In January 2022 we showcased the outstanding casual and more accessible tastes of the abundant Northland region, and we promised to return with inspiration for that perfect and special weekend away. And so, with high-quality front and centre of mind, I packed my one-size-fits-all kaftans and headed north to carve a trail for the serious eater who is after a very special reward.

Our New Zealand luxury lodges are certainly something to appreciate, having been cut off from their international jet-set clientele and having survived the challenges and uncertainties that a global pandemic presented. I see a new era emerging for many of the major players, with each doing their absolute damnedest to make the guest experience ever more seamless, relaxing and delightful, and with a need to shine even more brightly beyond their idyllic locations and world-class architecture. It seems that the question of “What’s for dinner?” at lodge level is becoming a bigger question than ever before.

In 2016, I had my first taste of the extraordinary vision that New Yorkers Julian and Josephine Robertson had built on a sheep farm near Matauri Bay as an investment for their children’s future. In 2023, I can confirm that their legacy at Kauri Cliffs lives on, as their son and CEO Jay Robertson continues to deliver on the promise from his parents to create an experience to attract guests from around the world that will showcase the very best New Zealand has to offer. With regard to the Kauri Cliffs food-and-drink story, the recent appointment of executive chef Paul Froggatt sees this luxury offering opening up a menu that will carry the flag for exceptional French technique while presenting exquisitely handled ingredients and giving a definite nod to moving beyond the predictable old dégustation.

British-born Paul has just cooked through his first summer at the lodge, exploring the local food bowl and developing relationships with local growers and producers to pair their products with what is grown and raised on the 6000-hectare Kauri Cliffs farm. He packs a hefty CV that includes nine years at New Zealand’s iconic Huka Lodge and stints at 2-star Michelin restaurants Amber at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental and Saint Pierre, a Relais & Chateaux Grand Chef restaurant in Singapore, along with extensive travel and work in kitchens in Asia. He’s someone who truly understands the need to deliver a unique experience and make people happy within this outstanding environment, and the resulting plates from this thoughtful and motivated chef are both complex yet gentle, allowing the diner to develop a great respect and appreciation for our intense New Zealand flavour. For example, haku (kingfish) is skillfully presented beneath a veil of fermented spiced cucumbers, and a comforting dish of lamb and peas is elevated with white miso and whipped buffalo curd.

The main lodge at Kauri Cliffs

The lodge’s wine list features a terrific selection of heavy hitters as you would expect, however an exciting selection from Northland wineries also makes an appearance. A shiny new food truck parked on the perfectly manicured lawn offers the chance to discover a New Zealand barbecue that will blow your socks off and a new firepit area for sensational sunset interludes provides the opportunity for personalised cocktails or the perfect martini.

Of course, this magnificent lodge has all of the trimmings including one of the best golf courses in the world, superb accommodation, tennis, a heated pool, a fitness centre, a glorious spa and a private beach. Indeed, the Kauri Cliffs signature barbecue at Pink Beach remains an unforgettable experience and an example of the lengths that the team will go to logistically to create magical moments and memories by combining excellence with true hospitality.


The Oxford dictionary describes the word ‘epic’ as a long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures, and ‘epic’ is the one word that encapsulates The Landing in the beautiful Bay of Islands. You cannot prepare for the power of the Purerua Peninsula; it’s an experience that can only be fully understood by being there and hearing the stories proudly told by the keepers of The Landing – a passionate and professional team that exudes care and hospitality – who will welcome, feed, guide and educate as you open up to the intense spirit and history that is integral to this unique property. Developed by Northland-born New Zealander Peter Cooper, it is a story that I cannot possibly tell you in just a few words, and one that I encourage you to look into if you are seeking a unique encounter. Here, on one of the earliest sites of settlement and trade in Aotearoa, you can explore 400 majestic hectares by walking or biking across rolling farmland and native bush, or kayaking, paddleboarding or boating around six private beaches and coves. My kiwi night walk brought me face to face with this shy, iconic bird for the very first time – an experience I will deeply treasure – and a ramble through Peter’s breathtaking collection of Māori taonga (treasures) and contemporary New Zealand art was both unexpected and inspiring. But it is the four architecturally designed and luxuriously furnished residences – with spectacular views no matter which way you look – that are the jewels in the crown of this outstanding property.

As for the food story, it is extremely personal. So personal that there is no common dining area or lodge, instead your every whim is catered to depending on your mood. Breakfast, lunch or picnic options are, of course, lavish and executive chef Mathew Cook will create a unique menu for you, cooking and serving in the privacy of your residence. Or if you love to cook, you can take advantage of the produce from onsite orchards, vege gardens and a free-range hen house; just throw in your catch from a jaunt on the private boat and cook up a storm. Enjoy a wine tasting in the vineyard established in 2007 – which sits on a site that is thought to have grown the country’s first grapevines – and work your way through the boutique vintages. The syrah, chardonnay, pinot gris, rosé and port are now receiving significant attention from those in the know. Totally flexible, attentive, personal and spiritual, I think The Landing might just be changing the language in the luxury hospitality space as we know it, and charting a new and exciting course.


