Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Chasing greener pastures - New Zealand farm stays

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. 

If you'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.  

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.

Travel tip: 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.

Travel tip: 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.

Travel tip: 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. 

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.  

Travel tip: 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.  

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.

Travel tip: 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.  

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. 

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