The high point of our visit to the beautiful little seaside village of Akaroa in Aotearoa New Zealand last January, was our stay at Beaufort House luxury BB.
Built in 1878 by English Barrister and Solicitor George Nalder and his wife Mariane, Beaufort House was originally named The Wilderness, because of its location on an untamed hillside in the then remote Grehan Valley. In their “wilderness” the Nalders constructed a grand house of native timbers – totara, rimu, matai and kauri – complete with servants’ quarters tucked away further up the hillside. They surrounded it with magnificent gardens and trees, roses, camelies, magnolias and a Bunya Bunya or Monkey Puzzle.
In late 2012, the current owners, Sharon Rees-Thomas and Noel McGuigan, bought Wilderness House. At the heart of 21st century Akaroa, it is no longer a wilderness but a carefully tended one-acre garden with lush lawns and flower beds. A boutique vineyard slopes across a hill behind the house and birdsong echoes through the tall, leafy trees.
Sharon and Noel have renamed The Wilderness Beaufort House but they have carefully preserved its story in the antique furnishings and in the names of the five guest bedrooms.
The Nalder Room was named, of course, after George Nalder. His keen interest in Botany and Ornithology is reflected in the décor. Through the window you can see the monkey puzzle tree, the magnolia grandiflora and the cornus he planted 135 years ago.
The Shepherd Room recalls Wilderness House’s second owners – Constable and Mrs Shepherd. This room has its own private balcony, which gets the first of the morning sun all year round.
The Fyfe Room remembers the Fyfe sisters who ran Wilderness House as a boarding establishment in the mid-19th Century. From this charming corner room, you can see all the way down to Children’s Bay and the surrounding valley.
The Walker room is named after the Walker family who owned the house in the late 19th Century. In their time, extensive renovations were completed and the vineyard came into its own. The spacious bathroom, looks out, fittingly, over the vineyard.
The latest addition to Beaufort House, the Beaufort Room, is situated on the ground floor and is furnished with an antique French Queen size bed, a chandelier and overhead bed complete with an authentic tassel-pull cord.
Beaufort House is stunning in every way. It’s a grand old house, gleaming with gorgeous native timbers. The furnishings and the décor are perfect. The rooms are comfortable and cosy, with immaculate bathrooms stocked with delicious toiletries. In every corner of the property there is something beautiful to behold.
What makes Beaufort House truly special though, is its delightful hosts Noel and Sharon. After years of masterminding weddings, cocktail parties and corporate lunches and special events in their Christchurch restaurant, they are experts at hospitality and no detail is spared to make their guests’ stay memorable.
Despite the practical demands of this busy B&B, Sharon and Noel are always up for a chat. Both have interesting stories. Sharon worked for many years for a prominent telecommunications company, while Noel travelled to many exotic destinations as senior driller in the offshore oil industry. Past businesses include a 500-acre farm and a ski and snowboard rental shop. Noel is also the proud owner of a 40’ Beneteau yacht named ‘Roaring Meg’ and a veteran of many ocean voyages.
An early evening aperitif is a Beaufort House tradition. So, after an afternoon exploring Akaroa village, a nap in the sunny Walker Room and a soak in the bath with its vista over the vines, we joined Sharon, Noel and our fellow guests on the sunny terrace in front of the house to enjoy an antipasto platter with a glass of Chardonnay made from the grapes of the Beaufort House vineyard.
In the morning, we all met again for breakfast in the dining room, at a huge round antique table set with antique china, glassware and silver. Much of the produce served at Beaufort House is home grown in the kitchen garden or sourced locally. It includes fresh juices, cereals (including Sharon’s home toasted muesli) seasonal fruit and natural yoghurt, Noel’s country breakfast (bacon, eggs, tomatoes, sausages …) freshly baked croissants (bien sûr, in this former French settlement!) with homemade jams, along with freshly ground coffee and wide selection of teas.
Our one-night stay at Beaufort House was all too brief, but we’ll be back, certainement!
It’s nice to know, too, that this grand old house is protected by the local Council as a notable historic Akaroa building and the Nalders’ Monkey Puzzle tree is protected as a notable Akaroa landmark.