In New Zealand's most northern regions, food and wine are never far from anyone's thoughts.
Auckland City has a plethora of exciting restaurants, bars and night clubs to experience, and in the wider Auckland region you'll find three distinct and delectable wine districts. Further up the island, subtropical Northland will treat you to fresh seafood, boutique cheeses and tropical fruit, served against a backdrop of stunning golden sand beaches.
Viaduct Basin, Chancery and the inner city suburbs of Ponsonby and Parnell are rich sources of restaurants, but there’s more to experiencing Auckland’s food and wine than simply sitting down to eat.
How about cooking lessons at the Auckland fish market? Or shop for some delicious souvenirs at BeesOnline in Kumeu, where you’ll find speciality honey products and a café that demonstrates the culinary uses for honey.
Another option is to embark on a tailor-made food and wine tour, where you’ll be whisked from one delicious destination to the next in style.
For a divine wine time, Waiheke Island, Matakana and Kumeu are all within easy reach of the central city. Auckland’s wine growing areas produce rich, ripe merlot, cabernet sauvignon and syrah, as well as smooth, fruity chardonnay and pinot gris.
Many wineries welcome visitors for tasting sessions; some, such as Soljans Wines near Kumeu, offer restaurant dining.
If relaxation is your mission, luxury retreats beyond Auckland's city limits make it easy to enjoy exceptional food and wine without moving a muscle. At Te Whau Lodge on Waiheke Island, for example, a heavenly hilltop location is complemented by outstanding cuisine and the best local wines.
The subtropical climate of Northland nurtures a huge array of fresh ingredients - from blueberries and avocados to cherimoya and red pineapple. A great way to take your tastebuds on tour is to download a food and wine trail map from Destination Northland’s website.
The map will lead you to many delectable memories - chocolate, nuts, oysters, award-winning cheeses, olive oil and much, much more.
Northland’s most iconic eating experience is probably fish and chips in the port town of Mangonui - you can select the fish you want, then watch it being prepared and cooked.
At the other end of the scale, a seven-course degustation menu awaits your pleasure on the Russell waterfront in the Bay of Islands. Or do it yourself in Paihia, where there’s a fabulous cooking school located within a luxury resort.
Delicious events flavour the Northland year - Taste Bay of Islands is held in Paihia each September, Savouring the Source happens in Waimate every November and Taste Northland is Whangarei’s February food festival.
Farmers markets are weekly events - every Sunday in Kerikeri and every Saturday in Whangarei.
Wineries in the far north are a showcase for heat-loving grape varieties. You’ll find ripe, well-rounded whites, sensational syrah and substantial, savoury cabernet/merlot blends.
The majority of wineries are on the east coast - around Whangarei, Kerikeri and on the Karikari Peninsula.