Home Tours

This cluster of cottages near Kerikeri are the ultimate seaside escape

After falling in love with the laid back, barefoot lifestyle of the Bay of Islands this family created this perfect collection of beach houses on the coast 

Meet and greet

Vanessa Owen, 48 (designer and boutique bach developer), Richard Owen, 57 (renovator and boutique bach developer), Reef, 9, Milli, 17 (horse riding instructor), Poppy, 21 (superyacht crew), and Dione, 23 (superyacht crew).

Eight years after setting sail from England in 1988, Vanessa and Richard Owen landed in New Zealand. With them were two extra crew members – their elder daughters were born en route. The family fell in love with the barefoot lifestyle of the Bay of Islands and stayed on, renovating and selling as many as 27 houses in 13 years. When they were finally ready to put down roots, they started looking for their dream home.

They wanted access to water and a holiday feel. When they found the land at the head of Te Puna Inlet, they were sold. As well as their house, there are two baches (The Hammock and The Bach) and The Beach Huts (twin huts that form a single dwelling), which are available to rent. See driftwoodnz.com.

By the beach

With a balcony overlooking native bush and a bed enjoying the same view, the retreat-like feeling of The Hammock is hard to beat. There’s even a pathway to your own beach. The first cottage built by the family was The Bach, which offers magnificent views from the top of the property. It was built in 2009 as “a bit of a hobby”, says Vanessa. When it proved popular, The Hammock was built to meet demand.

“Since then, we’ve been either building or buying baches to meet the overflow,” she laughs. Unsurprisingly, they are nearly always fully booked – Vanessa’s attention to detail in the styling and presentation is rare in the bach rental business. In honour of a late friend, Vanessa and Richard also offer May Days, a free night of accommodation for people in the community in need of a retreat.

Words by: Fiona Ralph. Photography by: Melanie Jenkins.

Home experts are just a click away