On route to a wedding in Akaroa we decided to stop in Geraldine for the night and break the journey. You may ask why Geraldine? Well, it was the Vicarage, Geraldine’s high-quality, boutique accommodation that caught my eye.
Not long ago, most quintessential South Island towns had little to offer travellers other than outdated 1970s motels. Formica benchtops, a plastic shower box and a nasty wine glass, if you were lucky.
However, over the last few years a number of small towns, with insightful locals, have taken to renovating historical buildings into boutique accommodation. The Vicarage in Geraldine is exactly this, along with Olivers and The Lord Clyde in Clyde, Poshtel in Oamaru and the Firestation in Hokitika.
The Lord Clyde, has provided accommodation for over 150 years, in various forms. Locals, Andy and David Ritchie bought the dilapidated building several years ago, restoring it to ensure travellers fine accommodation and hospitality for years to some.
The boutique accommodation in these small towns, all have interesting stories behind them, and the Vicarage is no exception.
The Barker family who own the Vicarage, have long been involved in the food industry, initially making fruit wine in the 1970s. The family business has since grown significantly, increasing their product range of jams, preserves, baking fillings and more.
Barker’s had a retail store in Geraldine, but wanted to create a bigger facility to showcase their growing product range. They wanted a shop where the public could taste their products and enjoy Barker’s condiments with the food purchased from their eatery.
So with a vision to create a Foodstore and Eatery, Michael and Brigitte Barker bought the derelict and empty vicarage in 2017. First, they built the Barker’s Foodstore and Eatery behind the vicarage.
Having fulfilled their dream, the question was what to do with the old vicarage. It was built in 1900, and had been home to 15 vicars and their families. Michael and Brigitte threw ideas around, until they had an epiphany and realised Geraldine had no boutique accommodation. The building has a heritage listing, so with a whole lot of empathy, love and determination they restored the vicarage to its former glory, with a slightly new purpose.
Michael’s goal is to get people to stop in Geraldine for a night, not just a “a coffee, a pee and a pie,” as Michael put it.
He describes Geraldine as a delightful New Zealand village with much to offer tourists. He proudly talked about the Humdinger Gin Distillery, the quirky, small town retailers, three art galleries including the Susan Badcock Gallery, the Geraldine Cheese Factory, museums, the cinema and outdoor activities galore.
The Vicarage has six bedrooms with delicious super-king beds and ensuites. Two sitting rooms can be incorporated with a bedroom, to create a suite. The kitchenettes are beautifully appointed with vintage wine glasses, old-world china and lovely touches, including a decanter of port for guests to have a quiet tipple.
Next time you are on roadie, though some of New Zealand’s small quintessential towns, look out for the accommodation with an X factor and enjoy learning about the history of the town, its people and their historic buildings.