Luke Reilly, from Luke's Kitchen, shares his top tips for exploring Kuaotunu, on the Coromandel Peninsula. As told to Juliette Sivertsen.
Take a short bush climb up to the viewing platform on the famous Black Jack Hill, in the Black Jack Scenic Reserve. From here you will be able to view Mt Moehau on the Coromandel range, Great Barrier Island, Mercury Island and the beaches stretching from Tuteawa to Kuaotunu. This is a half-hour return trip from the beach reserve on Black Jack Rd. The track offers peeps of the ocean on the way up the rustic trail passing through New Zealand's famous native fauna and flora.
If you need a caffeine kick beforehand, pop into the local cafe Kua Kawhe for a LaLa coffee, which is made from beans roasted in the Kuaotunu Valley, and some delicious homemade bites to eat.
Hungry? After the walk, head into the local restaurant Luke's Kitchen and get a beer on tap from Blue Fridge Brewery, which is locally brewed in the Kuaotunu Valley, a glass of wine and a wood-fired pizza or some fresh seafood, then sit back, relax and enjoy the sunset.
I recommend a "Never Fail" pizza, a fresh fish pizza with local greens, kaffir lime, garlic aioli and lemon. This pizza was born from family and friends experimenting with fish they caught and making pizzas for themselves - and loving it.
Grab a takeaway - Kuaotunu is small but it has the pizza restaurant, the cafe, and burgers and icecreams at the local store - and sit on the sandy white beach while the kids let loose on the beach and climb a tree or two. Take them treasure hunting in the river mouth and see what local crystals you can come out with.
Kuaotunu has an amazing history stretching through the ages as being a social hub. It has an epic melting pot of locals, travellers and bach owners who give the village a humble vibe, with a beautiful white-sand beach, plenty of green spaces and native bush nearby, which makes it a special place to experience.