Welcome to the colourful world of Queenstowner Thomas Schneider.
His fairytale-style Little Paradise Lodge on the Glenorchy Road has been his labour of love for the past 18 years.
Swiss-born Schneider’s self-designed thatched cottage pad and uniquely quirky gardens wouldn’t look out of place in a fantasy blockbuster movie by Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson.
“I’ve made the whole place up as I’ve gone along,” he says with a grin. “But I’ve had an awful lot of fun doing it.”
Inside the guest house, each room has Schneider’s individually crafted wooden floors, wacky artwork and handmade furniture. Visitors often have to do a double-take in the stone-tiled bathroom because the glass toilet cistern is also a fully-stocked fish tank that tops up with fresh water every time it’s flushed.
“Unfortunately, someone from England pinched that idea and I hear a version of my fish tank loo is now being made and sold in Britain,” the 51-year-old shrugs.
His rambling two-hectare gardens are an explosion of colour most of the year.
Secluded walkways snake around some 3000 self-planted roses and just as many daffodils, lilies, snowdrops and poppies – plus a large variety of fruit trees.
A hand-built monument notes the distance to various countries and there’s other-worldly stone and wood oddities inscribed with eco-friendly messages.
Little Paradise is 28km from Queenstown and 19km from Glenorchy, right on the 45th parallel south – exactly halfway between the South Pole and the Equator.
The gardens are so popular that Schneider, who runs the lodge with wife Christy, has opened them to the public. For a $6 fee, visitors can have a cuppa and cookies while enjoying the surroundings.
“We’ve had American tourists wandering into the kitchen with video cameras while we’ve been having dinner,” Schneider says.
“We recently decided we might as well open the place to passers-by, so now everyone is welcome. People like the tranquility of the gardens and there are plenty of geese, ducks, turkeys, chickens and frogs to keep them amused.”
When Schneider acquired the property in the early 1990s it was an ordinary cottage surrounded by paddocks.
“It’s still a work in progress and I’m always on the lookout for distinctive new plants, trees and flowers,” Schneider says. “I don’t know if it will ever be finished.”