One of the best things about getting away is trying the local specialties and stopping for favourite treats. Seafood, wild or grown in the calm waters of the Hauraki Gulf is a big feature in The Coromandel, as you would expect. But there’s a whole raft of taste being crafted in the kitchens and dairies and breweries in our small towns. Taste that smacks of summer, time off and time to hang about, where Kiwis holiday.
Pizza and craft brews at Luke’s Kitchen, Kūaotunu
A good place to start, the go-to summer combo of beer and pizza; Riwakasaurus Rex from Blue Fridge Brewery and Corogreen pizza from Luke’s wood-fired oven. Served in the shade, in sight of the waves on Kuaotunu beach, this location is prime. There’s plenty of good honest food on the menu if you think pizza is too tame (it’s not). There is a real Luke, local to the core, not getting much time to ride his board in summer but happy delivering deliciousness. Blue Fridge (nano) Brewery ferments just up the road. Brewer Adam can sometimes be found at the bar doing quality control on his brews. Music is often on the menu too, and open mic night is always lively. With great scheduled gigs, it’s not too hard to attract great musicians to Kuaotunu. The place really sums up Coro’ hospitality.
Blue Fridge brews are also found around The Coromandel and further. The crew at Luke’s can tell you a good story or two about the Blue Fridge, in between pulling pints and slinging pizzas.
Fish and chips at The Wharf, Thames
The salt air and the sound of the sea somehow make fish and chips taste better. The location is prime and the fresh catch lands next door. Order your feed from the fish shop and order a glass of refreshing cold from the Wharf Coffee House and Bar. The crew cooks your meal and delivers it to your table on the wharf in its traditional newspaper wrapping. Add sauce and seagulls for extra flavour.
The shop on the Shortland wharf has been a Thames icon for more than 25 years, a local favourite for the amazing array of fresh seasonal fish and seafood: whatever the range of fish was landed that day, scallops, oysters, kinas, mutton-birds, mussels and a selection of smoked fish from the onsite smokehouse.
Cheese Toasties at the Cheese Barn Cafe, Matatoki
What else would you have? That would be a Matatoastie, made from organic cheese from the Cheese Barn cheese-maker next door. Bio Gro certified organic production, it’s the real deal and the range of cheese includes specialties like kefir yoghurt and haloumi. All the products are made with milk from the happy grass-fed cows on a family farm down the road. The animals in the Café petting farm may not be cows, but they are kid-sized and gentle, taking treats from small hands. You can ride to the Cheese Barn on the Hauraki Rail Trail, it’s about 11 km south of Thames. Take the kids for a taste of the country.
Roast beef from Hereford ‘n’ a Pickle, Colville
As you head up the west coast of The Coromandel, the northernmost village of Colville really feels like the last outpost, and it is. Grab a sandwich made from Kairaumati beef and pickles, the specialty of Colville Farm for your picnic lunch, as you head up to the Coastal Walkway—real fresh flavour with the most amazing view. Take a chilly bin for takeaway homemade sausages from an old family recipe.
Macadamia-crumbed fish at The Pour House, Hahei
The garden bar at The Pour House in the heart of Hahei village is the perfect place to celebrate a day at the beach. A craft brew fermented in the boutique brewery, paired with local catch covered in organic nuts from the orchard up the road. Within walking distance of the fabulous Hahei Beach and Cathedral Cove, drop in for a Hahei Doctor after a hot day or a pizza boost for the kids. If you get there early enough you can get a spot by the fire pit as the heat drifts away on the evening breeze.
Oysters at Coromandel Oyster Company, Coromandel Town
You can look over the oyster farm from the shore shack while you are devouring your fresh seafood. All the wild spat is collected and grown in the beautiful Coromandel harbour then harvested and prepared on site. Ann can make a travel pack if you forget to bring your chilly bin, because you will need some to go. You can look in the window and watch the team shucking oysters and mussels, adding to the shell mountain growing behind the oyster shack. The breeze across the harbour brings salty air to season your meal. Found on the left heading north into Coromandel Town.
Smoked kahawai hash at Courtyard Café and Delicatessen, Paeroa
We heard that some fishers give kahawai to the cat, but once you’ve tasted it smoked, you’ll know what the cat knows already, it’s delicious. For a hearty brunch before heading off on the Hauraki Rail Trail you can’t go past this café in the centre of the “antique capital of New Zealand”. Their baking skills are well-known. If you haven’t been lately, you will see Paeroa is transforming, with the new wharf at the Maritime Park the start of development along the silent green Ohinemuri River that runs through the heart of the town. Paeroa is also a great base to raid the blueberry orchards in Ngatea.
Blueberry picking at Blueberry Country, Ngatea
A true summer treat, plump and juicy, ready to be eaten still warm from the sun still, or added to just about any smoothie or tart. The pick-your-own blueberry orchard in Ngatea opens to the public in early December and is open every day (except Christmas Day) until the blueberries are all gone, sometime at the end of February. Your fingers might be blue, but a stained mouth is a dead giveaway.
Salty lips, paddling with Cathedral Cove Kayak Tours, Hahei.
Well, the crew didn’t cook up this one, it’s in the air, and on your face. But the cappuccinos on the soft white sand taste extra good after a leisurely paddle around the strange volcanic coast to the famous bay. Come by sea, it’s definitely the best approach. Leaves daily from Hahei beach.
Honey - Taste of Coromandel Pure, Pauanui
Watching bees making Coromandel Pure Honey is fascinating. The raw liquid gold from this small village of bee colonies on the slopes of Mount Pauanui can be bought locally but it’s much better to see the magic at work. From the nectar forest on the extensive property you get wicked views over Pauanui and out to Slipper Island. Motivated by a deep interest in bees and their importance to our planet, Rod and Ali’s hobby turned into boutique honey production and tours. Bees hibernate in the winter, so tours start again in December when the bees are back, creating a true summer flavor.
Artisan bread, Waihi
So, we all got excited by the idea of warm and crusty homemade bread during lockdown. Happily we are not short on grainy goodness on The Coromandel with the bread-making talent in the kitchens of two European-style bakeries. While the baker at La Grignette is French, his roast kumara sourdough is definitely from a Kiwi recipe. And we hear the butterscotch chocolate tart is outstanding! The German Bakery uses sprouted grains from the South Island, sourdough fermented and baked overnight at just below 100 degrees C, just like a traditional German pumpernickel. We recommend you try the pig ears.
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