Rural tourism is taking off as farmers find ways to combine New Zealand's two big export earners.

An ANZ AgriFocus report late last year on agri-tourism said over a quarter of the international tourists visiting New Zealand in 2015 visited a farm or orchard, and one in five visited a vineyard or wine trail. Chinese visitors in particular enjoyed going to a farm or orchard, with two thirds going to either or both.

The report said the influx of international tourists was an opportunity to showcase the broader food and beverage sector.

Both islands of New Zealand are dotted with enterprising rural tourism farm ventures enjoying New Zealand's time in the tourism sun. Trophy hunting, caving, rock climbing and mountain biking are some of many catering to tourists' needs, and providing a valuable boost to traditional pastoral farm incomes.

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Colville farming couple Roy and Kaye Ward managed to expand the income from their Kairaumati Hereford stud farm by building a farm café business that has an emphasis upon locally sourced ingredients. For their "Hereford 'n a Pickle" café that comes right down to using the Ward's prime Hereford beef in their sausages, burgers and salamis.
Today the café generates income that almost exceeds the farm's, and can support the next generation of Wards on the remote Coromandel farm.

On the opposite side of the coast north western Waikato farming couple Anne and Philip Woodward's underground caves proved an income bonus as business above ground on the farm got tougher. Today the couple in Waikaretu Valley capitalise on the property's beauty above and below ground, including a café and accommodation and function centre.

Bayleys national country manager Simon Anderson said the combination of potential tourism dollars and a farm's setting was an added bonus for farmers when they were considering selling their property, or wanting to tap into a growing opportunity.

"And those opportunities are making themselves seen in places that in the past may have been seen as off the traditional tourist routes. Farmers located along newly developed cycle trails in areas like Otago have found a ready market for tourists wanting to sample life on a New Zealand farm during their trip."

Tourism Export Council chief executive Lesley Immink said the council had businesses operating farm and rural stays, or specialising in agricultural tours, alongside high profile operations like the Agrodome and Walter Peak Station.

"And as world leaders in agricultural technologies and food production more inbound business are being asked by leisure, corporate and export sectors to include visits to appropriate universities, farms and companies."

Trophy hunting, caving, rock climbing and mountain biking are some of many new rural-based ventures catering to tourists' needs. Photo/Supplied
Trophy hunting, caving, rock climbing and mountain biking are some of many new rural-based ventures catering to tourists' needs. Photo/Supplied

She said word of mouth between travellers about New Zealand's high quality food meant many were wanted a "gate to plate" experience when they got here.

The ANZ report's authors found that with changes in how consumers purchase food and beverages, the ability to repeat purchase of local specialities and products once back home helped relive their holiday experience. For example a visit to a winery provides access to their email address on a mailing list, and a direct link for future purchases.

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They pointed to opportunities for farmers and growers to partner up with top accommodation providers giving options for eco-type accommodation experiences that help ease emerging capacity constraints at key times of the year when established options in tourist hot spots are already limited.

Simon Anderson said: "Predictions are for tourist numbers to continue to climb over coming years. With increased pressure on the usual tourist attractions, we can see great potential for places that may have been less than well known in the past to expand as more tourists look to go off the beaten track. There are some exciting options opening up for farmers which they may have never considered before."