Chy-An-Dowr, Broad Bay

Chy-An-Dowr, Broad Bay

1981, we had just arrived in Dunedin from the Netherlands with our two children and one of our first trips out was to explore the Otago Peninsula. It was a beautiful drive with the harbour on one side of the road and wildflowers blossoming along the other side.

Driving through Broad Bay, we first set eyes on 687 Portobello Road and said to each other, ‘That is the house we would love to buy one day.’

1991, ten years later, we finally bought it.

The house has a rich history, being originally built by Archibald Weir around 1905 as a single-storey shop, the Manapai Cash Store.  From 1913, William Duff owned the store and around 1920 the second storey was added, with living accommodation built on top of and around the existing shop. It remained a shop until the 1970s, when supermarkets emerged in town, and the shop area was converted to living space. At one time in the early years there was a bake house at the back, supplying the Peninsula with bread. Later this was built in and connected onto the house. There were petrol pumps out the front and at one stage tearooms in the front room, selling ice cream out the front window.

When we moved there, Herman needed a large workshop, as at the time we were making big architectural display models of the Waitaki hydro scheme. At the back of the house was a large workshop/garage area, which was ideal for the large 2.5 m x 3.6 m models.

The house was quite big and we thought we should do something with it. Our first idea was a tearooms/gallery, but eventually this proved too hard to pursue. Then we had the idea to start a B&B/homestay, which we did in 1993. In those days B&B was still quite a new concept in New Zealand. Our very first guests came from Vancouver Island, four people instead of the two we had planned for. In a panic we moved our daughter out of her room to accommodate the extra two guests. They stayed two days, and had dinner as well as breakfast, so it was a steep learning curve, but all went well.

We called our B&B ‘Chy-an-Dowr, which means ‘House by the Water’ in Cornish. We had guests from all over the world, who loved the Peninsula and Broad Bay, and the ever-changing views of the harbour, the wildlife and all that the Peninsula had to offer, as did we.

We were now busy working from our home in Broad Bay; architectural model-making, website design, as well as the B&B. It was a busy, but a good life, living in this beautiful part of the world.

Our teenage children enjoyed life in the Bay, going to the beach, kayaking on the harbour and going to the Youth Club at the Community Hall. Our son was a keen gardener and grew organic herbs which he sold to the locals.

Over the years we did a lot of renovations to the house. When we bought it, it was still very 1970s with purple and orange painted ceilings. Our first renovation was a toilet in the upstairs bathroom. We added bathrooms for guests, renovated the kitchen, painted and wallpapered rooms and renovated the large workshop/garage at the back, which eventually became a self-contained guest cottage. The garden grew with bush and trees and now there are wood pigeons, bellbirds and tuis.

Our daughter recently had her wedding reception in our house and garden, having had the ceremony in the Broad Bay Community Hall and photos down at the beach. The sun shone and it was an ideal location.

Broad Bay beach is just across the road from our house and we have spent many happy times there.

We became involved in community life. The Community Hall just behind our house hosted an exhibition to celebrate Dunedin’s 150th anniversary, which was a big event. We all dressed up in period costumes and in the evening we danced to the Pog ‘n Scroggin band in the big marquee set up at the Broad Bay beach.

The Community Hall also hosted midwinter Christmas dinners and art exhibitions in which we took part.

Eventually our children left home, but our daughter lived a while in Broad Bay and our grandchildren went to Broad Bay school. When they learnt to sail on the harbour just across the road, we could sit in our sunroom upstairs and watch them.

March 2020. Covid came. Our last guests stayed in March and two days after they left, lockdown was here. That gave us a chance to rethink our lives. We were past retirement age and this seemed a good time to close the B&B after 27 years of hosting guests.

Herman re-started his clock repair business, repairing and restoring antique clocks, which now keeps him busy, and the former B&B cottage is now his clock workshop. He also loves to go for morning bike rides on the new cycle path along the harbour.

One day we might have to move away, but Broad Bay and the Otago Peninsula will be a very hard place to leave.

By Susan and Herman van Velthoven

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