Perhaps you're already familiar with New Zealand's vast green expanses from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But if the only thing organic you associate with New Zealand is Middle-Earth (admit it, there are some of you out there), here's a new way to get to know the region's plentiful offerings. I recently stumbled upon the website Organic Explorer, which offers up eco-friendly accommodations, restaurants, and excursions throughout NZ, as well as a great list of orchards and markets for picking up fresh local produce while on the road.
The database is searchable by region. So, if I were traveling back to Otago, I would find that I could try some local cheese at Whitestone Cheese Co. in Oamaru, drive south for an organic pint at the Green Man Brewery in Dunedin, and then stumble home to the City Sanctuary Bed and Breakfast, which serves its guests organic breakfast.
And should you somehow find yourself bored during these wanderings, there's also a calendar of upcoming events (open studios, earthbuilding workshops, and hiking trails) all with an eco-friendly focus.
The site is easy to use, with plenty of photos to help you get a sense of the places you'll be visiting. And even better, Organic Explorer also shares our affection for both the sustainable and authentic: they also promote cultural tourism, devoting a large section of the site to introduce Maori culture, language, and history. About half of the information online is also in the Organic Explorer Handbook, says the author and site creator Leonie Johnsen, who left a gig at NZ Organic magazine to start the site. (Johnsen's book is not only available in tangible book form, but in a printable PDF). We asked how she got started:
"I became aware of the large and growing number of gorgeous handcrafted homes and organic cottage industries sprouting up that weren't really catered to in the mainstream tourism industry," Johnsen says. "Often places were not easy to find if you didn't already know they were there, so I thought it would be a good idea to link them together so other people could enjoy them too."
She says that the site will begin introducing more interactive features in the coming months, and will hopefully serve as a hub for New Zealand's organic community and the travelers interested in checking them out. All of which makes me think I might need to start looking for flights to see for myself...too bad Organic Explorer doesn't do travel bookings...yet!
Thanks to Lonely Planet, for the tip!
Photo: Jeannette Kimmel (top), Organic Explorer (lower)