Unique, Bizarre & Spectacular Places To Sleep is a series covering a range of accommodations around the world – from luxury villas, to pest-infested slums. Read stories, reviews, tips, and occasional warnings …


Let’s kick this series off with one of my best kept secrets:

Kuaka Cottage in Karamea, New Zealand

I found this accommodation by chance. An lonely flyer was tacked to the wall of a small nearby café, and I was captivated by one feature: the wood-fire bath. Curious, my partner and I jumped in the car and drove 12 km south of the township down a dirt road, to discover a serene paradise surrounded by the subtropical Kahurangi National Park. Lucky for us, the cottage was available.

The cottage

Handcrafted from limestone by owners Mark and Hanne, this is not just a place to sleep, it’s an inspiring work of art. Decorated with terracotta tones, sheepskin rugs and wooden furniture, the cottage is earthy and rustic. With no electricity, it’s lit by either the sun, or the warm glow of candles and the crackling pot-belly fireplace.

Candles and the potbelly fireplace light the unpowered cabin.





With no electricity, this isn’t a place for those dependant on TV and internet. Then again, for the gadget-addicted, it could be a therapeutic escape.

The cottage isn’t ‘well appointed,’ but that’s the charm of this eco friendly experience. It has a queen-size futon, a table with two chairs, a fireplace, an outdoor decking, and a beautifully designed composting outhouse toilet and hot shower facility.

Then, there’s the thrilling wood-fire bath. To bathe, you light the logs in the oven beneath the bath, wait for the water to heat, nude-up, jump in, and then watch the stars passing overhead. The temperature gets hot (!) so you have to keep adding cold water to avoid hard-boiling yourself.


Best deal in the world: $80 NZ per night, including a delicious organic breakfast prepared by Mark and Hanne.


This cottage is tucked away in the north-west corner of New Zealand near a quiet town off the main south island tourist circuit – Karamea. In the town, you’ll find only a few shops, a couple of artists studios and one small supermarket. Since it rains six days out of seven here, the environment is lush and overgrown, and the location is so remote, it feels like a lost Pacific island.

Located in the rainy top corner of the south island, Karamea is far, far away from the rest of the world.

Local activities

  • Drive into Karamea town and buy the most honestly named burger you’ll ever eat: Somethin’ Dead in Bread from the main town café. It’s a delicious slice of dead cow smothered in chutney and stuffed inside rustic bread.
  • Do a flax weaving workshop with Hanne.
  • Spot glow worms at night.
  • Go to the Oparara Basin, 45 mins north of Karamea, and see caves, limestone arches and beautiful mossy rainforests.
  • Explore the Heaphy Track – one of New Zealand’s most beautiful multi-day treks. The Heaphy takes five days to hike, but you can explore the first few hours of the trek to see the nikau palms spilling out over the wild Tasman Sea.
  • Head down to the beach and collect green-lipped mussels at low tide. Make a fire on the beach and cook them up with garlic, butter, lemon and tomato broth.

Cook some mussels on the beach

Read about more unique, bizarre and spectacular places to sleep here.


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16 Response Comments

  • Kim  March 16, 2011 at 3:30 am

    Wow, what a beautiful, amazing place. I’d like to spend a few days holed up in that little house and a few more days in the wood-fired bath!

    • Torre DeRoche  March 16, 2011 at 3:58 am

      If you’re in NZ, it’s an absolute must!

  • The Rhythm Method  March 16, 2011 at 6:17 am

    How divine. Sounds like a great combination between self-sufficiency and indulgence. You had me at wood fired bath.

    • Torre DeRoche  March 16, 2011 at 6:28 am


  • laura  March 16, 2011 at 9:08 am

    oh wow those pics are amazing!

    • Torre DeRoche  March 16, 2011 at 9:56 am


  • Debbie Beardsley  March 16, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    This looks like a perfect getaway especially for someone who really needs to get away from all those gadgets! The wood burning bath would be heaven!

    Thanks for sharing. Can’t wait to see what else you have in store for us!

    • Torre DeRoche  March 16, 2011 at 11:45 pm

      The bath is a little slice of heaven, mixed with a little slice of burning hell. Thrilling.

  • Marian Schembari  March 16, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    Oh. Wow. I want to go to there. What a beautiful little cottage! I love those warm orangey colors. Great post!!

    • Torre DeRoche  March 16, 2011 at 10:52 pm

      Thanks Marian. Yep, it’s a cozy little hidey hole.

  • Carol J. Garvin  March 16, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    It sounds and looks like paradise! My closest experience would be years ago when we were able to park our small motorhome right up against a rocky beach on the northern tip of the Queen Charlotte Islands. Granted, we had conveniences in the motorhome, but it was the kind of place you chose to spend most of your time outdoors, savouring the wild beauty.

    • Torre DeRoche  March 16, 2011 at 11:47 pm

      LOVE backing a van up to a rocky beach. New Zealand is great for that too, especially in the north island. There is nothing more tranquil than being lulled to sleep by the sound of waves.

  • Monica  March 18, 2011 at 5:42 am

    This place looks gorgeous. An idyllic little hideaway. I’ll keep it in mind for my future trip to NZ!

  • Joy Lormer  December 6, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    We are off to Manapouri and I wanted to read up on Hope Arm Hut-so funny! I am a “mouse phobic” too. Had to buy your book just to have another laugh. Oh, and you didn’t mention the dreaded sand flies at Karamea!


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