Guide to the New Zealand Farm Stay Experience: North and South Islands
Updated: Aug 18
What is a Farm Stay?
A farm stay is a popular holiday, where guests book on-farm accommodation and take opportunities to experience the natural processes that underlie our everyday food and consumer products. Each farm is as unique as the variety of New Zealand landscapes and the lifestyles that drive the products taken from the land.
Activities during a farm stay are many and varied. It is common for hosts to escort a farm tour during a farm stay. What happens during a farm tour depends on the host. Usually, tours include interactions with farm animals and or crops/plants. Often tours extend to a farm-to-fork experience and can be a foodie's dream come true!
As well as the commercial aspects, many farms sit in a bucolic environment and are home to the native flora and fauna of the area. So book on-farm accommodation for an authentic farm holiday among nature.
Country Shows are another fun countryfied attraction - see my guide.
What Makes a Farm Ecotourism?
Ecotourism often involves connecting with nature in one form or another. Farms certainly provide opportunities to experience nature. Particularly in New Zealand, as it is common for grazing animals to live outdoors thus closer to nature. Also, many farm stays are organic and free-range as nature would intend.
Ecotourism is also concerned with visitors positively impacting communities and travelling sustainably.
All farmers grow things to sell in the market. They grow plants and animals for people to eat, use as a beast of burden or make into products. Farming operations use implements, equipment and buildings to run their businesses. The clip below shows the process of removing wool from sheep, known as shearing. After shearing the sheep return to pasture and grow another woolly jumper (see below for David's Farm Stay cabin). Most New Zealand farmers grow food for their sheep to eat and wool grows on their sheep. Guests can contribute to a farmer's income when they purchase accommodation or products from their hosts. Guests also have the opportunity to judge for themselves the sustainability of the farming practice.
How to Book a New Zealand Farm Stay
I consider two options when booking. Either, via a 3rd party online app such as Airbnb or directly with the host.
For direct contact, Google searches within the area I plan to stay, produces results that provide contact details for hosts. I then reach out to the host directly, often via their website, and negotiate the space and payment terms directly. Also, the file-sharing service Pinterest has a wealth of links for browsers to contact hosts directly. This option often is commission-free and can put money in the pocket of the host.
Booking a Farm Stay on Airbnb
1. Click the farm's category
2. Add your destination
2. Dates of travel or skip
3. Guest info
4. Tap the Search button
The available accommodation options are displayed. The app has many other categories to filter browser results. Should you proceed to book Airbnb handles payments, provides guarantees and sets out the terms.
Pictured below are screenshots, from the Airbnb app, that show 232 farms on offer on the South Island of New Zealand. The app has also generated an option to split the stay between two South Island farm stays. The app's search function transfers to a seamless booking process.
Three Great Farm Stays
The Shed and Breakfast: Canterbury, South Island
David hosts travellers on his 210-hectare sheep and beef farm. I came across David's Instagram account and have booked marked his website for our upcoming South Island trip.
David's farming operation involves producing wool and meat. It is clear from the rave reviews on Airbnb that his guests get opportunities to experience the products and production during their stay.
From the home made fresh bread, to the hand woven woolen blankets this really is a wonderful eco organic farm stay. This literally lives up to it's name Shed and Breakfast, a handcrafted boutique shed accommodation and yummy breakfast suitable for the whole family. Our kids (4&7) had such fun exploring and helping out on the farm, meaning the adults were able to relax too! Thank you David!!
Ken and Viv's Place: Keri Keri, North Island
5 days in Ken and Viv's self-contained cabin are magic. The cabin sits in the orchards and vegetable gardens of their 13-acre lifestyle block.
Our grandchildren enjoyed picking juicy plums, blueberries, collecting eggs and eating their treasure. The swing and climbing tree in the garden provided hours of entertainment. Ken's farm tour includes meeting his sheep, cattle and visiting his large outdoor fish pond. All these on-farm activities are included in the price of the stay!
Sandy Bay Glamping and Horse Tours: Tutukaka, North Island
The Pullman family operate a 100-acre coastal property that hosts accommodation and horse treks.
I recently visited, with my family, and we enjoyed a horse trek over the Pullmans farm. I plan to return and experience the trek that includes a beach ride. Guests choose a self-contained Yurt and a B&B style cabin for the onsite accommodations. The Pullman's relationship with the land is a long one covering generations. Today, their farming operation is mainly around horses, including mares with foals at foot.
This farming family take on a Kaiteaki role with their land. They are restoring the native bush and are caring for a colony of Long Finned Eels, commonly known as Tuna in New Zealand. This is Derek's short clip showing the Tuna in a stream on the farm.