Eke out the last days of summer with a visit to the winterless north.
Saturday mornings are for the Whangārei Growers' Markets. The first of its kind in New Zealand (the markets were established in 1998), these markets are thriving with more than 100 regular stalls, but you have to be out of bed with the early birds to get the good produce. Later than 8am and you'll probably miss out on the good tomatoes and eggs. Also on offer are nuts, oils, native seedlings, fruit and vege, meat, fish and dairy. You'll find them on Water St.
Once you've had your fill, drive out to Whangārei Heads for the climb up Mt Manaia. The peak is 420m above sea level, so will take around two hours return and will burn some decent calories. It gets steeper as you go, but is definitely worth the effort for the beautiful views back over Whangārei, across to Te Whara/Bream Head, and out to the Hen & Chickens Islands. Manaia is tapu for Ngātiwai, so be respectful of the signs near the top that tell you not to venture further. This is also a kiwi reserve, so leave the dog at home.
A little further north, Milk and Honey in Kamo is a favourite for brunch, with huge servings of buttermilk hotcakes with lemon curd, shakshuka, big breakfasts and BLTs, and a cabinet full of delicious baked items. Furry friends are welcome at the dog-friendly sidewalk tables.
Take the kids to the Quail Cafe in the Whangārei Quarry Gardens - open 9am-3pm Wednesday to Sunday, grab a cream-filled lamington, then let them burn it off in the beautiful subtropical gardens afterwards.
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Grinning Gecko Cheese, owned by a local couple, has won a bunch of awards in recent years. They make soft organic cheeses from local Ayshire cows - you can stock up at their store on Port Rd.
Next stop: Graze on Maunu Rd, where you can put the finishing touches on your DIY picnic - you'll find charcuterie, biscuits, pate, pickles, fresh bread and more.
And finally, off to Whangārei Falls - the perfect spot for lunch, or one of the many beautiful beaches along the coastline. You're spoilt for choice.
Of an evening, visit Loco, a brand new opening right on the town basin. This is a bar for adults - you must be 21 to enter. The bar serves tasty tapas like ceviche, nachos, quesadillas and big sharing plates, and South American-inspired cocktails. They're open Monday to Friday from 4pm for cocktails and dinner, and weekends in time for lunch.
Please check alert level restrictions and Ministry of Health advice before travel