This one to three-day itinerary suggests some of the best eats of the Bay of Islands.
The subtropical north is a big region producing plenty of bold flavours and warm hospitality. We've created four guides to help you to experience the best food and drink across Taitokerau Northland. Take your pick as you travel around the area, or follow the itinerary below for a delicious self-guided foodie tour. As you explore this coastal wonderland and aquatic playground, there are several Northland Journeys that will help you make the most of it. These free downloadable maps are great for exploring must-visit places as well as hidden gems.
Wine and Dine on Island Time
Duration: 1- 3 days
Well known to many for being a coastal wonderland, the Bay of Islands and surrounding areas will have you feeling like you’ve stepped into another world. There are a few Northland Journeys that will take you off the beaten track to dive deep into the beauty of this place, and here we take your tastebuds on tour. We have a three-day itinerary that highlights the most delicious spots to enjoy local goods while on your Northland adventure. Pick the places to suit you or plan your stay to sample as many as you dare!
Heading north from Whangārei, either grab yourself a takeaway coffee or hold off and enjoy the beautiful scenic drive along Russell Road until you get to the iconic Helena Bay Gallery and Café. Opening at 10am it’s perfectly timed for a made-with-love brunch taking in beautiful sea views and surrounded by an extensive collection of New Zealand art and sculptures. You’ll find great coffee and a considered menu - their brioche French toast is regularly devoured by locals and visitors alike. After your meal, leave time to enjoy the subtropical garden and discover the impressive works of more than 150 artists. From large garden sculptures to intricate handmade jewellery, it’s hard to leave without at least one special piece.
On the road again follow the Northland Journey, the Secret Coast Route to discover many stunning spots or if you’re on a foodie tour, follow Russell Road directly to Russell township. Bursting with beauty, this quaint seaside town is a place to slow down and wander. If you need another caffeine hit then look no further than a locally roasted brew at Hell Hole (discover Russell’s history to find out why this little kiosk bears this seemingly dark name!). Soak up the tales of yesteryear at Pompallier House and the Russell Museum, do a spot of shopping and take a stroll along the waterfront.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, plan to treat yourself to a true taste of this bountiful region with a decadent experience at one of its jewels. You'll need to book in advance, but highly recommended is a wine tasting experience at The Landing. Set on 1000 acres of gorgeous rolling landscape on its very own historically important peninsula, this winery and resort is something to behold. You will be embraced with world-class hospitality on a guided tour of the winery and barrel room, and a tasting of their handcrafted wines. Generous shared platters of locally sourced goodness freshly prepared by the onsite chef complete this unforgettable visit to one of the region’s best. The full Cellar Door Experience includes guided tours and a private boat transfer otherwise you’ll want to get on the road a little earlier as the drive to Purerua Penninsula takes a little over an hour.
Alternatively, book a leisurely lunch at Sage Restaurant at Paroa Bay Winery. Arriving at estate will have you breathing in clean air and admiring the 144 island views beyond. The warm, inviting, and impeccably styled Sage Restaurant sets the scene for a meal to remember. Serious about sustainability and showcasing local flavours, you can choose from an extensively curated menu where the freshest kai moana (seafood) and seasonal produce is attentively presented. Let your knowledgeable hosts guide your wine matches and enjoy some from their own cellar door. Your body and mind will be nourished with this truly Northland experience.
After a day of local luxury, you’ll want to retreat to your chosen accommodation to rest and refresh. A lighter meal may be the order of the evening so consider these to complete your stay… Experiencing New Zealand’s oldest hotel, the Duke of Malborough is unmissable. The ground floor restaurant of this grand old lady offers exceptional service, local flavours and a good dose of historical humour. Enjoy cocktails and entrees, or one of the many local wines while sharing a main and dessert. Another worthy mention in warmer months is the relaxed subtropical setting at Hone’s Garden. Share one of the best wood-fired pizzas around, a fresh salad or a selection of sides and a local craft beer for a casual end to the day.
If you enjoy the convenience of breakfast at your accommodation, then booking a room at ‘The Duke’ is a great place to wake up. Another more boutique B&B option is Arcadia Lodge, an elegant historical homestead with multiple room options. Hosts Greg and trained chef Peter provide a breakfast that sings with the seasons, fresh local produce, artisan bread, and a café-style offering which changes according to what’s at its best.
If you’re keen to have breakfast in a new setting, take the early car ferry towards Paihia and pop into Alfrescos. A local’s favourite for fueling up first thing, you’ll find a classic menu that uses plenty of locally sourced produce, espresso, smoothies and even a cheeky selection of early bird cocktails!
Once replete you will find a world of adventure and sightseeing ahead of you around Paihia. Follow the Northland Journey All About Islands to take to the seas, head skyward, or get amongst nature, the choice is yours.
