One of the best things about getting away is trying the local food specialties. Seafood, wild or grown in the calm waters of the Hauraki Gulf is a big feature in the Coromandel – and there's a whole raft of flavour being crafted in the kitchens, dairies and breweries in the area's small towns.
Luke's Kitchen, Kuaotunu The go-to summer combo of beer and pizza – like Riwakasaurus Rex beer from Blue Fridge 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 and plenty of other options on the menu apart from pizza.
Luke is real, 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. Scheduled gigs mean great musicians are attracted to Kuaotunu. The place really sums up Coro' hospitality.
The Wharf, Thames
Salt air and the sound of the sea somehow make fish and chips taste better. The fresh catch lands next door. Order your feed from the fish shop and 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 Shortland Wharf has been a Thames icon for more than 25 years, a local favourite for an amazing array of fresh seasonal fish and seafood, sourced from the range of fish landed that day: scallops, oysters, kinas, mutton-birds, mussels and a selection of smoked fish from the onsite smokehouse.
The Cheese Barn Cafe, Matatoki
Try a Matatoastie, made from organic cheese from the Cheese Barn cheesemaker 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 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, about 11 km south of Thames. Take the kids for taste of the country.
Hereford'n'a Pickle, Colville
As you head up the west coast of the Coromandel, the northernmost village of Colville feels like the last outpost, and it is. Grab a sandwich made from Kairaumati beef and pickles for your picnic lunch as you head up to the Coastal Walkway: fresh flavour with the most amazing view. Take a chilly bin for takeaway homemade sausages from an old family recipe.
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. Try a craft brew fermented in the boutique brewery, paired with local catch covered in organic nuts from the local orchard. Within walking distance of fabulous Hahei Beach and Cathedral Cove, drop in for a Hahei Doctor (beer) or a pizza boost for the kids. Get a spot by the fire pit as the heat drifts away on the evening breeze. Max, the pub dog, welcomes you at the door. The Pour House and Coromandel Brewing Company and Cathedral Cove Macadamias.
Coromandel Oyster Company, Coromandel town
Look over the oyster farm from the shore shack while devouring 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. Watch the team shucking oysters and mussels, the shell mountain growing behind the oyster shack.
Courtyard Café, Paeroa
Some fishers give kahawai to the cat but, once you've tasted it smoked, you'll know what the cat knows: 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 also well-known. Paeroa is transforming, with the new wharf at the Maritime Park the start of development along the silent Ohinemuri River that runs through the heart of the town.
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 on December 06, and is open every day (except Christmas Day) until the blueberries are all gone, some time at the end of February. Your fingers might be blue, but a stained mouth is dead giveaway.
Artisan bread, Waihi
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 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