The Flying Fox – New Zealand’s Riverside Eden

Going Off-Road in Rustic Style

By Robert J. Brodey

High above the broad banks of the Whanganui River on New Zealand’s North Island, rests a bohemian hide away, like an unexpected gem, surrounded by forest and a small organic farm. Photographer Ryan Carter and I know we’re in for something special when we cross the river in a powered two person cable car. There is no road access where we’re going.

Photographer Ryan Carter crosses the Whanganui River on the way to The Flying Fox. Photo by Robert J. Brodey

There is a brilliant kind of quietude at the Flying Fox, surrounded by a rustic luxury that fits perfectly with the natural surroundings. Our private cottage comes complete with a bathtub overlooking the river, a compost toilet, and an old turntable with enough vinyl to make the 70s jealous.

The music collection reveals much about our hosts, Annette Main and John Blythe, two self-proclaimed middle-aged hippies. Proof that John spent his formative years in Canada can be found in his impressive array of musical Canadiana, including Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Bruce Cockburn.

It’s the first time in fifteen years I’ve touched vinyl, and I’m a little rusty dropping the needle. We uncork a New Zealand red and begin a six hour record-fest, taking turns playing our favourite tracks of yesteryear.  We are joined by Korina, a 37 year old Kiwi from Wellington who is working in the garden.

“It’s like the garden of Eden,” says Korina, who saw photos of The Flying Fox a few years ago and began plotting a visit. She actually insinuated herself onto the property by volunteering as a WWOOFer, exchanging her green thumb for room and board (

Dinner comes to our cottage in stages, beginning with the organic Lamb, beets, and Maori potato. The coup d’grace comes in the form of a chocolate espresso cup, lemon tarts, and fresh homemade butterscotch ice cream.

In the morning, as we prepare to cross the Whanagui River in the aerial basket, John reveals why The Flying Fox resonates with such love and warmth. “It’s the child we never had.”