Time and time again, our visitors rave about those special tour experiences that reveal the quintessential New Zealand, and down in Ashburton in the South Island, there is a little corner of paradise we'd love to introduce.
It would be fair to say that our visit to Akaunui Homestead is a resounding favourite and a constant source of wonderful feedback from guests on our South Island tours. To stand out from the crowd on such comprehensive tours of one of the greatest scenic and cultural travel destinations in the world is no mean feat, so we thought we'd shed a little light on what makes Akaunui such a special place to visit.
Welcome to the stunning Canterbury Region, a place famous for pretty much everything that is beautiful, natural, scenic and kiwi. And of course, home to the magnificent 110 year old historic farmstead of Di and Ian Mackenzie. Charming and character-filled, this stately home compliments 12 hectares of truly magical gardens and sprawling, emerald-green lawns - the jewel in the crown of their 500 hectare working farm. Being the top-notch hosts that they are, Di and Ian open their doors for us to share in this slice of heaven on many of our tours and we can gain a unique insight into a great New Zealand lifestyle, farming culture and family.
Meet the family
Ian is a kiwi bloke through and through. His family heritage in New Zealand runs back to the 1840s when the first settlers were arriving and the nation's founding document was signed. After WW2, his family moved to Akaunui where Ian would later become a farmer, family man and active farming politician. Di was a teacher in Christchurch when her and Ian met, and they went on to raise their family of 3 children on the farmstead. Here, Di proved herself as gardening extraordinaire and an amazing cook. Today, their eldest son runs the cropping and sheep operation, their daughter is marketing manager for a local company and their youngest son is a pilot, mustering livestock in the Northern Territory of Australia by helicopter. This all said, you can get a fairly decent insight into the kiwi way life from this lot!
The dining experience
Cuisine is always a big deal and here, wonderful, hearty and fresh cuisine flows from Di's kitchen and onto the lunch plates of her eager and welcome guests. Relaxed, al fresco dining amidst gorgeous surroundings is the name of the game and the produce is all freshly harvested from the farm and gardens and washed down with fine kiwi wine. Their own ham, lamb and beef compliment the delightful bounty of Di's extensive vegetable garden - the kind of dining that is a rare pleasure nowadays and is always savoured and much loved by guests at Akaunui.
Wander the gardens
Passion, hard work and persistence have yielded 12 hectares of pure outdoor magic in this renowned 'Garden of National Significance'. Regardless of the season, this landscape abounds with the colour, texture and life found only in gardens of supreme maturity and conception. The majestic old homestead is framed by mature trees and flows out onto sweeping lawns and an ornate, tranquil pond. Native and exotic woodland plantings and wetlands harbour thriving birdlife and both formal and informal gardens showcase an array of old and new world plants – many of them tucked away in hidden corners and sheltered micro-climates. The bright azaleas and a large collection of Rhododendrons stand resplendent in glorious trusses of colour from September to late December and a multitude of roses add to the vibrant symphony. And then there is Di's famous and productive veggie garden, but that needs no further introduction!
It's no wonder lunch over at the Mackenzie's place goes down such a treat - This really is an exceptional tour highlight, where birdlife, fresh cuisine, wine and kiwidom merge into one very memorable experience at Akaunui Farm. This experience is part of all our South Isalnd small group tours - find out more here, or contact us directly.