Spring has sprung in New Zealand. Newborn lambs are frolicking, buds are bursting and the roadsides are filling fast with brightly-coloured daffodils. Still a bit too chilly for full-blown summer camping, now’s the season to test the waters with a bit of glass-box glamping. And where better to do it than Kaikoura, in New Zealand’s South Island, where there’s a 20-square metre glass hut positioned perfectly for ultimate privacy and breath-taking views of the snow-capped Southern Alps. Jacqui Gibson takes a long weekend in September to try it out.
It’s just gone 4pm when we arrive at Kahutara – a tiny stop-off about 10 minutes’ drive inland from Kaikoura and two-and-a-half hours’ drive north of Christchurch, the main city of New Zealand’s South Island. As instructed, we’ve turned off Inland Road, forged four streams in our hire car and pulled up to an empty carpark adjacent a 100-year-old farmhouse.
The fence in front of us has a sign with our name on it. To check in, we simply grab our rucksacks, divvy out the wine between our party of two and walk the clearly marked path up the valley through glades of manuka (tea tree) forest to our very own glass hut (or PurePod as it’s commercially known). No sign in. No welcome party chit-chat. That’s it. From the moment we arrive, we’re on our own, which is just the way we want it.
There are four glass huts just like this one in New Zealand, each styled around the idea of being at one with nature without foregoing too many of life’s luxuries. At each one, expect spectacular scenery and guaranteed privacy. Enjoy heated flooring, hot water, lighting and an upmarket bathroom and shower. Other glamping essentials include a well-stocked fridge, a stove-top cooker, an outdoor bbq and a USB charger and bluetooth speaker. Say goodbye to phone and internet coverage and simply relax.
We settle in as daylight slowly disappears. Stretched out on the bed, we watch the colours of the hillside darken and the clouds begin to settle on the shiny white peaks of the Southern Alps. We spy the movement of the local farmer’s half-merino flock on the opposite hillside and watch a piwakawaka (fantail) flit among the manuka. Tomorrow, we’ll hike the hills behind us and maybe climb down the bank to dip our toes in the snow-fed river. Until then, it’s wine, dinner and stargazing from the cosy interior of our glass tent.
Aimed at luxury travellers, the Kahutara cabin features sliding doors on three sides that fully open to give you that feeling of floating in nature. It’s not quite warm enough for us to throw open all the doors during our stay. There’s still snow on the mountains, but the north-facing ranch slider is left open in the morning as we enjoy freshly-brewed coffee in the warmth of the springtime sun.
During our stay, we learn Kahutara is actually a partnership between the Kiwi-owned cabin manufacturing and marketing firm, PurePods, and the Blunts, the family who’ve farmed the large station for three generations. The cabin itself (the Blunts have two on their property) reflects the latest in off-grid technology and is said to have less environmental impact than a tent. What does that mean in practice? It means the little glass box generates enough solar and bio-fuel energy to run the hot water system, the heating and the lighting. And it means when you turn on the tap, you’ll get your water straight from a pure spring found in the hills high above the cabin.
KAHUTARA: IF YOU GO
- To book Kahutara (or any of the glass huts), contact PurePods.
- From Christchurch, take the 2.5-hour drive up State Highway 1 to Inland Road (and follow the map instructions from there).
- From Kaikoura, take the four kilometre drive down State Highway 1 to Inland Road (and follow the map provided).
- Be prepared to carry your own gear from the carpark to the Kahutara cabin through farmland and over a bush track (it’s a 10-15 minute walk).
- Order your breakfast, lunch and dinner from the PurePods website when you book (so it’s there, ready-to-go, on arrival). Although you can self-cater and take your own food if you prefer.