Beresford Heights Lodge showcases agritourism in South Otago Catlins

Living in the beautiful South Otago Catlins, it was logical for Steph and Warren Burgess to diversify their extensive pastoral farming operation into agritourism, and the lodge they built in 2018 has proved the benefits.

“We’re spoiled by nature with beaches, waterfalls, nature walks and a small but vibrant local community.”

The Burgess’ farm Beresford Heights, a 1200-hectare sheep and cattle station including 300 hectares of native bush, all backing onto the untouched Catlins Forest Park. The lodge is designed for couples, and after it opened in late 2019, it drew a rapidly growing stream of guests – at least until the COVID pandemic shut the operation down temporarily.

Steph Burgess’ response to that setback was to use the time to find out more about agritourism and its impact on traditional farming operations, and to this end took part in an Agri-Tourism Success Programme run by consultant Marijka Dunselman.

“This covered topics such as social media, marketing and business planning, and it was extremely beneficial to the operation of our tourism enterprise,” Steph says. Back in operation in March of 2020, the lodge proved a magnet for New Zealanders pleased to be able to travel to their own country again, and the recovery since then of overseas tourism has further boosted the business.

“We all enjoy meeting people from within New Zealand and all over the world,” she says. “We’re particularly fortunate to live in the Catlins where we’re spoiled by nature with beaches, waterfalls, nature walks and a small but vibrant local community.”

Steph and Warren Burgess.

The lodge is situated on Table Hill on the Burgess’ farm, with striking views out over the Beresford Range, from which the farm takes its name. Guests are greeted at the homestead, and then ferried by all-terrain vehicle to the lodge itself. Should they want to get around the area’s various attractions, the ATV comes and picks them up.

“The lodge creates another source of revenue for the farm, and it’s also a way to promote New Zealand sheep and beef farming to the world. Guests are very interested in the breeds of sheep and cattle, and where the meat and wool end up,” Steph says.

Beresford carries 4,000 Romney ewes and 1,000 hoggets, with bloodlines related to the Turanaganui Romney Stud in the North Island. It also carried a highly regarded Simmental cattle stud herd of 200 breeding cows, 50 heifers and eight bulls, whose high regard among commercial beef farmers was most recently demonstrated by the record $19,000 paid by a North Island stud breeder for a bull at the farm’s May sale.

This was despite the terminal bull sire market shrinking in the face of forestry conversions. “Overseas guests are very jealous of the environment, and like the way the bush is utilised for providing shelter and shade for the stock, and they’re very interested in the way we farm in our challenging environment.”

Steph says she and Warren intend to grow their Beresford Heights Lodge brand to gain the QualMark certification that opens the lodge up to a larger market. “At Beresford, we’re motivated to ensure the entire farming operation is a sustainable business,” Steph says.

© Waterford Press Ltd 2024 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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