Ministry of Tourism statistics for 2005/6 show that 53% of tourists visiting orchards and farms were from overseas. Most international visitors were in the 55–64 age group, while domestic visitors were more likely to be aged 25–34.
Main areas for rural tourism
There are approximately equal numbers of rural tourism enterprises in the North and South islands. However, Waikato, Manawatū, Rangitīkei, Whanganui, Canterbury and Otago have more than other regions. Rural tourism is an important contributor to regional economies.
The Amazing Maze ‘n Maize
Beth and Andy Watson have an unusual rural tourism venture – a maze in a maize crop in Manawatū. Each year a different maze pattern is cut into the new crop, and attracts thousands of visitors. ‘Fright nights’, which aim to scare participants with horror props, are especially popular. Reportedly, at least one person wets their pants each night.
Main types of rural tourism
As well as farmstays, this includes camping grounds, backpackers' lodges, farm cottages and retreats.
These cover a broad range, including farm tours and shows, horse riding, fishing and hunting expeditions, mountain biking, four-wheel driving, wildlife tours, and bush or farm walks. A typical four-wheel drive business is Glenstrae Farm 4 Wheeler Adventures, which takes groups on quad bikes or in an eight-wheel vehicle across hill-country farmland along the Kaikōura coast.
These include craft shops, outlets and farmers’ markets selling produce such as fruit, vegetables and home-made preserves, second-hand stores and souvenir shops. An example is Mill Creek Lavender, near Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula, where visitors can buy lavender products, stroll amongst the lavender plants and enjoy a coffee. Like many rural tourism businesses, Mill Creek Lavender combines more than one activity.
Gardens and nurseries
Garden tours are often combined with plant or food sales. One example is Queenstown Garden Tours, which takes visitors on a tour of three private rural gardens in the Queenstown and Arrowtown areas. The owners escort visitors around their gardens, and afternoon tea is provided.
These include activities focused on Māori culture, and visits to historic sites. Whangamōmona, a remote North Island settlement, has become a tourist attraction since its historic hotel was restored. The tiny township also attracts visitors on its annual Republic Day on 15 January – a light-hearted commemoration of the town’s declaration of independence after a bureaucratic decision in 1989 took the settlement out of the Taranaki region.
Food and wine attractions
These include cafés and wine trails. Networking between businesses in the same region is often a feature; for example the Hawke’s Bay Food and Wine Tourism Group markets local wineries under the brand ‘Hawke’s Bay Wine Country’, and has developed a food and wine trail, brochures and improved signage.