This one to three-day itinerary is your good food guide to the Kauri Coast, Hokianga, and mid-North of Northland.
The subtropical north is a big region producing plenty of bold flavours and warm hospitality. We've created four guides to help you to experience the best food and drink across Taitokerau Northland. Take your pick as you travel through, or follow the itinerary below for a delicious self-guided foodie tour. As you explore this laid-back region, there are three Northland Journeys that will help you make the most of it. These free downloadable maps are great for exploring must-visit places as well as hidden gems.
Wild West Coast Flavours to Savour Itinerary
Duration: 1- 3 days
Northland has two very contrasting coasts and there are many reasons that would bring you to discover the west, from ruggedly beautiful beaches to ancient kauri forests. But if good food is never far from your holiday agenda then we have a foodie guide that partners perfectly with the Northland Journeys covering this area. Ours starts at the southern end but you can use our tips and recommendations to devour a taste of local however you please.
Want a sneak peak at some of the locations in this foodie itinerary?
Enjoy this video from from Thomas and Sheena at Chasing a Plate to see their highlights as they travel this itinerary around Northland.
Taking a left off State Highway 1 you will head through the cute rural town of Maungaturoto. Stop in at family-owned Ollies Café & Deli for a light breakfast to start the day. Making the most of its lovely historic setting and serving a wholesome selection with inspiration from their Eastern Mediterranean heritage, locals love the vibrant flavours and friendly service here. If it’s a Saturday, then the long-running Paparoa Market may be where you decide to pick up your morning fix.
There are a couple of ways you may choose to spend your time as you travel on, whether it’s poking around some second-hand shops, or enjoying one of the local forest walks. Or if you’ve ever wanted to learn how to make the most divine artisanal chocolates, then we have just the experience for you. Get in touch ahead of time to book a chocolate-making course with Tatiana at Decandenz in Pahi. She offers a full immersion experience where you will learn the art of fine chocolate creation. This course takes a few hours but if you don’t have time for the whole experience, you can also call ahead to simply taste and purchase some of her delicious products.
If you love the rural charm of this area then you will want to explore the fascinating history at The Kauri Museum at Matakohe. Packed with stories and displays that transport you to a bygone era, it’s easy to while away time here. When it’s time for refreshment, pop across the road to the Gumdigger Café where you’ll find homely fare in a fresh setting with lots of outdoor seating and friendly service.
Heading north through the farmlands that give these parts the self-claimed title of the ‘world’s kumara capital’ you’ll find plenty of roadside stalls to purchase your own sweet potato stash. Depending on where your evening plans are headed, you may want to keep foraging so that you have the makings of a great camp-side dinner. If this is the case, then keep your eyes peeled for more stalls along the way or head straight into Dargaville to the ultimate local grocer at Good Life Stores. This handy hybrid store is well-stocked with fresh local veg, wholefoods, fresh artisan bread, local cheese and many other goodies. Stock up and grab an afternoon coffee by local roasters Turning Point Coffee. If it's the freshest local fish that you’re after, then be sure to pop into Matich’s Fish Shop, they have a daily selection of delicious fresh seafood on offer, or just order straight from their classic takeaway menu.
Following the Ancient Kauri Trail Northland Journey, you may be lured for a night in a holiday home at locals’ favourite Baylys Beach or classic kiwi camping at the natural wonder of Kai Iwi Lakes, where you can cook up a feast with your gathered goods. If a more luxurious night is on the cards, then you’ll want to have one of the suites booked at the lovely Waipoua Lodge. Hosts Ann and Fiona provide everything at this beautiful sprawling property that harnesses the best of its historic charm in a fresh, modern way. They offer a comprehensive a la carte menu for dinner that celebrates quality fresh ingredients, many of which are grown onsite. A well-stocked bar, barista-style coffee, tea selection, and generous local hospitality complete the offering for a memorable stay.
