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Rail Trail Tales With Corbett House

Corbett House, or The Big House as it’s known locally, is situated in the peaceful rural village of Hikutaia, just a 20 minute drive from Thames and 1.5 hours drive from Auckland. 

Surrounded by a hectare of lush farmland, Corbett House was built in the early 1920s and is a Heritage Category B Arts & Crafts style homestead.

The two storey house is built of concrete stucco and Totara. The interior features predominantly exposed Rimu beams and joinery. It has a Marseille tiled roof, and features Bay windows, verandahs, four fireplaces, and french doors. 

The extensive property is surrounded by native Kauri, Rimu and Tītoki, with many trees over 95 years old. The large private section attracts native birdlife including Kaka, Tui and Kererū (wood pigeon).

After many years admiring the house, hearing about its history, and thoughts of ownership, David and Anja Corbett bought the house in 2018. It was the first time Corbetts had lived in the house for 40 years.

We asked Anja to tell us more about the connection she shares with the property which is run as a Bed & Breakfast, and the benefits of being located so close to the Trail.

 

 

What do you love most about running Corbett House?

For David and I, it’s meeting people and sharing the history of this property with our guests, as well as any groups that come to visit. The extensive gardens and well established trees make it a wonderful setting for this Heritage category B house, and we feel privileged we are able to share its long history with others.

 

It’s 40 years since the Corbett family lived in the house. What does the history of this property mean to you?

There is a family connection through David’s Grandfather, who was sponsored to emigrate to New Zealand with the help of James and Julia Corbett. You can’t separate the history of this house from its connection to the Pioneer Tavern which the Corbett’s ran for sixty years. The prosperity of the tavern helped fund the design and construction of The Big House, which was finally completed in 1925 when electricity came to Hikutaia.

 

 

What changes have you made to the house since living in it?

We have completely renovated the kitchen, while respecting the authenticity and aesthetic of the house. We have also built a large American style Barn at the back of the property, where guests can view our vintage truck and collection of classic cars.  We are completing ongoing fencing and landscaping projects, and have recently acquired the lease to the Church next door to Corbett House, which we intend to use as a Wedding Chapel.

 

 

How does having the Hauraki Rail Trail on your doorstep contribute to your business?

Covid-19 has definitely had an impact on our business, with occupancy prior to that sitting at 80% from overseas tourists. We have sought advice on how to reach more of the domestic tourism market, and are actively working at attracting Rail Trail visitors. Our location makes us ideal for a day trip biking from either Kaiaua, Waihi or Te Aroha.

 

 

What is it for you that makes the Hauraki Rail Trail unique?

We have walked and ridden some of the trail. We think the Trail’s diversity, from the Shorebird Coast, open farmland and the dramatic Karangahake Gorge makes it a great attraction, which suits most levels of fitness. The increase in cyclists using electric bikes means an even larger demographic can now enjoy the variety of townships and landscapes. We like the fact cyclists can immerse themselves in what each leg of the Trail has to offer, and how local business and accommodation providers add a local flavour to the Trail.

 

 

What can visitors to Corbett House look forward to this Autumn?

We continue to run our Bed & Breakfast, and have a number of weddings taking place this year. We hope to have some accommodation packages specifically targeting cyclists. Autumn is a great time to view the seasonal changes at Corbett House, and enjoy dinner or snack platters in the Inglenook by the fire.

 

 

Where are you hoping to adventure next?

Corbett House keeps us really busy as we are sole charge, but in our down time we hope to have a few more breaks away, as well as following our own interests and pursuits.

 

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