Visitors to New Zealand who've already been and visited the top tourist spots tend to want to delve deeper and have a more personal experience.  It's about getting off the main highways and going on scenic journeys, meeting interesting people and having an experience that you'll carry with you for years.

If you visit Palmerston North City in the lower half of the North Island you'll be encouraged to "get lost" (in the nicest way) and explore The Country Road.  This is a large area of mountain to sea landscapes that the regional tourism organisation has extensively mapped.  Whilst there's a series of free brochures, they're not just another set of visitor guides.  Everyone in the mapped areas, including the farmers (who don't necessarily have visitor attractions) have been included in The Country Road.  They've been briefed to help you out if you get a puncture or are needing directions. 

The Country Road is a part of New Zealand that you'll never be able to experience on a tourist bus, firstly because some of the attractions don't have bus parking and couldn't cope with an influx of 50 people at once, but most importantly because The Country Road is an attititude.  It's a place where you can meander along and see world-class scenery from the roadside, and meet and hear the stories of the locals (with whom you may have a connection - you never know!).

So, what does it mean?  Well, to start with the locals are keen to meet you.  One of the farmers has been so inspired by The Country Road that she has created a website about her part of it - The Iron Gates Experience.  It's ever evolving with images of her family out and about and pictures of wildlife, including the rare blue duck which thrives in this part of the country. 

An official website is coming soon, however if you're traveling anywhere between Taupo and Blenheim, pick up one of The Country Road brochures from the local i-SITE visitor information centre or email palmerstonnorth@i-site.org

Lisa Foggin leading our team on The Country RoadMarika and Lance stop to photograph one of the locals

Chicken the deer at Pilgrim's Rest tea rooms