Farm stays in New Zealand
How to find agriturism opportunities—the chance to stay on a working farm—in New Zealand
Whether you picture yourself riding a horse across the high plains of New Zealand's South Island with the peaks of the Southern Alps as a backdrop, sleeping in a room with a view of the vineyards around Hawkes' Bay, or waking up to a sunrise across the rolling farmlands around Matamata in the center of the North Island, a stay on a working farm in New Zealand can be a great way to get in touch with the island nation's agricultural roots.
Some local tourist offices provide lists of local farm stays.
Few are listed in guidebooks—but you can sometimes find guides available in local bookshops.
You can always just look for agriturism signs on country roads, pointing down rutted dirt tracks toward a farmhouse set among the vineyards.
If you want to find and book a few before you leave, here are the best online resources for finding farm stays all across Oceania. Not all sites are available in English, but the pertinent details are usually pretty easy to figure out:
Farm stay resources for New Zealand
New Zealand Tourism (www.newzealand.com) - The official tourism website has a "Farmstays" option in its Accommodations section listing 101 Kiwi farm stays. (Note: that's not to say they're all not on kiwi orchards—though a few might be—but rather "kiwi" in the sense of "being from or of New Zeland." Oh, never mind...).
True NZ (www.truenz.co.nz/farmstays) - Lists about 70 farm stays across New Zealand.
Agrisport (www.agrisport.com) - It's very much a homemade site, and far from the best organized around, but it's loaded with links once you drill down. These are not only to specific guest farms and dude ranches, but to other outdoors and agritourism links as well, all grouped by country or state. One annoying factor: you have to open a site in a new window to see what its actual url is (otherwise every page is masked as "agrisort.com").
Organic Places to Stay (www.organicholidays.co.uk) - OK, nearly two-thirds of the listings here are lodgings that happen to offer organic food. The other third, however, are B&Bs, rental cottages, or homestays on working organic farms. There are listings all over the world, with seven in New Zealand.
Agritourism World (www.agritourismworld.com) - Ladies and gentlemen, behold: a list of thousands of farm stays around the world... in alphabetical order by name. Not even sure why I bother including this sits, since the results are nearly random—a farm B&B in rural Pennsylvania wedged between one in Italy and another in Belize. How useful is that? Still, if you just want to roll the virtual dice when it comes to location, you'll find plenty of agriturismi here.
Earthfoot (www.earthfoot.org) - Under "Homestays" you'll find at least one in New Zealand.
Become a farmhand; sleep for free - If you really want to get your hands dirty, sign up to become a temporary farmhand through one of two volunteer organizations: WWOOF (www.wwoof.org) and Helpx (www.helpx.net)...
The concept behind agritourism (or rural tourism, or farm stays, or dude ranhes, or farmhouse B&Bs, or whatever you want to call it) is simple: you spend the night as a guest on a working farm. From there, though, the concept flies off in many directions.
Sometimes you just hole up for the night in a B&B converted from a farmhouse.
Sometimes you actually stick around to do volunteer work for a few days (a week, two months, a year), as with the worldwide WWOOF network.
Sometimes, just renting a cottage in a rural area where sheep wander past your window is enough to count. (Though, this being New Zealand, sheep are bound to wander past your window no matter where you stay—aside, perhaps, in Auckland.)
Ideally, the property's owners live on-site and are farmers who derive the bulk of their income from agriculture, using this newfangled form of tourism merely to help make ends meet.
In some countries, the practice of agritourism is highly regulated; in others, it’s a wild west of opportunities, and you have to pick carefully to avoid spending the night in a barn atop a pile of hay (unless that's what you want—I've done it in Europe, and it's great).
Double rooms at a working farm run anywhere from $10 (in bunk-type accommodations) to $200, but are usually around $40 to $80.
I've stayed at loads of agriturismi: vineyards and dairy farms, barns amid olive groves and frescoed villas next to horse stables.
Each stay has offered me a different experience of farm life for a fraction the cost of a hotel.
Many agriturisms require a two- or three-night minimum stay (for some, a week).
Roughly half accept credit cards.
Sometimes you get four-star luxury and satellite TV. Sometimes you’re a straw's-width from sleeping in a stall.
Most, though, are just what you'd expect from a farmhouse B&B: simple comforts, solid country furnishings, and rural tranquility—barnyard noises excepted.
The hosts tend to be a sight friendlier than your average hotel desk clerk. Some invite guests to dine with them, family-style, in the farmhouse.
Breakfast is usually awesome: farm-fresh and farmer-hearty.