Kina Peninsula lies close to Motueka, halfway between Nelson and the Abel Tasman National Park. The Old Schoolhouse Cottage sits on the peninsula amongst the vines of Kina Beach Vineyard, with commanding views over Tasman Bay on one side, and the calm waters of the Moutere Inlet on the other. Now a luxurious cottage, sought out for its tranquility and gorgeous setting, it’s hard to imagine the scratch of chalk, the clatter of chairs and the hubbub of the classroom, long ago.
This lovely old building first opened as a schoolhouse in Redwood Valley, at the bottom of the Moutere Hills, in 1931. It served as the local school for many years, until falling rolls led to its closure in the 1960s. Eventually it was put up for tender and removal.
The previous owners of Kina Beach Vineyard read the ad for the old schoolhouse building and saw its potential. They had established Kina Beach vineyard in September 1998, and were planting vines across what had previously been a pear and apple orchard. The couple had always wanted to have accommodation at the vineyard, and they saw how the schoolhouse could be transformed into the perfect boutique cottage. They bought it, and in 1999 the bright green building was cut in half, loaded onto a truck and relocated to Kina Beach. There, the two halves were put back together in a different configuration, to make it work better as accommodation. The schoolhouse was lovingly restored, so that original features, such as the wooden floors, the big, classic schoolroom windows and doors have been kept, while the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom fittings are all new. The old school bell hangs at the front door, and guests can discover old wooden desks inside.
Once the refurbishment was complete, the couple held an afternoon tea to celebrate the opening of the Old Schoolhouse Cottage, inviting past pupils to come and see the transformation of their former classroom. A photo of the class of 1939, gifted by some of the former pupils, still hangs in the cottage. Even now, ex-pupils, and people who remember using the building when it was a community centre, still come to visit.
In 2011 the previous owners went into retirement and the property was bought by Swiss-German couple, Achim Bauer and Karin Schoch. They currently spend their time between Switzerland and New Zealand, but plan to eventually live at Kina Beach Vineyard on a permanent basis. Wine is something the couple takes seriously – they took a year’s sabbatical from their work in Europe and moved to Napier with their two daughters to study wine-making.
Lou Kelly works at Kina Beach Vineyard and hosts guests at the Old Schoolhouse Cottage. You can feel her enthusiasm for the area, as she describes the “Kina Beach Triangle” – how the area draws people in mysteriously, attracting them from far afield. Staying at the vineyard is a peaceful and romantic escape. Walk along Kina Beach, with its cliffs and views over Tasman Bay, and you often have the beach to yourself. From the deck of the Old Schoolhouse Cottage, guests can watch the sunrise in one direction, and the sunset in the other. The views of the grapevines and water change with the season, the weather, the light.
Lou and Karin worked together to update the Cottage in 2013, giving it a more modern and luxurious feel, while still keeping all its charm. Guests will find breakfast provisions waiting for them, with freshly baked bread and homemade jams. Guests are invited to a tasting of the unique Kina Beach wines.
Kina Beach Vineyard is planted with 4.3 hectares of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. It benefits from the long sunshine hours that Nelson is famous for, and the unique growing conditions and terroir. The grapes are crafted into award-winning, single vineyard wines by a local wine-maker. The flagship wine is the highly-regarded Reserve Chardonnay, which received five star reviews in 2010 and 2011.
Kina Beach lies halfway between Nelson airport and the Abel Tasman National Park. It’s handily located for heading off to the famous trails, beaches and kayaking adventures of the Abel Tasman, or for exploring the arts, vineyards, and cafes in the Nelson area. While visitors often arrive asking about the best local restaurants, and places to visit, Lou finds they tend to be so struck by the beauty of the place that they find it hard to leave. There is a bottle of Kina Beach wine chilling in the fridge on arrival, and guests often just settle in at the Old Schoolhouse, relaxing on the deck, cooking on the barbeque, tasting the wine and enjoying the peaceful views of the vineyard, hills and water.