My property story: Marlborough Sounds bach

A holiday house just 40 minutes from home makes it possible to live like you’re on holiday even when you’re not.

Meet + greet

Casey Hilton-Pryor, 29, Tommy Glubb, 32, and Poppy, 18 months, plus Nelly the Labradoodle. Casey and Tommy co-own and co-manage a busy seven-days-a-week retail operation.

The Marlborough Sounds have long been a popular destination for those seeking a get-away-from-it-all holiday close to the water. The endless inlets, private beaches and pebbly bays – many of them only accessible by boat – that fringe the fretwork of rolling, bush-clad terrain provide a mecca for boaties, nature lovers, walkers, mountain bikers and holidaymakers. 

Casey Hilton-Pryor and Tommy Glubb are lucky enough to own a bach on a prime slice of Marlborough Sounds real estate just 10 minutes by car from the port town of Picton. Even better, this getaway is only a little over a half-hour’s drive from their home in Blenheim. As owner-operators of a seven-days-a-week retail operation, Casey and Tommy find it hard to get away. They wanted a place within easy reach of their home and business so they could commute to work while still being ‘on holiday’. 

Casey, Tommy and Poppy

“We were talking with agents and looking around for two years,” says Casey. In the summer of 2015 they rented a bach for two months to trial their concept of commuting while still being in holiday mode. “The place we chose was in Blackwood Bay and only accessible by boat,” says Casey. “It was okay but a little bit complicated. With boat access you always need to be much more organised. We decided we wanted a place with drive-on access.”

During a coastal drive along Port Underwood Road a few months later, the couple noticed a sign advertising a property for private sale. The Beeches Bay location appealed to them both and immediately after the initial visit, Casey was ready to seal the deal. “We hadn’t seen this advertised online and we were very excited as soon as we saw the sign. To be honest, I was more excited than Tommy at first. He always wants more information,” Casey laughs. Following a few more visits, a series of calls and meetings with the Wellington-based vendors, and an exchange of contracts, Casey and Tommy took possession of Cariad bach, along with all its chattels, last May. 

Although there is only a short distance between their home in Blenheim and their bach in Beeches Bay, the two are a world apart in terms of outlook, decor and ambience. Casey and Tommy’s Blenheim villa is set amid formal gardens and clipped trees and hedges. At Beeches Bay, natives surround the home and rope-lined pathways and steps link the road to the bach and then to the beach. Their Blenheim interior is furnished in a French country style, with items collected over the years. At the bach, Kiwiana rules with retro furnishings that are cheerful, quirky and perfectly suited to the much-loved and well-lived-in little abode with the glorious view. 

Living room

It is fortunate that the former owners’ taste is entirely in keeping with Casey and Tommy’s vision for their bach; the sale and purchase agreement included everything from canoes and kayaks to cutlery, crockery and books on the shelf. “The bach was sold as an entire package. The owners lived here for a few years then moved to Wellington. They rented it out but eventually, I guess, it became surplus to their requirements. From the time we first saw it in March we had to move quite quickly as other people were showing an interest,” Casey says. 

Since then, Casey and Tommy have stayed for a few weekends although, they admit, “not quite as often as we would like”. This summer that is set to change as they intend to put their ‘working while on holiday’ plan into action, using the bach as their home base and driving to and from their Spring Creek workplace.

“Year round this is a really popular location. It’s great for us as we can entertain Poppy in other ways if the weather changes,” Casey says, referring to the cabin fever that can settle in when it rains for days on end in a holiday location where the only way in or out is via a runabout or water taxi. 

For Tommy, having a holiday home in the Marlborough Sounds is the continuation of a family tradition. When he was growing up in Christchurch, his family owned a holiday home in Lochmara Bay in Queen Charlotte Sound. After driving four and a half hours to Picton, the family would load their boat with supplies and cruise around to the bay. His parents now have shares in a yacht permanently moored in Waikawa Bay. They spend a lot of time in the Sounds so Poppy and her parents will now get to share their summer holidays – and plenty of weekends – with family and friends, all enjoying the same idyllic location. 

Casey admits the small proportions of the bach make it ideal for a couple – Poppy sleeps in a cot in their room. With Tommy’s parents staying in their water-based pad just a few minutes’ drive away, they enjoy the benefit of having grandparents on hand but without any issues of overcrowding.

Tommy and Casey are both water-sports enthusiasts so owning a bach (with private beach) and a runabout on a private mooring is a dream come true. “Tommy loves fishing, water skiing and boating. I grew up in Mt Maunganui and practically lived on the beach as a child. This environment really suits us.” 

Beach access

Unassuming, humble and assembled from diverse building materials, Cariad bach reflects the ‘build it yourself’ era of a bygone time. Dating from the 1950s, the home harnesses the views and the sun, with weatherboards, iron roofing, fixtures and fittings most likely chosen based on whatever was available at the time. 

Kiwi ingenuity and capability combined to produce a small and functional holiday home that is closely connected to its stunning environment. The bach is positioned to take in the magnificent views overlooking yachts and boats moored in the bay and across to the other side of Queen Charlotte Sound.

The previous owners were responsible for a makeover featuring pastel paint colours, retro furniture and vintage homewares that capture the true spirit and charm of the original bach – with benefits. Insulation and a heat pump ensure the place is warm and cosy year round, generous sliding windows extend across the entire frontage, framing the incredible views, and French doors open to the elevated deck. Two small basement rooms have been refurbished and lined and these are used for storage, laundry and, occasionally, visiting friends and family. 

At just 50 square metres, the bach is compact. A steeply pitched roof and extensive glazing give the illusion the interior is more spacious than the dimensions suggest. The main level includes a galley kitchen, living room, bathroom and bedroom. On a small deck, accessible from the living room and bedroom, a barbecue and outdoor table offer the perfect al fresco dining area. 

Dining and kitchen

External stairs lead down to the basement rooms. Eventually Tommy and Casey may look at connecting the storeys with an internal staircase, but for now they are content to limit their use  to the main level.

A narrow, grassy track leads from the roadside to the front door. Around the bach, paths and platforms have been created to provide level pads and walkways that extend access to the steep site. Rope-lined boardwalks lead down to a private bay. A cedar hot tub, surrounded by bush, sits snugly under the bach, while down near the water, open shelving on a concrete footing houses kayaks and canoes. Getting on the water is as simple as lifting a kayak off the shelf and launching from the pebbly beach. 

“It’s a small beach area. When the tide is in, there’s just enough room for a few beanbags and a chair,” Casey says. Sounds perfect. •

Text by Ady Shannon.

Photography by Daniel Allen. Images and story courtesy of Your Home and Garden Magazine. 

This article originally appeared on Homes to Love.

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