Sleep Inside a Restored Train Carriage on a Black Sand Beach In New Zealand
Experience the romance of the train travel era.
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.
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.