Sitting above a sheltered inlet and with magnificent views of its namesake bay and the wider Bay of Islands, Paroa Bay Winery is thoughtful, gracious and really, really special. With two stunning villas positioned in this substantial vineyard, it is a luxury experience steeped in good old Kiwi hospitality with each villa providing a distinctly different escape, both under the watchful umbrella of The Lindis Group. Tarāpunga villa is nothing short of spectacular – its uniquely designed roof pays homage to the local seabirds – with views looking out over an expansive entertaining area and heated infinity pool. It also has an add-on mini-villa plus hot tub and sauna. While Tarāpunga might have you dreaming up a soirée with a guest list that includes Madonna, Lizzie and the Clooneys, The Vineyard Cottage, although still in the ultimate lap of luxury, provides a farm-cottage feel surrounded by native bush and glorious vines complete with pool, hot tub and sauna, and is perhaps more in line with having celebrity farm-dwellers Oprah, Brad Pitt or maybe Nadia and Carlos Bagrie sipping something splendid with you on the deck. Speaking of which, Paroa Bay Winery wines – sauvignon blanc, rosé, chardonnay, syrah and a CMC blend – are all grown, handpicked, made and bottled onsite and the award-winning restaurant, Sage, is extra-special.

If the budget does not extend to accommodation, you can still sample both food and wine. Executive chef Dan Fraser was the talent behind the menu at iconic Russell hotel restaurant the Duke of Marlborough and has remained a fierce advocate for local food producers. At Sage he presents a dégustation or an à la carte menu; for a taste of Dan and his excellent team at their best, order from the signature series which will deliver farmed Ruakākā pāua fritter, Speckle Park grass-fed scotch fillet or Dan’s stunning Fiordland crayfish risotto. Sage is well known as a must-visit for serious food lovers.


Duke of Marlborough

MĀHA RESTAURANT, KERIKERI When in Kerikeri, drop in and discover this eclectically delicious concept nestled within the Wharepuke Subtropical Garden and run by Ming Poon and Diane Langman. Killer sashimi, housemade ramen and a signature smoke-aged sirloin with Hong Kong-style black pepper sauce.

OMATA ESTATE, RUSSELL Settle in for the afternoon overlooking the vines and the ocean and relax with gourmet platters, wood-fired pizzas and a tasting flight of Omata Estate wines: pinot gris, rosé, chardonnay and syrah.

DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH, RUSSELL A must-visit on the waterfront at Russell, this historical beauty is open for lunch and dinner with classics done right such as seafood chowder, hāngi titi and pork belly boil up or Bream Bay snapper and chips. Or grab a platter to share.

HŌNE’S GARDEN, RUSSELL Outrageously good pizza – we loved the smoked fish with capers and pickled onion – great fish and chips, seriously good tacos served with a laugh and a smile in a tropical craft-beer garden, maybe with live music.

TERRA RESTAURANT, PAIHIA A fine-dining feel in a casual waterfront setting in Paihia where the chef’s snacks by Marcus Berndt are cool, the food is beautiful and the menu is exciting and ever-changing. See our full review for more.

CHARLOTTE’S KITCHEN, PAIHIA Sensational views from the end of the Paihia wharf come with the large or small plates and wood-fired pizzas. We suggest you order ahead for the signature free-range pork knuckle or share the Taste of Tangaroa seafood plate.

AQUA RESTAURANT & BAR, WHANGĀREI Stroll the perimeter of the Hundertwasser Art Centre and step inside this friendly restaurant/bar where the menu has global inspiration with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options and generous portions and the Middle Eastern doughnuts are legendary.


ARCADIA LODGE, RUSSELL A local icon overlooking the gorgeous Matauwhi Bay, the breakfasts here are simply outstanding with ingredients freshly picked from the chef’s garden. In a large house offering plenty of room to relax and unwind, you’ll meet hosts Peter and Greg; having spent many years as hospitality professionals they will go out of their way to connect you to unique local experiences that will be the highlight of your trip. Stop in, stay for a night or two and let them spoil you.


