School holidays agritourism: Family farm stays in New Zealand

Post-lockdown, getting out of the city into peaceful wide-open spaces has fresh appeal and right now, with spring in full blush everywhere, it’s a great time for a rural holiday.

Besides, when you check in for a family farm stay, you’ll be giving your kids a digital-break, life lessons with the birds and the bees, and adorable animal encounters. With farm stays up and down the country in epic, often remote landscapes, you can explore out-of-the-way places while creating happy family memories.

Like the farms they’re on, farm stays come in varied shapes and sizes from basic to 5-star — some even allow family pets and BYO horses. So, here’s a pick of the regional crop with varied rural experiences and prices, all in stunning out-of-the-way places.

Mahaanui, Tiniroto

Muck in on the land

Guests can boot up, muck in or simply chill out on Mahaanui , a hilly 600ha sheep and beef farm at Tiniroto, on the inland Gisborne to Wairoa road. It’s been in the Bennett family for 60 years, and hosts Simon and Sally like to give their guests “an experience, not a stay”.

This big country welcome comes with free rein for walking and biking marked trails, swimming, kayaking, fishing in the river, and helping out on the farm whenever it’s safe and practical. There’s a roomful of farm boots, bikes, kayaks and life jackets for loan, animals to pet and feed, a hill-top picnic table, and safe swimming holes like the wonderful waterfall just down the road.

Along with impromptu farming activities based on whatever nature’s up to, Simon can also do a guided farm tour ($50 adultspp/$15 kids) highlighting farm practices, with mustering and shearing demonstrations.

Two self-contained accommodations each have enough room for two families. Tucked into its own garden, the 3-bedroom / 2-bathroom cottage easily sleeps eight, expanding to 11 if needed. Bring your own supplies (the nearest shop is back in town) and feed the family from the well-equipped kitchen. There’s a flat-screen TV with satellite channels and, even better, incredible night sky views from the patio. The Quarters (one twin bedroom plus bunk room, 2 bathrooms) accommodates 10, backpacker-style. Ask about bringing your furry family friend.

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