Planes, trains & buses: the coolest accommodation on New Zealand’s North Island

Bored of hotel rooms? Laura Grassby chats with Kayleigh Pritchard on the coolest places to stay while road-tripping across New Zealand’s North Island.

If you’re planning a road trip to New Zealand, don’t miss your chance to try some of the coolest accommodation on the North Island.

Forget a hotel room; why not stay in a renovated freighter plane or in a train carriage on a berry farm. Immerse yourself in the magic of New Zealand long after the tourist spots have closed with these unique stays. 

A (tiny) beachside haven

Waitangi Self Contained Studio 
Where: Paihia, Bay of Islands
How much: AU$166.47 per night. 

Waitangi Self Contained Studio
Waitangi Self Contained Studio © Airbnb

Paihia in the Bay of Islands, 3.5 hours north of Auckland, is a coastal paradise and a hub for water-based activities. The region is well known for lush green countryside, secluded bays and delicious seafood.

If you’re looking for a unique place to stay that will allow you to meet the locals, Waitangi Self Contained Studio makes an excellent base.

The studio’s friendly Superhost, Barrie, goes above and beyond for guests.

“He lent me a bike so that I could ride around town,” says Kayleigh.

And best of all, you’ll feel like you’re on a tropical vacation with the Balinese bamboo accents and refreshing outdoor shower.

How to spend your days

Kayleigh recommends getting an early start and heading north to the spectacular Cape Reinga. From the lighthouse, you can learn about the Maori history of the area and watch the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean collide in real-time. 

After that, enjoy morning tea at Ninety-Mile Beach before heading to check out the Manea footprints of Kupe at Opononi. 

“I missed the tour, so make sure you book before you arrive,” says Kayleigh.

Before heading back into town, be sure to stop off at Waiotemarama Waterfall Walk or check out the Waipoua Forest. It’s home to Tāne Mahuta or ‘Lord of the Forest’, the country’s largest kauri tree, approximately 2,000 years old. 

“Make sure you plan your trip ahead. I wish I had stayed another night in Paihia. There’s so much to do in the Northland.”

Kayaking in the Bay of Islands
Bay Of Islands © Adventure HQ

Gypsy glamour 

River Gypsy House Bus Glamping 
Where: Tapu, Waikato
How much: AU$81.65 per night

Gypsy Caravan
Gypsy Caravan © Kayleigh Pritchard

This Airbnb is boho, vintage and gypsy all rolled into one. It’s also a bus – a renovated 1950s Bedford House bus to be exact.

“It’s very quirky and definitely for people who love nature and are not scared of a few bugs,” says Kayleigh. 

The bus can sleep up to six people and it’s warm and cosy, with board games and books galore. The bespoke woodwork and kaleidoscopic interiors will transport you to a time before the internet (internet is available on request for those who can’t live without).

“It’s the perfect place to read a book with a glass of wine in hand”

The Airbnb sits on three hectares of untouched native bushland. Make use of the pizza oven, take a dip in the nearby waterhole and bliss out at one of the coolest stays on the North Island.

How to spend your days

Kayleigh recommends checking out the beautiful Coromandel coastline first thing in the morning. 

“It’s tough to drive and not look at the views,” she says.

“It reminds me of the Amalfi coastline in Italy.” 

Make sure you visit Cathedral Cove before you leave. The one-hour walk from Hahei Beach leads you to the gigantic, naturally-formed archway that majestically frames the coastline. Don’t forget your swimmers and a picnic. 

Cathedral Cove
Cathedral Cove © Matt Crawford

All aboard

Tiny House Train-Eco Stay
Where: Upper Hutt, Wellington
How much: AU$86.45 per night

Tiny House Train Eco-Stay
Tiny House Train Eco-Stay © Kayleigh Pritchard

If you’re staying anywhere near Wellington, check out one of the coolest Airbnbs around. It’s a train-eco stay, created by Superhost Carolann. 

“It’s something so different, sleeping on a train in a blueberry farm,” says Kayleigh.

The renovated train is nestled amongst the endless rows of organic blueberries that are grown on the farm. Perfect for winter, the carriage is decked out with a cosy log burner and a full kitchen. Because it’s only 30 mins from Wellington CBD, you can expect to explore the city by day and enjoy the peace and quiet of an evening. 

How to spend your days

If you’re looking for places to visit around the area, Kayleigh recommends the lighthouse at Cape Palliser. The non-stop views will take your breath away, and the seal colony will keep you entertained for hours. 

Don’t forget to visit Weta Studios to get a behind-the-scenes look at how The Lord Of The Rings films were made before you leave.

Wellington CBD
Wellington CBD © Graeme Murray

Taking off

Waitomo Woodlyn Park Cockpit Unit
Where: Waitomo, Waikato
How much: AU$179.28 per night

Waitomo Waitomo Woodlyn Park Cockpit Unit
Waitomo Waitomo Woodlyn Park Cockpit Unit © Airbnb

Prepare for a night’s sleep like no other. This Airbnb is one of the most unique in the world. Actually, it’s a converted Bristol Freighter Plane, one of the last allied planes flown in Vietnam.

The plane is split into two separate accommodations: the cockpit and the rear tail. Nearly all of the original features of the plane still exist, along with the more modern comforts. 

How to spend your days

Kayleigh suggests a visit to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. For an unmissable experience, take a boat ride through the glow worm grotto and watch the subterranean world come to life. After the glowworms, make your way to the spectacular Mangakino Falls. 

“It’s the most beautiful waterfall I have seen on the North Island so far,” says Kayleigh.  

From this area, it’s an easy drive to the Hobbiton, the site of one of the magical Lord Of The Rings film sets. Kayleigh recommends this experience to anyone travelling past. 

“The tour is 2 hours, and even though I have never watched any films, I did find it super interesting. I highly recommend it.” 

 Hobbiton, Waikato
Hobbiton, Waikato © Matt Crawford

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