We used to do a roadie when we were kids - jumping into the back of the Falcon, heading out West to a "pick your own" orchard.

The Kumeu Showgrounds hosted (and still does) the annual A&P show and the Hot Rod show, and this city gal has had no other reason to cross to the other side of the tracks.

Now the State Highway 16 extension has blurred the boundaries between suburban and rural, more land has been taken for housing and Kumeu has traffic lights leading to the barns at the showgrounds.

But there's no doubting the heritage when you haven't even reached the stalls at this monthly market and you're up close and personal with farm animals. Good luck to parents with wee ones - you won't make it to coffee before the pleas for a ride on miniature horses, or to pat the sheep. Rural smells come free of charge.

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More a bonsai A&P show than a traditional fruit and vege market, Kumeu is still worth a visit. As well as free-range eggs, you will see award-winning hens and roosters in the display cages in the first shed. Really.

PICK OF THE CROP

You can still pick your own apples - from the LaRonde Orchard stall. These apples are grown only a few kilometres away and at $2/kg, their mini apples are perfect for little hands and school lunchboxes. (Their bottled apple juice is spectacular with feijoa or vanilla-flavoured vodka too.)

BEST HANGOVER CURE

The best pick-me-up was overhearing the owner of Manuka Smoked Eggs offering one customer's three under-5s a piece of bread with bacon, free, rather than make adult-sized sandwiches. That family spirit cured my mental fatigue. Their $6 smoked egg and bacon sammie also hit the spot ... sweet and salty and moreish.

BEST CAFFEINE FIX

Found on the left near the entrance. I can spot an Allpress cup a mile off. There was also a coffee truck near the busker station, and you can buy take home packs of Local Hero coffee from Matakana, inside the interlinked sheds.

STAGE AN INTERVENTION

I cannot walk past Grownup Donuts without buying one, and this regular on the market circuit is quickly gaining a reputation. They sell out fast, so look them out first! If you're coeliac or gluten-free, look for the cute pink truck that is DeeDee's GF Kitchen, with GF doughnuts, cake and pastries.

FEAR TO TREAD?

It's surprising that we are deep in wine country, yet there are no vineyards replicating their cellar doors at the market. Within 10km are Soljans, Kumeu River, Coopers Creek, the Hunting Lodge and Kerr Farm if you fancy a detour on the way home.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

To all parents - this market is not only child-friendly, it's totally geared toward them. As well as cute animals outside, there's also an alpaca inside - the wee ones can pat it and you pick woolly items where there's no doubting their source - it's in the adjacent pen. The sheds also have a book-reading corner and a face-painting stall.

GO WEST

If it's a fine day, pack a picnic of treats from the market and journey another 20km to the black-sand beach at Muriwai. Drive to the carpark at the top of Māori Bay to watch the surfers in action before walking a few minutes to Auckland's only gannet colony. Or drive past the golf course and park at the end where you can walk to the beach to work off those doughnuts. If you leave the market hungry (yeah, right) there are great dining destinations in the area, including The Tasting Shed on the grounds of Coopers Creek, Des Harris' The Hunting Lodge in Waimauku and the more casual Riverhead Pub and Hallertau Brewery.

VERDICT

I visited twice as I was concerned this isn't a true fruit and produce market. But you can get that at the many roadside stalls en route. They also make it very family-friendly - so we are teaching little ones to engage with farm-like surroundings, and there are plenty of other foods to eat there with the range of food trucks and cooked-to-order offerings - from dumplings to pretzels, mussel fritters to macarons or take-home olive oil, honey, home-made jams ... There is also broad range of art and crafts. So you won't leave empty-handed.

EFTPOS

On site, giving out $50 notes for a small surcharge. Several stalls also have cash machines. But you pass the township - and ATMs - on the main road.

WET, WET, WET?

The food trucks are outside but the majority of the stalls are indoors and there's room to shake your brolly.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

This isn't a city market masquerading as a rural one, so you really need a car, folks.

Kumeu Market, 9am-2pm, Third Sunday of the month, Kumeu Showgrounds' access road