Step outside the cities and away from beaches, and New Zealand’s productive green pastoral landscapes, punctuated with cute farm animals and agricultural activity are a big part of what any visitor to this country will see.
For those who’ve never set foot on a farm before, there are opportunities to stay on a farm – hosted by a farming family who will introduce you to their way of life and some of their animal residents. Throughout New Zealand you’ll find a great range of ‘farmstay’ accommodation on different types of farms and with options for all budgets from low-cost to luxury.
While farming is a year-round activity with each season bringing its own highlights, there’s no denying the special attraction of new arrivals. For that, you might want to schedule a visit sometime between late winter and the months of spring (August to November) when cuteness is rampant down on the farm.
Mt Huia Farmstay, Mangaweka
Mt Huia Farmstay is an historic sheep and cattle farm that has been around since the late 1800s. Hosts Neil and Virginia welcome guests into their home on the farm they have been working for almost 35 years. Guests can choose to stay in one of two bed and breakfast ensuite rooms or bring the whole family and bunk down in the Hood Cottage which comfortably sleeps seven. Take a tour of the farm with Neil and help him out on his daily duties such as shearing, mustering and collecting eggs from the chicken coop. The farm has private access to the Mangawharariki River so guests can find a swimming hole to cool off or go for a walk along the banks. Mt Huia Farmstay is a genuine Kiwi farm experience amidst the beautiful rolling green hills of the central North Island.
Mt Huia Farmstay is just 10 minutes off SH1 (State Highway One) between Rotorua and Wellington. The farm is a great base for trout fishing in the nearby Rangitikei River and close to several great cycle trails. Neil and Virginia are golfers and always have a set of clubs to lend to guests who want to try some local country courses.
Mt Huia Farmstay
Romance on the farm at Kamahi Cottage, Waitomo
Kamahi Cottage – New Zealand’s only five-star boutique farmstay – is a romantic, just made-for-two rural escape amidst rolling Waikato farmland. The cottage is on a part of the farm that hosts Evan and Liz Cowan thought was too special to keep just for themselves. The self-contained heritage cottage has an upstairs queen bedroom, with downstairs spacious living, kitchenette and bathroom. Guests arrive to freshly picked flowers, homemade baking and fruit schnapps distilled from the farm’s orchard fruit. The farm has several walking tracks to explore and there is a hectare of pristinely landscaped gardens to admire the new season blooms.
Kamahi Cottage is between the rural Waikato towns of Waitomo and Otorohanga - an hour by road from Hamilton Airport. Just 15 minutes down the road, there’s the Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park where you can watch New Zealand’s iconic kiwi bird having lunch; at Waitomo Glowworm Caves, 30 minutes away, take a guided tour or try some thrilling black water rafting – a must-do caving experience.
Counting sheep on Rangitikei Farmstay, Marton
Tucked away in central North Island hills, Rangitikei Farmstay offers a glimpse of life on a 630-hectare hill country sheep and beef farm. Furry, fluffy and fleecy animals are the main attraction– meet working dogs, watch farmers muster sheep, or even try shearing one yourself. When the frost melts away and the temperatures rise from late August, lambs are born and bring new life to the farm. Unique features to explore include the natural dam, waterfall and glow worms found within the farm’s gates. After an exhilarating day on the farm, rest your head at night in the comfortable farm cottage or bunkroom.
Rangitikei Farmstay is 2.5 hours by road from Wellington, deep in the Rangitikei district. The volcanic Central Plateau is within two hours’ drive, with some of New Zealand’s most popular ski fields and a great New Zealand day walk– the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
Spray Point Station - Off the Mapp, Marlborough
Spray Point Station is a 100-year-old farm settled across 2,200 hectares of beautiful varied landscape in Marlborough’s Waihopai Valley. From this South Island vantage point, on a crisp and clear spring day you can see the last of the winter snow on the far-away mountains of the central North Island. At Off the Mapp - the farm’s lodging – you’ll feel away from it all. With four accommodation options, the property offers a retreat for all types of guests. Cob Quarters, a lovingly restored drovers’ cottage, is country bliss. Unwind in front of the fire or count the stars from the private gas-fired outdoor baths. Spray Point Station offers hiking, mountain biking, heli-touring, 4WD farm tours and bird watching – more than enough reasons to immerse yourself in the countryside.
