A Sea King helicopter, an oil rig and shipping containers probably don’t spring to mind as nice places to spend the night, but you’d be surprised. Retrofitted for adventurous travellers, they’re just some of the many recycled and repurposed objects granted second lives as quirky and eclectic hotels. They might be lacking minibars, but do you know anyone else who’s slept in a wine barrel?
SHIPPING CONTAINER: ANTWERP, BELGIUM
Sleeping Around, launched in November, combines two trends in one: It’s a pop-up hotel made from rusting Chinese shipping containers. Rescued from the docks in Antwerp, they now offer guests a fantastic view from the right bank of the river Scheldt – but only until the end of March. Then there are plans to move the “hotel” to another city in Europe. The six-metre luxury conversions contain iPod docking stations, huge picture windows, rain-fed showers, air conditioning and a sleek interior Belgian design. Rooms from $200 a night; sleepingaround.eu
16TH-CENTURY CHURCH: EL JADIDA, MOROCCO
Last summer, a 16th-century Catholic church and a U.S. consulate found new life as a boutique hotel in the UNESCO world heritage city of El Jadida. Just 45 minutes from Casablanca on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, L’Iglesia uses the nave of the former church, now decorated with crystal chandeliers from France and beaded lanterns from Morocco and Syria, as a guest lounge. The rest of the soaring building houses eight suites. Next door, the old consulate has become the hotel restaurant, and provides a roof-top cocktail terrace. Rooms start from $162; boutiquesouk.com
OIL RIG: SABAH, MALAYSIAN BORNEO
Sea Adventures Dive has turned an oil rig into a basic hotel that caters to divers and snorkellers visiting nearby Sipadan Island, consistently rated as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world. The 1,600-tonne rig resort towers 60 metres above sea level, offering guests panoramic views and a permanent welcome breeze. Access to the dining area on the crane deck is by a hydraulic lift, guests can sun themselves on the former helicopter pad and rooms – while not luxurious – rise four levels up. Three-night diving packages start at $695, non diving at $557; seaventuresdive.com
BOEING 727: COSTA RICA
Hotel Costa Verde is possibly the most famous recycled hotel, and with good reason: It’s a Boeing plane rescued from an aircraft graveyard in San Jose, Calif. The jet now sits on the edge of Manuel Antonio National Park; its fuselage has been turned into two air-conditioned suites lined with Costa Rican teak panelling. Cleverly perched 12 metres up in the canopy, guests feel might even feel airborne. Look out the windows, or from private decks over each wing, and watch the neighbours: toucans, sloths and monkeys. Rooms from $250; costaverde.com
SECOND WORLD WAR PATROL BOAT: WAITOMO, NEW ZEALAND
Dry-docked on a working farm two hours from Auckland is an one of the two remaining anti-submarine patrol boat. The1942-built ship has four multi-level cabins, including a honeymoon suite equipped with a double spa bath. The farm also provides accommodation in the shape of a 1950’s Bristol freighter aircraft and vintage rail carriages (both conversions include kitchens). Owner/farmer Billy Black also entertains guests with sheep-shearing demonstations and a dancing pig. Rooms start at $150; waitomomotel.co.nz
WINE BARRELS: SASBACHWALDEN, GERMANY
Oenophiles might enjoy a stay in a 8,000-litre wine barrel that overlooks vineyards in the Black Forest. The Schlafen im Weinfass vineyard has converted four barrels into comfortable bedrooms for two, with a door at one end and a picture window at the other (the view extends across the Rhine valley to the Vosges mountains in France). The Wild family have been making wine here since 1890, and with each room comes a complimentary welcome bottle of bubbly, and two more local wines. Rooms from $211; schlafen-im-weinfass.de
HELICOPTER: WINVIAN, CONN.
A Sea King coastguard helicopter rescued from a scrap yard in Arizona is the centrepiece and bar/lounge of a hanger-like cottage on this family-owned New England farm. The flight deck, control columns and switches are intact, and even the rotor blades are embedded in the walls, making the cottage seem built around the aircraft. Guests sleep in a large bed outside the aircraft and can gaze up at it’s hulking exterior as they drift off to sleep. Room from $699 (U.S.); winvian.com
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