Bach life

Quiet secluded coastal spots, minimalist lean-to’s and simpler times – these imageries are what we conjure when we consider the traditional Kiwi bach.

A pale blue bach with a stone wall in front of it.
One of the baches on Rangitoto Island. Photo: Robin Byron, HNZPT.expand/collapse

Bach; that word unique to our national lexicon, places of simple furnishings, old books and board games. These once fuss-less environs of hardwood or linoleum floors, with the odd smattering of sand caught underfoot from outdoor pursuits, despite your mother and her broom’s best efforts.

Fibrolite clad and quite often ‘without hot-water apparatus,’ the once humble getaway pad as we traditionally understood it has evolved significantly in recent decades. Coastal property values and a burgeoning holiday rental industry made more accessible through online booking platforms, has transformed the idyllic bach into more substantial dwellings. Notwithstanding our dependence on comfort and updated planning and building regulations, collectively, these factors have contributed to the evolution.

The Rangitoto Baches, on Rangitoto Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, are a unique cluster of heritage baches. Listed by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga in 1997 (then the New Zealand Historic Places Trust), the Rangitoto Wharf Settlement Historic Area and the Islington Bay Settlement Historic Area recognise an inter-related group of historic places. Their significance stems from the rise of the urban middle-class in 20th century Aotearoa New Zealand and rising popularity of seasonal coastal holiday life.

Today, the Rangitoto Island Historic Conservation Trust works to promote and advocate for the bach settlement. There are 34 remaining baches on the island, some are cared for by the Trust and the remaining baches are used privately. For those looking to look inside some of the baches, Bach 38 has been carefully restored and is presented as a museum bach for visitors to appreciate how a typical bach would have looked in the 1950s. For the more intrepid traveler looking to enjoy an extended stay on Rangitoto, some baches are available by the Trust to be booked for an overnight stay For more information on how to get to Rangitoto from downtown Auckland, please visit Fullers 360.

- Antony Phillips