and unusual things, and Susie-Lee is a painter, often seen wielding pastels and charcoals in her studio in the evenings. Together, they restored and decorated the carriage, instilling the romance of the train travel era with art and cosy rugs. There’s even an outdoor bathtub for guests to enjoy a long soak while admiring the Kaikōura mountains.

hapuku carriages


While the train carriage is unique and a major draw for railfans, the Pohutukawa Cottage next door should not be overlooked. It’s renovated using as many recycled materials as Mike, and Susie-Lee could get their hands on, including special touches from The Art Deco Mayfair theatre in Kaikōura and materials from The Adelphi Hotel built in 1918. The kitchen is custom-made from recycled cross arms off power polls and other native timbers. In the open-plan living and dining room, pops of colour from vintage leather chairs and seats scream retro and rustic charm. Although, the modern conveniences make it a comfortable place to base yourself, with the main town in Kaikōura an easy seven-minute drive away. The cottage also has an outdoor tub and a deck, perfect for relaxing with a cheese board and wine, watching the sun dip behind the mountains.

Upon arrival, Susie-Lee welcomes guests with a glass jar of homemade granola, a stocked fridge for all your breakfast needs, and a friendly smile. There might also be wine in the fridge and a cheeky chocolate or two on the table. You feel right at home from the moment you’re handed the keys. After you’ve settled in, wander down the driveway to the beach, which is a two-minute walk from the carriage and cottage. The seemingly never-ending black sand beach is deserted most days. Enjoy the spectacular views of turquoise blue waters stretching over deep, dark black sand, leading to a backdrop of dramatic snow-tipped mountains. It’s beyond wondrous and one of the only places on the South Island where you can see the mountains meet the sea.

Venture into town to sample local delicacies. We also suggest stopping at Bernie’s Diner for a quirky experience. There’s a Cadillac museum in the basement. Kaikōura is known for its marine encounters, including large pods of dolphins, sperm whales, and countless native fur seals. They’re everywhere, basking on rocks and beaches.

Book your stay here.

MORE: Feast Your Eyes on Christchurch, The South Island’s Gateway to Adventure, Wine, and Art

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Late Checkout

This Tiny Glass House is Perched on a Jagged Coastline Out of Sight with a Private Beach

Disappear for a night and call the remote coast of the Eyre Peninsula home.

eyre way yambara
Photo: @hookandhammercreativemedia

Yambara is a Barngarla word meaning out of sight, and it couldn’t be a more fitting description. The first thing you notice when driving up to Yambara is the silence. The off-grid, tiny house is located on a remote working farm, only a 30-minute drive from Port Lincoln. Endless fields of wildflowers surround it, while a mob of emus can be seen grazing with kangaroos in the distance. Then there’s the coastline. It’s jagged, like a puzzle piece, with dramatic cliffs that look like they’ve been sliced from top to bottom. Secret beaches find shelter in coves carved by the wind and surf. The house sits on a sheltered finger of land, close enough to benefit from the views but far enough to escape the wind.

The drive to Eyre.Way Yambara is the first sign of just how rugged and raw this landscape is. The unsealed dirt road leads to a turn-off, where you will have to unlock a gate and several after that. The next bit of road winds through farmland, and several gates, which you have to open and close. After a 9km drive through the farm, roll up to the white-panelled home foregrounded by swaying golden grasses and backgrounded by deep blue waters and cliffs.

eyre way yambara
Photo: Natasha Bazika

Inside, despite its obvious tiny nature, the bathroom is big enough for his and hers shower. The main bed commands the living room space, while a hidden loft keeps the second bed a secret, perfect for two adults and two children. Speaking of the beds, I found it hard to peel myself away from the linen sheets in the morning. The only thing that coaxed me out was the sun rising over the sea, best viewed from the deck or lounge.

The house runs on solar power and a battery system. There’s air conditioning for the warmer months, instant gas for hot water, and everything you could need for a comfortable stay, including the luxuries of quality linens and towels and eco-friendly Koala mattresses. The handmade Moroccan tiles in the bathroom are just a bonus.

Sandy Point Beach is your own private oasis overlooking Sleaford Bay and Port Lincoln National Park, eighty metres from the tiny abode. Fill up the provided picnic basket and park yourself on the beach. The only other person you might see would be the guests staying in Maldhi, another tiny abode on the other side of Yambara’s perch. Another track in front of the house leads to the cliffs. There is another private, inaccessible beach surrounded by rocky cliffs and a cove thriving with vegetation accessed via a track in front of the house. It almost looks like a sinkhole. Some rocks are unstable, so be cautious where you’re stepping if you want to explore the cliffs. It’s a raw landscape; there are no fences or signposts, just pure wilderness.

eyre way yambara
Photo: Natasha Bazika

When it comes to exploring the nearby area, guests are flushed with choices. Port Lincoln National Park is a playground for fishing, beachcombing, swimming, walking, and 4wdriving. The sand dunes of the Sleaford-Wanna dune system are an ever-changing landscape and a must-see. Another must-see, in fact, if there is only one thing you do, make it Whalers Way. This privately owned land on the tip of the Southern Eyre Peninsula holds a wonderland of cliffs, blowholes, golden beaches, crevasses, caves, and sea lions. You will need a permit to access the land and a sturdy 4WD. If you don’t have either, I suggest booking a tour. Two great operators in the area can show you around Whalers Way—Australian Coastal Safaris and Untamed Escapes. The drive can take you to secret beaches, explore caves, or to the tip of the coastline, to view the enormous cliffs, which are as close as you can get to the Great Australian Bite from here.

At the end of the day, pour a glass of Boston Bay’s finest, settle on a deck chair, and let the melody of crashing waves be the playlist to a dusty pink sunset.

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