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Living the Dream in Twizel

Twizel sprang into being in 1968, as a town for workers on the hydro scheme. Now it’s a fantastic base for holidays, with lakes, cycleways and Aoraki on the doorstep. Michelle Paterson tells us about bringing retro character to a hydro cottage.

We love your “Quirky Cottage with the Blue Front Door”. What led you to buy a bach in Twizel?
We bought this cottage in 2012. We had previously bought a property in Twizel because we set up a cafe, The Musterer’s Hut. We operated that for 2 years….sold it on, but had such fun “theming” it, that when the opportunity to buy another Twizel Hydro Cottage became available, we grabbed it. It’s a great location as it’s on the main entrance into Twizel but about 100m to the village centre and all its amenities.

Did you renovate or decorate the property yourself? How was that? 

We did renovate and decorate ourselves - we just used the bones that were there already. The houses are really tiny - I think they would be contenders for the tiny house movement - anywhere from 65m2 to 72m2, so it was a matter of utitilising the space we had to the max.  We tried to renovate as cheaply as possible, so the bathroom was already a wet floor room….not our first choice, but we just decided to tidy that up and tweak to make as funky as possible - we love ply, so we lined some of the room with ply and the rest with ceratone.  Funky furnishings using an old vanity and retro accessories made the bathroom quite cute - we still like to use quality new bathroom taps etc so that there will be no plumbing issues. The other rooms were just painted and furnished up….we put new carpet throughout, but the kitchen is still original - that might be this winter’s project - the great stainless bench will definitely stay, but maybe we’ll work on some better storage space. 

Bookabach/27604 Bags the top bunk! Quirky Cottage bunkbed, Twizel

Where did you find the retro furnishings?  

This is where I have the most fun. Once again, because of budget, I did lots of op-shopping and Trade-Me purchasing for nearly all of the “fru fru” as I call it. We bought new beds and good quality linen, but everything else has a story - it’s been around before. This adds to the homeliness of the cottage, but also gives us a real point of difference from staying in a motel - we want our guests to use everything and say “oh I remember those things….we used to .....”.

I also get lots of ideas from Pinterest and Houzz website, so I just pin the photos, and Stu, my husband loves to create out of recycled materials - this is where the bunk idea came from - we built it in, but then put a normal queen bed underneath - for ease of making of both beds.  We then needed to make the ladder up to the bunk - so we found an old wooden step ladder and rehashed it to make the steps and bedhead for the bunk - perfect !!  Then Stu made up a rail out of old piping to stop the kids falling out :)

What can you tell us about Twizel as a town, and the hydro scheme?

Twizel was created in the late 1960’s to house all the workers for the building of the Hydro Canal scheme from Tekapo down to Lake Pukaki, joining Lake Ohau canal, into Lake Ruataniwha, and flowing down Ohau B & C Canals into the north end of Lake Benmore.  From here, it joins the Upper Waitaki scheme from the Benmore Dam, down through the Waitaki Valley. Many houses were moved from Otematata after the Waitaki scheme started winding down, and then the rest were built in Oamaru, Timaru and Ashburton, then trucked up here. 

Not so many years ago, all the streets looked identical as all the houses looked very similar - very easy to get lost.  Now most streets have houses that the owners have “put their own stamp” on - various exterior colours, claddings and additions now make them a little unique….ours is the turquoise blue front door, and the bike windspinners on the front fence…..great for our guests to find their way home from the pub :)

Jollie Biker, cycling
Cycling Alps2Ocean near Lake Ohau

What’s great about Twizel as a place to holiday? What are some of your favourite places or things to do in the wider area?

Obviously, now Twizel is a thriving wee town, with the sport of rowing bringing thousands to Twizel each year, and the salmon industry bringing workers and recreational fisherman to chase the salmon….and the tourism is booming as well, being on the doorstep to Mt Cook.  With the three surrounding lakes of Ruataniwha, Benmore and Ohau, it is a watersport enthusiast’s dream… many gorgeous wee beaches around the lakes to park the boat for a day’s picnicking and water-skiing, and the fisherman love the choices as well. Lake Ohau Lodge is a MUST to visit, to experience one of their lunchtime Sharing Platters - d.i.v.i.n.e.

Twizel is a super kid friendly town - fantastic for biking around and the skate park, swimming pool, tennis courts, playgrounds and footy fields are all in the village centre - which is 5 minutes from our cottages.  The river has a great walking track and popular swimming holes in the summer. One of our favourite places to go is Lake Poaka just on dusk, to watch the sun set on Aoraki Mt Cook, and watch all the birds come and land on the Lake for the night - we’ll take a bottle of wine, some fresh smoked salmon and crackers….and we’re in a happy place.

Then there is Lake Pukaki and Aoraki Mt Cook - heaps of stunning scenery to enjoy - nearly every one of our guests take the day-trip up to the village. You can walk to the Blue Lakes or the Hooker Track, you can visit the awesome DOC centre (for free!!!) or the Sir Edmund Hilary Centre at the Hermitage - brilliant!!  Enjoy a coffee at Old Mountaineers Cafe or a glass of wine in the bar at the Hermitage, or just stand outside and listen to the creaking of the ice moving on the mountains….that is fantastic too!!

We live in Twizel permanently now…and we are definitely living the dream. We have established a biking business based on the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, which runs from Aoraki Mt Cook through to Oamaru….so Rua Cottage is very popular with the bikers as well.  Its lovely to sit out on the back lawn under the trees with a cool beer or wine at the end of a long day’s cycling, savouring your achievement, and preparing yourself for tomorrow’s stage from Twizel to Lake Ohau.

Our Cycle Company is called The Jollie Biker, and we provide bike hire, shuttles to start/finish stages of the A2O Trail, transfer luggage from town to town, organise accommodation and design tour packages to suit customers individuals biking needs….and we LOVE it !! Meeting some really neat, motivated, outdoorsy people and having all of the Mackenzie as our “office” is the perfect job.

Twizel is a great winter destination too.  Obviously, it’s so spectacular with the snow covered landscape. If you want to take a helicopter flight over the Southern Alps, Glentanner Park is definitely the place to fly from. In a perfect winter, we get frosty crisp mornings, but then stunning sunny still days, so between 10am and 3pm is the time to do your outdoor activities.  Skiing around at Lake Ohau Skifield is brilliant, finishing with a soak in the Omarama Hot Tubs - bliss !!  Biking around the shores of Lake Pukaki in the winter is also fantastic .  Salmon fishing on the canals (license necessary) is also a great winter past-time - you quite often get the mirror images of the mountains because the water is so still - it’s a photographers paradise.

Jollie Biker, Lake Pukaki
Lake Pukaki, Photo: Jollie Biker

More info

Quirky Cottage with the Blue Front Door
The Jollie Biker website
Twizel Tourist Information website Windspinner Windspinner Retro crockery Retro crockery Blue bedroom Blue bedroom
Living room Living room
Piwa perched