When you’re driving from Whanganui to Ohakune, through the village of Upokangaro, you can’t help but notice the Avoca hotel, thanks in part to its picturesque setting but primarily because of its magnificent Art Nouveau exterior.
Originally built in 1866 as a two-storey wooden bar called Kennedys, the brick building that stands today was a few days from completion in 1929, when in their infinite wisdom, the then owners decided to set fire to the old pub next door. The heat was so intense that it set fire to Avoca and gutted it.
It was restored to its present glory by owners Pat and Shelley. They intend to keep it true to the 1930s décor inside and are researching colour schemes of the era. They also want to find oak dressers for the rooms so if you can donate, please let them know!
The accommodation wing is cosy with gorgeous original wood panelling and brass fittings. Each room has a different vintage carpet – all of them Axminster delights, which is wonderful for vintage enthusiasts. It also has a brilliant cafe, with a stunning garden, so it’s easy to have a lazy Sunday breakfast and then enjoy a walk down to the wharf.
And it’s not just the experience, there are a great many stories surrounding the hotel. One of the most intriguing involves a Mexican bushman(?!) and his infatuation with a local guest. This guest agreed to marry the bushman IF he could afford her. He dutifully put his pay check in her bank each month but when the amount she demanded was reached, she spurned him. Furious, he planted dynamite around the hotel and attempted to blow it up. He was then found dead in the river, suicide being the coroner’s verdict. Apparently the chef has seen a woman’s ghost and legend has it that it is the lady who did the spurning, remorseful for all eternity perhaps?
Next time you visit Whanganui make sure you stay at Avoca. You can book by calling (06) 345 6410 or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org