Historic hotel awaits innovative owner and chooks

11:00 AM Saturday November 1, 2014 Colin Taylor

The historic Towai Hotel in Northland dates back to around 1872.

Northland’s historic Towai Hotel, which commenced providing food, drink and accommodation to weary travellers and local customers around 1872, has been put on the market for sale

“This beautifully renovated hotel offers a great lifestyle in the country with room for a large vegetable garden, space to graze a few animals and a big area where chooks could run free,” says Darcy Snowden of Christopher Brown and Associates Auckland, who is selling the property as a freehold going concern business with its land and buildings for an asking price of $475,000 plus GST if any.

“This is well below the asking price of most houses on offer in Auckland but the property is a seven bedroom hotel sited on 18,717 sq m of freehold land,” Snowden says.  

The hotel is at 3827 State Highway One about 30 minutes’ drive north of Whangarei and 30 minutes south of the Bay of Islands.

Built using a combination kauri and hardwood timbers and ornate kauri ceilings “the Towai”, as it’s been affectionately known for decades to locals, still retains a lot of its original character, materials and Kiwi country pub atmosphere.

“Over time the world has changed and along with it the Towai has made a few changes too. It now has a commercial kitchen, modern bathroom and toilets, garden bar and remodelled bar with a swamp kauri bar top,” Snowden says. “With an Historic Trust protection rating the hotel is effectively assured it’s staying put to continue serving the public uncontested as it has done for the last 142 years.”

Entrance from the road into the hotel is through a large kauri door into the foyer with the bar straight ahead and the lounge featuring an open fire. The dining area is to the left while male and female toilets and facilities for the disabled are at the back.

Outside is the garden bar with barbeque tables and stage where live bands perform every six weeks. To the rear of the lounge and dining area is the commercial kitchen and a managers’ self-contained flat.

Upstairs are the seven guest bedrooms of various sizes, large lounge, bathroom, showers and toilets.

The basement is accessed from an internal staircase or from the back through two rollers doors where the chiller with piping to the bar is housed. In the basement are the owners’ car park, a storage area and the laundry.

“There is a large area of vacant land at the rear of the hotel which could be used to provide overnight parking for the growing caravan and motorhome market,” Snowden says.

“With people willing to pay a nominal fee for this service, work has already been started installing plumbing in the basement to provide toilets and showers for these travellers. While they do sleep within their wheeled accommodation, it’s envisaged a lot of them will enjoying dining in the hotel and relaxing with a drink.     

“Since 2008 considerable work has been undertaken to include new piles, foundation work, some internal renovations, smoke detectors and security system wired to a control board at a cost in excess of $200,000. All work has been issued a code of compliance and the building has a current warrant of fitness.”      

As with other rural properties, rain water is collected from the roof to fill four large tanks that supply the hotel with all its water needs while waste water is discharged into a septic tank system.

“Even if there is no rain for about three months, the hotel system has sufficient capacity to ensure that water doesn’t run out,” Snowden says.          

He says the hotel has the advantages of being situated on the main tourism route north with good visibility, ease of access and plenty of parking.  

“A new owner will see a real opportunity to attract customers and grow the business through improvements like setting up the hotel’s own web site. Given it has seven guest bedrooms and with the significant increase in touring backpackers and biking holidays, a web site would enable tourists and backbacker groups worldwide to book on-line. While backpackers don’t spend a lot on accommodation they do want a good meal and will join colleagues in the bar for a drink or two to experience the ambience of a true New Zealand hotel.”

Snowden says another untapped area for hotel business is from the travelling public wanting light cafe meals.

“Part of the appeal with this property is to be able to have a vegetable garden – and possibly even an organic garden - with meals made from freshly picked vegetables and herbs straight from the garden. Combined with offering free range eggs laid by hotel chooks running around outside, these are the type of attractions that would give the Towai a real point of difference and a reason for customers to keep coming back.”