Gentle Annie Seaside Accommodation and Camping Ground, Mokihinui, West Coast, New Zealand

The Gentle Annie Family Story

Ellen came to New Zealand to work as a primary school teacher from Ithaca in Upstate New York in 1974. She took up teaching in South Auckland, where she met Phil, who was working as a Parks and Recreation employee for the Auckland City Council. After a year, they moved to the South Island so that Phil could continue his Park Management training at Lincoln College. It was there they decided their future lay not in city life, but in the countryside. So, they headed to Northern Buller, an area that had fascinated Phil during his years at Lincoln College.

The Gentle Annie property became home in 1976. With its warm microclimate and Phil’s background knowledge in horticulture, the couple endeavoured (while raising a family of four children) to make a living from the land and be as self-sufficient as possible.

Ellen’s parents, Warren and Claire traveled over to New Zealand from New York each year for over 35 years to visit the family. They helped out with all the goings on at Gentle Annie during it’s evolution, as did May and Bill (Phil’s parents) during the early years.

The horticulture business developed into a 16,000 square foot greenhouse operation growing Winter Tomatoes and Babaco fruit. In May of 1984, the glasshouses were destroyed by a twister that swept ashore from the sea.

A need to replace their livelihood became necessary, which coincided with the adjoining dairy farm coming up for sale. After a couple of interesting years dairy farming, the herd was sold, and Phil and Ellen’s focus turned toward tourism. With Phil’s background in landscape design and recreation, he developed a full size 9-hole golf course (many holes of which can still be made out when wandering the property).

The Cowshed was converted into a snack shop and club room for the golf course. After a few years it became apparent that the golf course was costing too much to maintain, and at the same time, the Cowshed was becoming a popular restaurant. The turning point came when a violent flash flood destroyed much of the lower portion of the golf course.

The Cowshed Restaurant was run from 1990–2000 by the family, hosting daily trade, weddings and other functions. The holiday home accommodation was developed step by step to where it is now able to accommodate up to around 50 guests. The addition of the camping ground has enabled many others to enjoy this beautiful place.

Since 2001, the Cowshed Cafe has been leased to many talented people, who have offered a variety of cuisine during each Summer Season.

Phil and Ellen have 12 grandchildren. Their eldest son Tom lives in Tauranga with Scout, Rosa and Lewis. Tom works as a High School English and Inquiry-learning teacher. Dida, their second child, lives with her husband Craig nearby at Carters Beach, with their three children, Guiseppe, Zabeel and Tobias. Dida is a primary school teacher in Westport. Phaedra, their younger daughter, lives with her husband Tim and their three children, Dakota, Indira and Aalia in Greymouth. Phaedra is a primary school teacher in Greymouth.

Jesse, Phil and Ellen’s youngest son, and his wife Jessica moved to Gentle Annie to live in 2009. They now have three children; Ithaca-Jane (9.5), Beau (6.5) and Dante-Ella (3.5).  Both Jessica and Jesse are able to be “work-from-home” parents with wonderful support from their family. Jesse and Jessica  continue to successfully run and grow the accommodation business, camping ground and the Cowshed Cafe together with a wonderful team.

Come to Gentle Annie and tell us your story – we’d love to get to know more about you!

Risk Disclosure Statement:

Our risk disclosure statement is publicly available on our website and included in our booking terms and conditions. It is also provided to guests at reception.

We take all care to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable visit. Due to the nature of the outdoor environment, there are inherent risks which are beyond our control. These may include slips, trips and falls on walking tracks, and falls and collisions on bike tracks. These may result in serious injury or death in the case of mountain biking. All users of mountain bike trails must wear an appropriate cycle helmet and are encouraged to wear protective clothing and pads.

There are a number of hazards in the area which are outside of Gentle Annie’s control. Given our remote location there can be significant delays in obtaining emergency assistance. Please ensure you take all care when visiting our site, and the region in general. Potential hazards include the Tasman Sea (unpatrolled beach, dangerous and strong currents), Mokihinui River and wilderness areas. Please drive slowly and pass with care on the public access road and drive with caution around the camping areas being mindful of pedestrians and children playing.