Connecting with Māori culture and Aotearoa’s most important historical site at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds is as immersive as it is enlightening and one not to be missed. While there, head to Whare Waka Café for a casual indoor/outdoor dining experience that celebrates ingredients from the region and offers a modern twist on some Māori-inspired dishes. Another brilliant option for lunch is Charlotte’s Kitchen. Set right on the end of Paihia Wharf, the water views are captivating and the menu offers a mouth-watering selection, you’ll easily slip into ‘island time’ here.
If you’re a fan of craft beer then head just out of town to Phathouse Brewery and Bar. Open from 3pm, you can take a seat at the bar and sample some of the many brews they have on the go, or book a brewery tour and delve deep into the world of hops and malt. Owners Rob and Caroline will often be there to share their passion for great tasting brews and swap stories with fellow craft beer lovers. It’s a great spot for an afternoon bevvy. If you’re keen to check out more of Northland’s wine and spirit scene, then you’ll find a huge selection at Bad Habits in the heart of Paihia. This hybrid bar, deli, and liquor store has all the vibe and probably the largest local selection in the region.
When day turns to night in Paihia there is a place you will want to be sure has a table reserved just for you. Terra Restaurant opened a few years ago, humbly described as a new neigbourhood eatery. Anyone who has eaten there will tell you that it is so much more than this. Chef Marcus and wife Sarah bring imagination and creativity to celebrate all that grows and thrives in the Far North. The intimate dining room in the heart of the town enjoys views over the water but this will probably be secondary to what delights on the plate. The seven-course Taste of Terra experience is ever-changing depending on seasonal inspiration, be prepared to leave the decision-making at the door as the friendly team guide you through an eating experience to remember!
With a huge range of accommodation choices around here, you’re sure to enjoy delicious dreams in a comfortable room nearby.
Waking up on day three, there is plenty more feasting and discovery to be had so we recommend a quick stop at a great little place that always gets the thumbs-up from locals. Third Wheel Coffee Co. is a quirky spot serving up excellent coffee and tasty morsels, so grab a little something before heading over to the lovely town of Kerikeri. This area is teaming with delicious produce and artisan products so along with highlighting some great places to eat, we’ll also tell you where to gather some of the best local provisions to enjoy at your leisure.
First stop before you head into town is multi-award-winning cheese makers, Mahoe Cheese. Their farmgate store is open most days from 8.30am, with dairy cows in the distance milked exclusively for their Dutch-style cheeses. You’ll be met by one of the friendly team (probably one of this close-knit cheese-making family). Here you can taste and buy any one of their mouth-watering creations to take on your way.
Next up is a stop at The Old Packhouse, if it’s the weekend then you’ll be amongst many as the markets are in full swing on both Saturday and Sunday. The freshest local produce, delicious baked goods, and artisanal products will have you spoilt for choice. The café and store operate everyday regardless, so you can still shop their local selection of products. Pop over the road to Makana Confections for a sweet line-up of handcrafted delights made onsite and accented with flavours from the region. A few doors down you’ll also find Keri Berries, a roadside store packed with culinary delights from the region and beyond. This little stretch of road can easily keep a food lover entertained for a couple of hours.
It’s more wine-country around here and there are a couple of places well worth a visit. First up, Sovrano Estate, previously the home of Ake Ake Vineyard, which has recently been taken over by the Loggia family. With their Italian heritage, two generations of this family have combined their award-winning Limoncello business with their love of fine wine. Head to their cellar door for a diverse tasting of wine and liqueurs and to learn more about their wonderfully rich history using the best local ingredients to produce decadent beverages.
Just a short drive away you’ll find the heartbeat of Northland Wine, Marsden Estate. The winery and restaurant overlook grape vines and subtropical gardens which makes the perfect setting for a relaxed lunch. The friendly team will happily guide you through the menu, daily specials and suggest perfect wine pairings for your dining choices. Named after Samuel Marsden who, back in 1819 planted New Zealand’s very first grapes in the Bay of Islands, for more than two decades owners Cindy and Rod McIvor have poured their heart into this establishment. As well as producing their own range, master winemaker Rod has pressed and bottled wine for most of Northland’s boutique vineyards over the years. Marsden wines are multi-awarding winning and you are well advised to try (and take home) at least one bottle of their iconic Black Rocks Chardonnay.
After some sightseeing around Kerikeri (refer to the Northland Journey Headlands & Hidden Harbours for some must-visit spots), the best place to end your day is at MĀHA Restaurant. Nestled amongst the lush subtropical gardens of Wharepuke, you will delight in a menu that is imaginative and bursting with fresh local ingredients. Your hosts and owners Ming and Dianne are seasoned hospitality professionals, award-winning Chef Ming brings his Asian influence to New Zealand cuisine with flair and creativity. Be sure to ask Dianne to mix you one of her incredible cocktails as she also takes inspiration from the seasons and the best of local that pair beautifully with Ming’s menu.
After a feasting-filled day the idea of a tranquil night spent nestled in the gardens at Wharepuke Subtropical Accommodation may be a perfect retreat. Otherwise, you are sure to find a great spot from the many options in the Kerikeri region.