Accommodation Canterbury Region

The Kakatu Retreat, Purpose-Built Wheelchair Accessible Accommodation in Kaikoura

On a recent road trip we decided to catch up with friends in Kaikoura for a night or two. Kaikoura is well known for its sperm whale population, seal colonies, stunning mountain backdrop and rugged coastline. It’s a fantastic location to sit back and sample fresh produce straight from the ocean. A family tradition whenever we drop into Kaikoura, is to stop at the popular Nin Bins, a family run business. Here they have been selling freshly caught crayfish by the side of the road since 1977. To me this is a ‘kiwi’ experience not to be missed.

Kaikoura is a perfect place to stop off at when travelling from the North to the South Islands vice versa. After hearing so much about The Kakatu Retreat, a local visitor accommodation, I wanted to see for myself how equipped it was for wheelchair access. I arranged to meet up with host Stephen Horrell, the founder & creator of Kaikoura’s first and only purpose-built accessible bed and breakfast.

I am always excited to review accessible accommodation that goes beyond our outdated access building code NZ4121. Visitor accommodation does not need to look medical to be wheelchair accessible.

Stephen’s inspiration to build The Kakatu Retreat came from retirement home residents who he regularly delivered equipment to. He would hear how the residents would love the opportunity to go away on holiday. Their access needs whilst away were generally the main barrier to their travels. Stephen and his wife Mary decided to find a solution and build a visitor accommodation that catered for all travellers and mobility requirements. He didn’t want it to be medical looking, he wanted somewhere comfortable and functional.

The accommodation is designed for all needs, so it doesn’t mean you have to have limited mobility to stay here. It has elements of The Principles of Universal Design, a functional space that can cater for all, with the opportunity to adapt with assistive equipment to include everyone. In our case, the option to use our mobile hoist effortlessly and safely is a huge advantage.

After dropping into review The Kakatu Retreat I could instantly see the sheer ease on offer staying here. The circulation space and smooth floors instantly ticked my boxes. The fact I wouldn’t need to shift furniture around to enable access, lift carpets out of the way or put raisers under the beds for mobile hoist clearance. No need to bring our suitcase ramp out to negotiate any access inside or out to the decks.


The Kakatu Retreat B&B is located in the quiet Ocean Ridge subdivision, just five minutes from the Kaikoura town centre. It has views of the Kaikoura mountain range and close to cycling and walking tracks and a golf course. Kaikoura itself is the northern-most district within the Canterbury region, and is easily accessible with a 2.5 hour drive from Christchurch. To the North is the port of Picton, just a 2 hour drive to where you catch the ferry across to Wellington.


Although the road leading up to the visitor accommodation is on a gradual slope, once you gain entry to the address there is plenty of flat parking to choose from. It is partly concrete and shingle. The four accessible deluxe rooms are on the middle floor with access around to the right if you are looking front on.


All the rooms have a flat-screen Smart TV and free WIFI, with their own accessible ensuite bathroom with wet-floor shower. Each room has wide opening glass sliding doors giving you plenty of room to wheel out onto an expansive lip-free deck.

A wide 1400 mm width hall leads you through wide 910 mm hinged doors into each room and then onto the kitchen/dining through to the lounge/living area. I can clearly see the benefits of steel facings on the bottom of all the doors. The wear and tear can happen a lot, especially when we get tired navigating a cross section of mobility devices inside on a daily basis.

Typical Super King Deluxe Room

There are two fully accessible rooms with super king-size beds on the main floor as you gain entry through the front door. Both beds have memory foam mattresses to ensure comfort. They both have wheelchair accessible ensuite bathrooms with wet-floor showers. One room looks out towards the golf course and the other out to the mountains.

Expansive decks wrap around the entire floor with lip free access through wide glass ranch sliding doors. A great spot to relax in the morning with a nice cup of tea or coffee to start off your day sightseeing. You can see and hear many a native bird from up here whilst enjoying the peace and quiet.


There is no fold down shower seat installed, instead a courtesy shower chair with fixed arm rests available on request. The door to the bathroom is sliding with an 810 mm clearance for accessing. Plenty of leg room under sink with an accessible lever tap and mirror. A mobile hoist is available on demand.

I would prefer to see the option of a fold down shower seat in an accessible bathroom. Not for our needs, but for those who would find it easier to self transfer.

Typical Twin Accessible Bedroom with bathroom

There are two twin rooms on the same level with similar layout. Both have clearance under the beds for the legs of a hoist and controls to adjust the bed to your liking. All beds have memory foam for that essential pressure relieving comfort. These rooms would be a dream for us to hoist in and out of. Lights can be switched off from the beds and Smart TV’s are accessible to watch from the bed.

Potential Caregiver Rooms

Yes, there is another floor in this accommodation that caters for any support person you might bring with you on a holiday. What I like about this set up is the way the Caregiver accommodation is on the floor below or basement area. This allows everyone to have some privacy and timeout.

Family or Group Rooms

On the same level as the Caregiver accommodation is a useful converted garage space. Now, as a family we loved this space as it was somewhere we could all bed down for the night. Plenty of space and a shared accessible bathroom for Finlay to use. It has it’s own access from where you park, so easy to off-load all the adaptive equipment needed during your stay. We only have to rearrange the usual things like welcome mats. Finlay’s power chair constantly wraps these around his wheels, rugs too!

The Bathroom

Right next to the garage is another fully accessible bathroom with wet floor shower. Another great space, again no fold down shower bench seat but a courtesy shower chair (like the one mentioned) on request. Finlay’s shower commode would work well in here along with mobile hoist.


The Kitchen and Living is fully equipped and can be found on the same floor. It is shared by all visitors. The same smooth, easy to wheel over flooring is throughout.

The access through the glass sliding doors makes it seamless to get out onto the deck to enjoy the ambience and the views.

There is even a clever pull-out under the sink to allow clearance for a wheelchair user to use the sink. It can then double up as extra counter space next to island.


A comfortable accessible space to come together, connect, enjoy some indoor recreation, read or watch a movie.


This easy to use lift can take you down through the floors and into the guest laundry room below.


Coin operated washing and drying machines available for your stay.

Equipment Hire

Another plus for this visitor accommodation is the opportunity to rent equipment and have it in place for your arrival. Also, the fact you can actually book your room directly from their website is a huge bonus!

Stephen and Mary plan to build more of these purpose built accessible bed and breakfast visitor accommodations. We will be watching that space with excitement!


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