Spray Point Station is located in Marlborough, New Zealand’s largest wine growing region and is just an hour by road from Blenheim airport. Being so close to some on New Zealand’s top wineries, we recommend sampling the internationally renowned Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Alternatively take the 1.5 hour drive to Picton for a cruise into the Marlborough Sounds.
Spray Point Station - Off the Mapp
Silverstream Alpaca Farmstay, Christchurch
For a quirky rural home away from home, Canterbury’s Silverstream Alpaca Farmstay offers comfortable accommodation plus the company of the four-legged South American ex-pats roaming the surrounding paddocks. The family farm has more than 200 alpacas in all colours, and with the complimentary farm tour you can get up close and personal to these charming woolly creatures. During the birthing season, guests will see baby alpaca in the paddocks and may even see a live birth. The property has two self-contained cottages that sleep up to five guests each, within thoughtfully landscaped gardens that create a tranquil retreat.
Silverstream Alpaca Farmstay is a 20-minute drive from Christchurch International Airport, the gateway to the South Island. To keep your intrepid side in-check, activities nearby include fishing on the Waimakariri River and horse riding at Waimak River Horse Treks. Christchurch city is 30 minutes by road from Silverstream and offers a wealth of art, culture and history to explore.
Silverstream Alpaca Farmstay
Flockhill Station, Canterbury
Flockhill Station, on the scenic Great Alpine Highway, is an otherworldly place to break the journey. This dramatic landscape of jagged rock formations and deep canyons, which formed the backdrop for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, is a fantasy in itself. A 14,000 hectare high country sheep farm, Flockhill Station is a secluded retreat perfect for getting off the grid. Two types of accommodation – cottages and shepherds quarters – cater to independent travellers and groups. Explore the station on horse or mountain bike, and try the fishing. If your visit coincides with the winter snow season, you might like to explore one of the local ski fields or simply take in the view of the snowy peaks surrounding the property.
Flockhill Station is 90 minutes by road from Christchurch on Arthur’s Pass Highway. The drive is half the experience with constantly changing scenery. The iconic Southern Alps tower above as you drive over hills, cross rivers and pass ski fields and lakes. If venturing through to the South Island’s rugged West Coast, Flockhill Station is worth the stop along the way.
Nokomai Station, Southland
High country sheep and cattle farm Nokomai Station sits squarely across the South Island’s alpine vein. Originally named Glenfalloch – meaning hidden valley – in 1857, Nokomai is one of New Zealand’s largest farming properties. For the visitor, it offers fishing, hiking, mountain biking and farm tours exploring all four corners of the lush green property. There are four warm and inviting farm cottages where guests can either eat independently or join the hosts for a cosy meal in the original farm house. Top it off on a scenic flight of the dramatic surrounding Southern Lakes region with Nokomai helicopters.
Nokomai Station is located just over an hour by road from Queenstown and is accessible via State Highway 6, a scenic drive around Lake Wakatipu. Ideal in any season, in Queenstown you can go from high adrenalin jet boating to wine tasting to cycling all in one day. Nokomai Station is also conveniently located just over an hour’s drive from Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland and Milford Sound.
If you don’t have time to stay down on the farm, some of New Zealand’s main tourism resorts also offer farming experiences. From the shores of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, take a day time excursion and cruise across to Walter Peak Station on the iconic steamship TSS Earnslaw or hop on the Spirit of Queenstown to visit Mt Nicholas High Country Farm. Only 10 minutes’ drive from cultural hotspot Rotorua is The Agrodome – a unique New Zealand farming experience that offers short action-filled farm shows and guided farm tours.
If you happen to strike it right, you might catch a glimpse of one of New Zealand’s world class farming events. Just outside of Wellington in the largely agricultural region of Wairarapa, the Golden Shears is the world's premier shearing and woolhandling championship. Each year central North Island city Hamilton hosts Fieldays, the largest agribusiness expo in the southern hemisphere, where more than 1000 exhibitors show farming equipment, products and services across a 114-hectare site to more than 100,000 visitors. Meanwhile, each March, Wanaka plays host to New Zealand’s second largest A&P show. More than 40,000 people flock to the showgrounds adjacent to Lake Wanaka for the two-day agricultural showcase. Fun for the whole family, it also boasts more than 400 trade stalls, live entertainment and novelty events like the famous Jack Russell race.