Live like a local on your New Zealand holiday by renting a 'bach'. Pronounced 'batch', it is a term Kiwis commonly use for a holiday home.

Often located by the sea, river, lake or forest, baches are all about kicking back. They offer the perfect range of accommodation to allow you to holiday like New Zealanders do.

A brief history of the bach

Short for ‘bachelor pad’, the word bach is deeply embedded in the Kiwi psyche - unless you’re from the south of the South Island, where they use the word ‘crib’ when referring to a holiday house.

After World War II, as better roads made remote places more accessible, New Zealanders began building haphazard holiday houses in gorgeous places up and down the country.

In those days, a bach was "something you built yourself, on land you don't own, out of materials you borrowed or stole." You’ll still see some of these original baches, steadfastly refusing to fall down, in New Zealand beach towns. Made of corrugated iron, fibrolite and used timber, they’re often painted crazy colours. The most authentic will still have a ‘long drop’ toilet out the back.

Thank goodness for evolution

Over the years, the majority of New Zealand’s baches have evolved into comfortable holiday houses on legitimately-acquired land. Some have even gone on to become mansions with four-car garages, a private beach and a mooring for the superyacht.

At the basic end of the scale, baches are furnished with hand-me-downs from the ‘real house’. They’re like family museums - full of odd furniture, kitsch art works and hilarious knick-knacks from previous decades.

Others have become interior decorating projects, complete with top-to-toe colour coordination and designer accessories. If you browse around any of New Zealand’s ‘book a bach’ websites, you’ll see the full spectrum of bachology - from livid 70s orange and brown to super-stylish minimalism.

Sometimes baches acquire nicknames, which get hung on a plaque by the front door. Classic names include Duck-Away Cottage, Works End, Lazy Dayz and Thiseldome (this will do me).

Top bach spots

Baches aren’t confined to far-flung corners of New Zealand. In popular tourist towns like Rotorua, Lake Taupo, Hanmer Springs and Queenstown, privately-owned holiday homes are everywhere.

What you do on a bach holiday depends on where the bach is. If it’s on the shores of an alpine lake in the Southern Alps, you'll probably be hiking, biking, fishing and sailing or, if it is winter, skiing and snowboarding. If the bach is at a beach or by a lake, you're likley to be in or on the water nine months of the year (spring, summer and autumn). Certain elements of bach life are common to all - barbecuing, sleeping at any time of the day, not getting dressed up (jandals and shorts are standard bach wear) and embracing the great outdoors at every opportunity.

The bach advantage

So why would you book a bach instead of a motel or hotel? There are two key reasons - cost and location.

Cost: Depending on the time of year you’re visiting, location and the added extras (amenities) provided, baches are quite cost effective. From baches with basic facilities to those at the five-star end of the spectrum, there is something to suit every budget.

Location: You can discover parts of New Zealand that are off the beaten track, where it is typically more difficult to find motels. 

One other reason to build a bach into your New Zealand holiday is the added extras that are sometimes on offer. Baches often come with bikes, surfboards, fishing gear, kayaks and dinghies that you can use during your stay. Perfect for getting close to nature and exploring the great outdoors!

Find a bach

Browse these websites to find a bach that is perfect for your holiday: AirBnB.co.nzBookabach.co.nz, HolidayHouses.co.nz or Bachcare.co.nz.

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