This article reports on a qualitative research study that explored the perspectives and lived experiences of children in a range of New Zealand rural environments. Thirty-six children, aged between 6 and 11 years, were interviewed about living in the country and also contributed artwork and photographs. They came from four specific rural locations, ranging from ‘rural with high urban influence’ to ‘highly rural/remote’. Children expressed positive views about aspects of rural living, such as opportunities for being outdoors and participating in social relationships, confirming a positive discourse of the rural idyll. Their accounts highlighted children's agency under complex and sometimes challenging conditions. Children also, however, experienced some aspects of rural life as dull, dangerous or difficult. The complex and nuanced constructions of rural childhood uncovered in this study point to the critical importance of consulting with children in order to understand their experiences and best meet the needs of rural children and families.