Holidaying with horses

two people, one an adult and one a child riding a two horses on a beach

A weekend in the country, where your children can connect with animals, run over the hills and enjoy a bit of freedom, is the main staple of a good ‘Kiwi’ childhood. We added a bit of horse whispering and beach-riding to ours . . . and the kids were easily converted to country life!

I packed up the kids and headed to Dune Lakes Lodge in South Head, set in a beautiful part of the west coast, 1 hour north of Auckland. The kids were quickly in full country-mode, psyched up for a screen-free weekend.

Actually, finding a place to be ‘in the country’ is not that easy if you don’t have a connection through family or friends to country life. So Dune Lakes Lodge is quite unique, offering an amazing holiday for horse lovers; but, if horses aren’t your passion, there is much more besides. Although be warned: everyone is inspired by horses once they’ve experienced ‘life in the herd’ and had a taste of Natural Horsemanship with owner Rosemary Wyndham Jones. Kids seem to love the bonding and the ease of just ‘hanging out’ with these large and beautiful animals.

It’s worth the effort if you can find a place where you can take your family and enjoy country life. The freedom kids feel when they have all that space and the chance to be around animals is so much fun.

Dune Lakes lodge


There are plenty of options for you at the Lodge. If you have children, my recommendation is to rent out the Converted Barn; even better, go along with another family. There are two rooms with seven bunk beds in each room, a large kitchen and bathroom. The main area of the barn has a very large farmhouse table and couches that encircle a large woodburner stove. A great set-up for a few after-dinner yarns!

You can also camp, park a motor home or stay in the main house (sleeps a family of six).


The Barn has a kitchen so that you can take and make your own food. Otherwise, Rosemary can cater for you either in the barn or in the house if you’re looking for a cooking-free weekend.


Dune Lakes has a herd of 20 horses, and horse lovers are able to use one particular horse for the weekend. If you have your own horse, you’re welcome to bring it with you. Of course, all the facilities including stables, an arena and the round pen are at your disposal. Best of all, it’s mud free!

Horse riding options

  • Lessons
  • Natural horsemanship
  • Jumping arena/Round pen
  • Swimming with the horses in the dune lakes
  • Riding on the beach
  • Woodland tracks

natural horsemanship

I highly recommend you spend some time with Rosemary and learn a little about natural horsemanship. This is more than whispering, rope swinging and riding bareback. Our kids loved the ‘joining up’ – which is the process of building a friendship and connecting with a particular horse; so connected in fact, that the horse will follow you around wherever you go. No bits or halters required. Quite amazing!

Rosemary has a natural and calm approach when it comes to introducing the kids to the horses. She teaches them about respect and mutual trust, how to be safe and to let the horse know he is safe with you. I don’t know if my son will ever be a keen rider, but this experience of playing and communicating with the horses really resonated with his love of animals. It will be a wonderful memory for him.

Country life

There is so much to enjoy at Dune Lakes, even if you don’t spend any time with the horses. Seeing the kids run freely around the land and enjoy being outside so much was very heartening. Here are
some of the things you could enjoy:

  • Walks (or hide and seek in our case) in the surrounding woods
  • Swimming and walks to the freshwater Dune Lakes, just 5 minutes’ walk from the house
  • Walking, swimming or driving on Muriwai Beach (10 minutes’ drive or 20 minute ride from the house)
  • Relaxing in the yurt (a Mongolian tent) located in the woods very near to the house
  • Mountain biking in the forest
  • Fun with the dogs running around the 37 beautiful acres

the ultimate luxury

If you have horse-crazy children, you might like to book them in for a natural horsemanship or horse-riding lessons while you enjoy a retreat-style weekend including massage and detoxing.


Dune Lakes Lodge is home to 20 horses, two dogs, three cats, ducks, wild peacocks and deer.


  • Natural horsemanship – from $50 per hour
  • Equine Assisted Learning – from $75 per hour
  • Self-catering accommodation
    in the Barn – $35pp per night
  • Camping or Motor home – $20pp per night
  • Home stay – $75 per adult and $45 per
    child, per night
  • Kids’ camps start from – $230
  • Meals – breakfast $15pp, lunch $15pp
    and dinner $25pp

Head to Dune Lakes Lodge for more information.

Rosemary is a Natural Horsemanship Professional,  a certified EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth And Learning Association) Facilitator and Equine Specialist, Safety Riding Instructor and a qualified Holistic Horse and Herd Management Consultant.

More travel from Tots to Teens:

How To Spend 48 Hours In New Plymouth

A Northland Family Road Trip

Destination Fiordland

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