The balmy climate of Northland, the First Region of New Zealand, nurtures sub-tropical fruits and gourmet vegetables, making it the first to see avocados, blueberries and press the first olives. It’s where European settlers planted the first grapes and fruit trees and where the first ever Farmers’ market in New Zealand started and still thrives today, in Whangarei.
Northland is the birthplace of New Zealand’s wine making with the first vines planted in 1819. The industry was re-vitalised here during the 1960’s and Northland is now the country’s fastest growing wine region, winning awards and gaining a reputation for tropical chardonnay’s, spicy syrah, peppery pinotage and vibrant cabernets garnered from the warmest region in New Zealand. No visit to Northland would be complete without visiting the cellar door at all the wineries on the Northland wine trail. Some offer a relaxed casual dining experience while overlooking the vines, enjoying a glass or two of the estate grown wines. What better way to enjoy the flavours of Northland.
Make sure you try the delectable wines alongside Northland’s regional cuisine, famous for its abundant seafood, avocados, olives, macadamia nuts, citrus and subtropical fruits. Dining options range from the freshest fish and chips, portside in Mangonui to 7 course degustation menus designed by some of New Zealand’s finest chefs.
Farmers’ markets have been a growing phenomenon over the past 10 years, promoting the ‘gate to plate’ philosophy, and they’re popping up all over in New Zealand. There are two very successful markets in Northland. The Whangarei Growers’ Market attracts about 4000 people each Saturday morning and The Bay of Islands Farmers’ Market is held every Sunday morning in Kerikeri.
Both these Farmers’ Markets sell largely fruit and vegetables, along with herbs, flowers, plant seedlings, meat, eggs, and value-added goods including bread, cheese, preserves, pickles, jams, baked goods and other products that form part of the food production cycle, including compost and worm farms.
Quality and authenticity are key factors in the success of these Northland markets. The idea is to grow locally and buy locally, and enjoy the experience. Farmers’ markets give consumers the chance to meet the grower, maker or baker, and it’s a great opportunity to catch up with friends and shop at leisure with a coffee in hand.
Northland has its own food and wine trail, featuring over 60 food and wine experiences. The free Northland Food & Wine map lists everything from farm gate sales to chocolate factories, award winning cheese makers, food excursions and artisan producers. The unique part about this trail is that, rather than having to follow a particular route, gastro-tourists can tailor the trail to suit themselves and can do half-day trips, full days, or even take a week to tour around the region to sample all the tastes of Northland. Participants on the Northland Food & Wine Trail will be clearly identifiable as they display a ‘Northland Naturally Food Y Wine Trail’ sign.