As we open the farm gate a herd of goats glance disinterestedly in our direction. They soon return to chewing the thick scrub that covers the steep paddock. We walk down the hillside to a small clearing where we were told we’d find a tub of grain. We give it a shake and suddenly the world’s smallest army descends on us from every direction. This farm, about an hour west of Tweed Heads, breeds miniature goats. It also hosts campers looking for an alternative holiday experience.
We screw open the 50 litre tub and scoop out handfuls of grain. Goats clamber over each other chasing another mouthful. Farm animals are great fun to be around if you don’t have to work with them every day. It’s part of the reason why agritourism – as the farm stay industry is officially known -is proving such a hit with campers. Instead of a six square metre campsite, you can have your pick of the empty acres. And they often feel more relaxed, none of the strict rules that private parks must enforce to keep the peace in overcrowded spaces.
Most farm stays around Australia are hosted via Hipcamp and Airbnb, who have both reported increased booking numbers since the start of the pandemic. For much of the last couple of years people have been forced to look at alternative travel options closer to home and have craved the extra space.
How the farmers integrate their tourist offering is up to them. Some simply throw open the gates to an empty paddock while others offer the full farm tour experience. We’ve stayed at ones in the Southern Highlands where we drove for an hour without seeing a single person. It was the ultimate bush retreat. A roaring fire. Creeks to wash in. Not another person for miles. Others advertise an insight into the real workaday realities of farm life.