Kia ora: Waipara Valley

Elisabeth Easther checks out the wine and produce in the Gateway to North Canterbury

Waipara is best known for its wineries, such as Mountford Estate Winery.
Waipara is best known for its wineries, such as Mountford Estate Winery.

Origin of name: The area is named for the river which, when it floods, gets a bit grubby - wai means water and para means dirty. Consequently, Muddy Water is the name of a popular local winery.

Population: Including Amberley, it's somewhere between 4000 and 5000.

Where is it: In North Canterbury, on the banks of the Waipara River, in the Teviotdale Hills, 60km north of Christchurch.

Town slogan: There isn't one, but some people call it the "Gateway to North Canterbury".

Town mascot: Sculptor Raymond Herber is building a large grapevine that will soon stand at the junction of State Highway 1 and SH7.

Check this out: The oldest penguin fossil, thought to be more than 60 million years old, was discovered in the Waipara Gorge. The world's largest penguin fossil was found here, too, and can be viewed at Canterbury Museum in Christchurch.

More fossils: An ancient oyster bed about 10km long has also been found. It's thought to be the single largest oyster bed in the world with an estimated age of 100 million years.

Famous for: Pinot noir, riesling and chardonnay. Also for having the highest summer temperatures and the lowest rainfall of any of New Zealand's grape-growing regions.

Additional source of pride: Amazing honey.

Most famous local: Alex "Grizz" Wylie, the quintessential southern man.

Most famous rugby club: Glenmark Rugby Club. Time magazine recently named it as one of the top sports clubs in the world.

Best local website: waiparawine.co.nz, waiparavalleywineandfood.co.nz or visithurunui.co.nz

Biggest industry: Wine growing.

Town competition: The Silver Secateurs, the local vine-pruning competition. Waipara also hosts the Benchmark Homes Festival of Cycling. The Waipara Valley Wine and Food Festival in March is a reason to pop over, too.

Best reason to stop: The wineries and the Amberley Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. Their produce is mind-blowing.

Best place to take the kids: Weka Pass Railway, which runs on specified Sundays. The train travels 14km of the original Hurunui-Bluff main trunk line; laid in 1882, the track is a great route from which to see the countryside.

Best place for a drink: Enjoy a tipple at Black Estate, where there's amazing views back down the valley.

Best food: Pegasus Bay is perfect for lunch. They've won best winery cafe three years in a row. The Nor'Wester for dinner - their venison is hard to beat.

Best flat white: Little Vintage, pretty and great value for breakfast or lunch.

Best bakery: Amberley Bakery's pinot noir, mint and lamb pie cannot be beaten.

Art gallery: Zip Gallery in Amberley, Rocking Frog Gallery and Cafe or Possum in Waikauri - eclectic and wonderful wares.

Best walk: There are some serious three-day walks up in the hills but, for something less taxing, the Mt Cass Walkway is sweet if you have three to four hours, as is the stunning visithurunui.co.nz (also known as Cape Valley). Or trot down to Macintosh's Beach.

Best view: From Mt Cass, marvel at the views back to the valley east to west, and down to the sea.

Best mountain biking: Hurunui Trails is hard to beat, and cycling round the vineyards is popular. If someone wants to open a cycle rental business, they'd be welcomed. hurunuitrails.co.nz

Best adventure: Head to magical Macintosh's Beach, it's a 25-minute walk to get there, you'll see loads of fossils and it's sheltered from the norwesterly winds with a lovely sandy beach. It can be a bit chilly, but this is one of North Canterbury's better surf breaks.

Here for a short time: Don't come for a short time, because there are loads of lovely places to stay - Dry Paddocks is darling.

Wildlife: This used to be the land of moa, and also the world's biggest penguins. Go to Waipara Gorge to see amazing fossils.

This rocks: Moeraki boulders can be found in Waipara Gorge, and because they are white rather than black they are called God's Marbles.

When a local has visitors: They take them on a tour of the vineyards - Pegasus Bay or Black Estate make a good start, then on to Nor'Wester. Or they go jet boating up and down Wairau River, and Hanmer Springs isn't too far away for hot pools or bungy jumping.

Safety warnings: When touring the vineyards by mountain bike, do be sensible about how much you drink.

Locals say: Care to try this cheeky little pinot?

Visitors say: Cheers, don't mind if I do.

Thanks to Peter Saunders from Bishops Head Wines for sharing.

- NZ Herald

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