Grant Kilby is the general manager of The Hahei Holiday Resort and he defines their latest project as an exercise in delivering experience-based holiday accommodation characterised by a “coastal chic” feel.
The recent refurbishments undertaken at Hahei have been in response to a relationship with Stray New Zealand’s wish for a glamping accommodation option at Hahei Beach. Stray provides structured backpacker tours, with integrated transportation and a range of accommodation options. The company offers coach pass options of up to six weeks, along a range of North and South Island routes. Travellers can choose where to get off, and when to rejoin the coach tour, with passes valid for 12 months.
The Stray concept is quite new to New Zealand. “Traditionally, free and independent backpackers stayed in hostels, where they were all crammed in an area with no open space to kick back, relax and entertain themselves. What we’ve created is an all-inclusive environment for Stray.”
“We set out to design a bespoke area that could accommodate up to 100 guests,” Mr Kilby explained. To this end, they have redeveloped the resort’s existing infrastructure to accommodate the Stray guests. New accommodation was also built, and common areas and ablutions redesigned for purpose. The ‘glamping’ facility is set aside for Stray customer, and has everything they need for their two day stay.
“We have a huge focus in the development on the coastal theme being by the beach. Additionally, we talk a lot about our relationship to the sea.” The guests interact through Stray-specific activities with the nearby Te Whanganui-a-Hei Marine Reserve, as well as other local features and providers. Through collaboration with external providers, Stray guests are exposed to information and experiences relating to the environmental issues of the surrounding marine environments, as well as the traditional culture and history of the area.
Using as much of the existing materials onsite as possible, the new development has also proved a prime specimen of the ‘upcycling’ movement. “There was an old 90,000-litre wooden water tank; we carefully craned the roof off it, put supporting posts and beams in and put the lid back on again,” Mr Kilby explained. “We now have an awesome gazebo that can be used for a fire pit and an undercover cooking experience, we even used the tanks walls as upcycled fencing for the parameter of the complex.”
The before and after shots help illustrate how The Hahei Holiday Resort turned a “tired old backpackers” into a fresh “upmarket glamping proposition”.
The Stray programme is “all about the experience,” and by all reports, there’s plenty on offer for the expectant Stray glamper at The Hahei Holiday Resort.
Activity offerings include kayaking to Cathedral Cove, an IRB boat trip with Hahei Explorer, which takes them to the spectacular blow-hole. “There’s sunrise yoga by the sea, snorkelling and diving tours, surfing instruction, and coming up we have Kaimona cooking experiences under the guidance of an international chef,” Mr Kilby listed.
The attention to detail is apparent in everything from the quality linen and beds, to the decision to name each cabin after one of the islands within the local marine reserve. The interior of the cabins feature plywood walls and floors that have been stained to compliment the beach theme.
Cathryn Kilby of CK Interior Design provided the design and inspiration behind the distinctive fit-out, and themes of “coastal chic” and ‘upcycling’ have made for some features of considerable singularity.
The Stray glampers may seat themselves at an upcycled old diving platform to have lunch. The platform is six metres in length, seating 30 easily. An enclosed deck showcases light fittings encased in ‘hinaki’, the Maori word for ‘eel pot’, which is a real talking point for guests. “The environment embodies the concepts of ‘re-use and conservation’, while infusing the guest experience with all that Hahei is world famous for. We are constantly looking to improve the guest experience here, and will be adding new features and activities that will enrich the Stray guest experience,” explained Grant.
With shelving created out of a felled onsite Macrocarpa, materials have a new lease on life, while contributing positively to a focus on sustainability and conservation through native plantings in and around the site.
The layout of the buildings was also designed with the Stray customers’ comfort and convenience in mind. Within the designated complex, “accommodation has a real relationship to the amenities,” with easy access to toilet blocks, sensor lighting and a level of luxury that pushes the boundaries of the accepted limitations of a typical ‘holiday park experience’.
With before and after shots on display, six months might seem tight for creating this level of transformation. Grant Kilby cites the weather as their biggest challenge to completion, but they didn’t let “54 days of rain in a row” stop them. “It was head down, bum up all winter.”
With good camaraderie, and hard (and wet) work, the local contractors and the resort staff kept the project on track. “It’s big thanks to the suppliers, and all those who contributed to the suppliers making it happen for us,” Mr Kilby intoned. Without the contractors “working seamlessly together,” he said they never would have completed “a big complex like this in six months”. “They had regular toolbox meetings to iron out issues and worked really well together. That was really quite special.”
So, what do these Stray travellers think of it? “The Stray customers are almost gobsmacked when they walk in,” was the report. “We wanted to make something that was really comfortable for them, and I think we’ve done that; even with 80 to 100 guests on site, it doesn’t feel cramped.”
Cathryn Kilby is also satisfied that her ‘coastal chic’ vision has materialised. And when asked what her favourite element might be, Grant Kilby said, with a chuckle, “it was probably the shower and toilet block to be honest”. “It has some quirky little elements.”
‘Quirky features’ included a clever design by Cathryn Kilby and electrician, Alex Walker, to suspend recycled Good as George beer bottle light fittings from thick hessian rope of a nautical theme. “There’s a bit of fun to it,” but “with 100 people wanting to have showers, you have to actually design it so it easily accommodates a number of people without feeling like an army ablution block,” Mr Kilby cautioned.
While the Hahei Holiday Park can have up to 1300 campers onsite in peak season, and offers a variety of cabins and sites in their general park area, this new bespoke Stray section has been an adventure for them all.