The Culinary Experience: Savour the flavour of the Hauraki Plains and Shorebird Coast
The Hauraki Plains boast a thriving paddock-to-plate philosophy, with plentiful fruit and nut orchards, a flounder fishery and an abundance of roadside stalls selling free-range eggs, produce and pickles from the front gate.
Top Notch Macadamias is an orchard, processor and manufacturer of macadamia nut products based at the edge of the Hauraki Plains between Ngatea and Morrinsville. The orchard takes in panoramic views of the Hauraki Plains and Coromandel Ranges and can be experienced by booking a group tour during the week Tours showcase the full cycle of the macadamia nut; from growing, drying, cracking and grading through to sights - and samples - of the finished products.
The joys of blueberry picking can be experienced in summertime at Blueberry Country; one of New Zealand’s largest blueberry orchards, near Ngatea. The ‘pick your own’ summer season runs from early December to late February with blueberry ice cream and frozen yoghurt also available for sale from a snack bar on-site.
A stop at Piako Pete’s is a time-honoured tradition among many heading south along State Highway 25. Located at Pipiroa, commercial flounder fisher Pete Thorburn and his wife Gail provide direct-to-the-public sales of fresh flounder, along with smoked kahawai, snapper, mullet and eel produced from Pete’s smokehouse. The knowledge, advice and genuine service you can expect to receive here is second to none. The Thorburns know their product better than anyone and their fish is delicious.
The Shorebird Coast is home to Miranda Orchard and Gallery; another treasure of the region, offering visitors homegrown hospitality in the form of healthful organic wholefoods and coffee from the farm shop cafe. The farm shop offers a selection of fully certified organic jams, jellies and relishes, as well as freshly squeezed juices, yoghurts, fresh cheese and other boutique food products.
The Hauraki Plains are home to numerous cafes serving hearty home-cooked fare, contemporary cuisine and top-quality coffee. The Public Office in Ngatea and The Corner Stone Cafe and the Woodturners Cafe, both in Mangatarata are open during the day, offering a quintessentially Kiwi ambience, friendly service and delicious menu selections.
The Hauraki Plains and Shorebird Coast offer all the right ingredients with their prosperous wide open plains, innovative industries and hidden gems unique to the area. Savour the flavour of the Plains!
A Fun Family Road Trip Exploring the Hauraki Plains and Shorebird Coast
From Auckland heading south to Hauraki Plains and the Shorebird Coast, consider taking the Pacific Coast Highway. It is a preferred alternative route to the state highway and a great way to start a road trip. The picturesque drive offers spectacular views, pleasant rest stops and minimal traffic. The journey takes approximately an hour and traverses rural communities, gently winding roads and rolling hills before opening out onto the long flat expanse of the Shorebird Coast.
Kaiaua is an idyllic fishing village and the ideal spot for families to stop for fish and chips at the Kaiaua Fisheries and Takeaways or icecreams from the iconic hot pink Kaiaua Dairy directly across the road from the large wooden children’s playground on the waterfront.
Further down the road, call into the Pūkorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre to discover some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s amazing birdlife. With numbers of shorebirds often exceeding 10,000 in the area, it is an extraordinary experience to gaze skyward and witness vast flocks of birds coming in to land along the wetlands.
The Hauraki Rail Trail ventures west from Kōpū, south of Thames, all the way out to Kaiaua, offering an easy Grade 1 cycle ride and spectacular scenery. The trail provides an ideal way for families to enjoy the birdlife and wetlands of the area and is an achievable expedition for all ages and abilities.
For an extended stay, Miranda Holiday Park offers a variety of accommodation options to suit families, as well as its own thermal mineral pool, a children’s playground, bmx track and plenty of outdoor games and activities. It also serves as an ideal base from which to explore more of the Hauraki Rail Trail.
Before hitting the highway, enjoy a meal or snack at The Corner Stone Cafe. Children will love eel-spotting down by the creek beside the picnic tables, while the Style Shop next door (a boutique filled with contemporary clothing, gifts and homeware) is sure to keep the fashion fans happy!
If you venture south on your Hauraki Plains road trip, plan a family rest stop in Ngatea at Pioneer Park in front of the Hugh Hayward Domain. The recently redeveloped park boasts a large modern playground, a street-style skate park, a basketball hoop, plenty of seats, and state-of-the-art public toilets. The Domain itself is an impressive facility which serves as the sporting and recreational hub of the Hauraki Plains. Used for rugby, football, athletics, cricket, netball, league, touch and hockey, chances are you will happen upon some sporting event or activity at any time of year. Ngatea Public Swimming Pool is also located in the domain.
During the summer, a family trip to Blueberry Country will yield blue lips and full buckets. The ‘pick your own’ blueberry season starts in early December through until mid February. Delicious blueberry ice cream and frozen yoghurt can also be purchased from the cafe on-site.
The Woodturners Cafe on State Highway 2 near Ngatea will delight children with its charming cubby house, fun outdoor play equipment and friendly animals over the fence. Inside, the cafe offers an extensive blackboard menu and tasty counter food, with plenty of comfortable seating, good coffee and gift and homewares available for sale.