New Zealand is renowned the world over for its glorious countryside and breathtakingly beautiful landscapes, and people flock to our shores to experience some of the best outdoor and nature activities available anywhere. Despite this well-deserved reputation as a must-see destination, many visitors sadly miss out on the opportunity to really immerse themselves in the true depth of experience that our little slice of paradise has to offer.
Caught up in the whirl of popular attractions and must-see sights, they never manage to truly connect with the country on a meaningful level. The rush of activity carries them along, leaving possibilities unexplored and adventures uncharted… and the captivating call of New Zealand’s unique heartland goes unanswered and its mysteries lie undiscovered.
…and while there is nothing quite like the glow of satisfaction derived from sharing the stunning vistas and natural wonders of New Zealand with excited travellers and guests, from the rugged coastlines to the picturesque lakes to the majesty of the snow-capped mountains… sometimes the very best experiences… those most often remembered and shared… those most treasured as time goes by… arise from the simplest of things… from authentic moments spent with genuine people, just connecting with the day to day movement of life in this amazing country.
Get off the beaten track; get away from it all
Away from the glitter of the big cities and the bustle of the crowds in New Zealand’s plethora of popular tourist venues lies the true heart of Aotearoa (the Maori name for the country of New Zealand, literally translated “land of the long white cloud“), hidden amidst the rolling countryside and pristine wilderness and kept alive by the warmth and generous spirit of the local people.
One has to just wander off of the main highways, and venture down meandering country roads to find unique experiences and true New Zealand hospitality, where you can get away from the tours and the commonplace attractions and discover what it really means to be a Kiwi.
The rolling countryside offers ample opportunities to explore the true character of the country… and to connect with the land and its people. From sunny seaside towns, to pastoral farming communities, to quirky country villages, you will find warm communities that illustrate and illuminate the kiwi spirit, each full of their own unique measure of New Zealand heritage, culture, and history… and exhibiting an honest enthusiasm for sharing the best of themselves and their world with those eager to open themselves up to the experience.
Explore the unknown; embrace the unexpected
One such place, brimming with Kiwi style and rustic charm, is Taihape, nestled within the peaceful high country of the central North Island. This small rural community epitomises the easy-going nature of a true New Zealand farming town, where the days are filled with companionship and honest labour and everyone is made welcome.
This spirit of genuine hospitality and modest pride is heartily reflected in the town’s dedication to one of the simplest of things… the lowly gumboot. Celebrated as the self-proclaimed ‘gumboot capital’ of New Zealand, Taihape has taken this well-loved piece of Kiwi footwear and elevated it to a tongue-in-cheek position of grandeur.
Found in every rural Kiwi home, the gumboot is humble and hardworking, like the community it has been chosen to represent, and is celebrated on the route into town with a giant corrugated metal sculpture erected in its honour, as well as a yearly festival commemorating Gumboot Day. The annual event focuses on family fun for locals and visitors alike, with vendors, music, and entertainment… and the now famous gumboot throwing competitions. It serves to remind us to enjoy the day-to-day and not to take ourselves too seriously… and that sometimes it is the smallest things that can bring the greatest joy.
Dig in; get your hands dirty
Sharing in this local spirit, just a half hour from Taihape, lies Tarata Lodge, an authentic Kiwi experience just waiting to be discovered.
Situated in the picturesque countryside of the central North Island, overlooking steep canyon walls and the flowing waters of the Rangitikei River, Tarata Lodge is a place where you can get away, reconnect with the simpler things, and interact with the locals and landscape on a level that most visitors to New Zealand simply never get to experience.
Not your typical tourist destination, Tarata Lodge makes it possible to while away your hours engaging in honest endeavours as you experience a typical day in the life of rural New Zealand and assist in the day-to-day operation of a real Kiwi farm by collecting eggs, feeding the chickens and stock, and even nursing the young animals.
…and while the region offers some of New Zealand’s favourite pastimes in the glorious countryside that surrounds the lodge, with river rafting, fly fishing, and hiking available to the inquisitive traveller, the real treasure lies in authentic moments shared with genuine people. In making enduring connections and being invited into the fold for true Kiwi experiences… where you are encouraged to ‘get stuck in’ and contribute to the everyday tasks and necessary pursuits that epitomise rural Kiwi living… where you join your hosts and the local community and work together, giving rise to that special sense of satisfaction that only comes from getting down to earth and celebrating a job well done.
Experience the real New Zealand; become a local
This inclusion, this genuine acceptance of others, where everyone is treated the same, regardless of fortune or station, where lessons are taught and knowledge is shared, is a key component of the Kiwi attitude towards life and the world around us.
Here you can truly connect with the locals, join the salt of the earth in their everyday lives, and come to truly appreciate real life in New Zealand… where you are treated like family, food is made with love and shared with passion, and simple truths and meaningful moments arise out everyday activities and true joy.
We encourage everyone to visit our New Zealand… to discover our hopes, our beliefs, and our deepest desires and simplest joys. Come with us, catch a glimpse of our truest selves, and seize the opportunity to feel the pulse of the beating heart of New Zealand.
Veronika Vermeulen is Director of Aroha New Zealand Tours Ltd. Aroha New Zealand Tours Ltd. has been offering 100% tailored journeys and private guided luxury experiences in New Zealand since 2000.