Waking with the birds, you will either be enjoying a self-catered breakfast or be treated to an espresso coffee and a la carte style breakfast at Waipoua Lodge. Departing here, you are in the land of ancient Kauri forests so take your pick as to the experience you choose along the Ancient Kauri Trail to get up close with nature and take in the grandeur of these forest giants and the beauty that surrounds them.
Making your way further north, you will soon be led into the entrance of the Hokianga Harbour and into an area that is steeped in captivating history, where the Northland Journey Wandering with Ancestors will guide you to many places of significance and unravel a lot of what is known about the past and people. To experience some great local flavours, we recommend first heading to the small settlement of Rawene and stopping at the often photographed and instantly recognizable Boatshed Café. Enjoying a position over the water, this laid-back location has become an institution with locals and visitors alike. You can expect a rustic homely feel, a generous counter offering and a great menu with changing daily specials. The service is friendly and the food is super tasty, you won’t be disappointed.
Just across the road you will get a real sense of the artistic local community here at No.1 Parnell Gallery, brimming with art, jewellery and sculpture. Also inside is the New Era Café which is gaining quite a cult following for it’s traditional Portuguese custard tarts. If timing is in your favour and they haven’t already sold out you are well advised to grab a couple to try.
As day turns to evening, we offer two quite different options for dinner and accommodation. If colonial history is something that intrigues, then book ahead for a night at the lovely Historic Kohukohu Villa. Possibly one of the country’s oldest buildings set on the northern banks of the Hokianga, hosts Dee and Shaun have restored the guest rooms perfectly to celebrate a bygone era and provide a special experience for each of their guests. With prior arrangement you can expect a meal that is catered to your tastes, packed with local flavours and lovingly prepared. This is a special spot that is well worth a visit.
Alternatively, you could head back towards the harbour entrance and book a sophisticated meal at The Heads Hokianga. Its beachfront restaurant enjoys a truly stunning location that transports you. Always refining their offering with inspiration from local producers, you can enjoy hotel-style service and an exciting wine list with plenty of Northland options. Post-dinner cocktails on the deck or a shoreline wander will complete the experience.
Waking at your chosen room for the night you will want to fuel-up for a day of action ahead. The unique waterside setting of Opononi is hard to resist and if you are keen for a truly Northland experience then the team at Awesome Adventures have you covered. With a fleet of jet skis and kayaks, and guides who are as knowledgeable as they are entertaining, these guys will get you on the water and have you feeling like part of the whanau in no time. We recommend a kaimoana (seafood) safari where you can gather your own or leave it to the gurus – either way this is as naturally Northland as it gets.
An Awesome Adventure can easily stretch into a few hours and it’s a great option to have lunch catered by the team to really top off your experience. If so, you will be treated to generosity, delicious homemade fare and plenty of laughs. Your belly and heart will be full after this truly unique experience.
If you have chosen a more self-guided experience here and you want to grab classic pub lunch then pull up a pew at the Opononi Hotel. The scene of many live music gigs over the years, this hotel is well known to many late-night revelers. By day, you can enjoy a pint and meal in the sunshine overlooking the water before heading on to your next stop.
From Wandering with Ancestors to a journey that eventually leads from the west to the east coast, this guide suggests you stop in Kaikohe, the middle of the Northland Journey Te Ara Coast to Coast. From here you can soak in the healing thermal waters of Ngawha Springs and, if you have more days to spend, plan to park the car and take in some or all of the Pou Herenga Tai Twin Coast Cycle Trail.
In the heart of Kaikohe is the beautifully restored historic ex-BNZ Bank building now known as Left Bank. Owners Jack and Di are passionate Kaikohe locals and have approached the extensive hotel and restaurant conversion with a great deal of heart. This is a place to stay and eat but it’s also a place that will give you a true sense of a community that is rich many ways that may not be immediately apparent on the surface.
Book a night in one of the very well-appointed hotel rooms and enjoy a meal at the onsite Mint Restaurant. Supporting local is what makes this establishment tick so the changing menu reflects what is locally sourced, in season and at it’s best. You’ll be served by locals and surrounded by the beautiful ornate features of this special place where rest and replenishment is the order of the day.