Finding Paradise: Couple's two-year motorhome journey leads to dream life on West Coast

Nestled between the Tasman Sea and the snow-capped Southern-alps, Elizabeth and Selwyn Meaclem have carved out their own slice of paradise on the West Coast with the creation of the award-winning Awatuna Sunset Lodge.

Hot tub

The couple discovered their dream location on the West Coast after a two-year journey in their motorhome across the South Island. "We kept coming back here, and that's because Selwyn absolutely loves the coast," Elizabeth shared. Selwyn described the area as "a magical place" where rainforests, waterfalls, and the coast evoke a sense of stepping back in time.

Originally from Sydney, Elizabeth met Selwyn at Molly Malones in Courtney Place in Wellington. With only five weeks before she was meant to leave the country, she never left. Now settled in Awatuna, just out of Hokitika the couple couldn't be happier.

"There is just so much to do and see," Elizabeth remarked.

Selwyn and Elizabeth now enjoy sharing their backyard with guests. They have created a unique experience for visitors, treating them like VIPs and showcasing the best of the West Coast.

Selwyn's amphibious vehicle (credit Michael Lithgow)

Awatuna Sunset Lodge is an adult-only bed and breakfast with a full dinner menu, offering a "garden to plate" type of menu for both meals, featuring homemade pasta, pizza bases, sauces, bread, and breakfast jams made from ingredients grown on the property. Elizabeth's Italian and Greek heritage has inspired a Mediterranean-style menu.

Guests also enjoy Elizabeth's award-winning espresso coffee, a skill she honed during her 45-year café career in Australia, where she once won the title of Best Café in the country. "Coffee is a big part of what we do," she remarked.

Recently, the couple's hard work and dedication were recognised when Awatuna Sunset Lodge won Boutique Lodge of the Year in the UK-based Travel and Hospitality Awards. "We're absolutely thrilled with that," said Elizabeth. Their exceptional hospitality also shines through in their impressive 9.8 rating on Elizabeth expressed gratitude for guests taking the time to review or nominate them, noting that "it's just really cool to know people are taking the time to either nominate us or review us because they've had a good experience."

“Life is so much more relaxing here than in the big cities that I've lived in. I couldn't imagine going back living in a city after living on the West Coast,”

Elizabeth Meaclem

Selwyn, who hails from Methven, shares her appreciation for the region, citing its "best motorcycling roads, tramping, walks, and mountain biking." He describes Coasters as very accepting and friendly people. “People stop and help you if you breakdown. They are just such genuine soul-to-the-earth people.”

Embracing the slower pace of life on the Coast, the couple has discovered their dream life in the idyllic setting of Awatuna, where they continue to share their passion for hospitality and the natural beauty of the region with travellers from around the world.

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