BENNETTS OF MANGAWHAI has long been a must-do visit as the Bennett family have been hand-making chocolates here since 1998. Visit the elegant French country-style showroom for luxurious bars, slabs and individual chocolates using ethically sourced cacao beans and locally grown, spray-free ingredients including feijoas, lemons, kiwifruit and macadamias; hand-collected seawater from the local beach is even made into salt for the sea-salt chocolate. The shady and tranquil courtyard houses a lovely café. 52 Moir St, Mangawhai Village

In the hills overlooking Waipū you’ll find BELLE CHÈVRE CREAMERY, where Jennifer and David Rodrigue (pictured below) tend a small herd of Anglo- Nubian goats whose milk Jennifer makes into award-winning cheese. Head to the tiny farm store (soon there will be a retail shop in Waipū) where you can buy cheese inspired by the couple’s travels, such as a Tuscan table cheese reminiscent of pecorino or the ash-covered pyramid-shaped Manaia Ma named after the local mountain. If you’re lucky, try the intriguing bonbons – goat’s cheese blended with raspberry powder and dipped in Whittaker’s dark chocolate. 7 McLeod Road, Waipū

Just outside Waipū village on SH1 watch out for NUTTY FOR YOU, a macadamia orchard and retail shop selling top-quality macadamias including an incredible macadamia nut butter that’s creamy and luxurious with just a hint of salt, and the addictive – don’t say we didn’t warn you – roasted nuts tossed in a spicy-sweet mix that will have you munching the whole bag before you’re more than a few miles up the road. There are plans to offer orchard tours soon, too. 62 Shoemaker Rd, Waipū

We couldn’t let you visit the area without telling you about TAHI – we’re in it for the honey, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Founder Suzan Craig has spent over a decade restoring a neglected cattle farm into a world-class wetland sanctuary and ecological retreat which boasts walking tracks, birdlife, native trees, accommodation and a summer café all through the lens of sustainability and conservation. Bees are an important part of the project and the care put into the environment ensures Tahi honey contains no added sugar or water, and no nasty added chemicals. Native birds and plants feature on the gorgeous labels, too. 1824 Pataua North Road, RD 5, Whangārei

PARADISE CAKES & PRESERVES ( makes tip-top-quality Christmas cakes and preserves featuring local produce, such as feijoa and cardamom jelly or lime and gin marmalade. If you’re in Russell it’s worth looking in at Wood2Water (22 York St) for Paradise products, sea salt by The Taipa Salt Pig and gifts and products by local makers, or try The Bakery on York St for Paradise goodies.

The family cheesery and farm shop at MAHOE CHEESE are surrounded by lush green paddocks, home to a herd of around 60 cows – mainly Friesian, Montbéliarde, Normande and Swiss Browns – whose milk goes straight from the milking shed to the cheesery. It’s best known for its edam and gouda- style cheese – including the nutty, sweet Cumin Gouda and the Very Old Edam which have legions of loyal fans – but we’d urge you to try the delicious Mahoe Blue, too. Just south of Kerikeri, it’s well worth a stop to stock up. State Highway 10, Pakaraka, Bay of Islands

Seawater, sunshine and time – that’s all that’s needed by James Moore of THE TAIPA SALT PIG to make 100% natural sea salt from the waters of the Far North. That’s not to say we don’t appreciate the flavoured finishing salts including the dramatic squid ink salt, or garlic, citrus zest or chilli varieties. With some nifty thinking around the process, James now turns water into … er… water – yes, fresh drinking water from naturally desalinated salt water, sold under the brand Ocean Water. You can visit the salt-making operation; contact James via

In Coopers Beach visit Hamish and Nichola Apatu at APATU AQUA, a family kai moana business supplying fresh and smoked fish and patés. Purchase directly from the smokehouse where traditional methods of slow smoking give a unique depth of flavour. 284 Cable Bay Block Road, Cable Bay

Though there’s no on-premises shop, DUE NORTH FOODS of Kaitaia produce chutneys, pickles, relishes and preserves, vinegar and oil, hot sauce and honey. Shop online or look out for them at local stockists.


Browse the best the region has to offer and fill a basket full of local goodies. With an almost cult following around Waipū, the ROVING RURAL MARKET is a genuine farm-gate-to-table market experience operated by local growers, producers and artisans. Vendors might include Pinenut Bakery, Belle Chèvre Creamery, Left Fields, Jo’s Honey, Narbey Olive Oil, Raw Creations and, a real treat, Maungatapere Mushrooms ( – Tann grows incredible shiitake and oyster mushrooms, so jump on them if you see them. The market is at various locations around Waipū; check Facebook for details.

Every Saturday morning from 6am to 10am you’ll find the WHANGĀREI GROWERS MARKET in full swing. Subject to the season you might find elephant garlic grown in Ruatangata, limes from Parua Bay, Echo Valley Olives from Mangawhai, feijoas from Maungatapere and even pineapples by Geneva Fruits in May and June. We love the flavour combos and homegrown ingredients in the chutneys, sauces and preserves by Hukerenui Gardens ( – we hear the brinjal chutney is worth getting up early for. 17 Water St, Whangārei

WHOLEY HEALTH CO-OP in Hikurangi (about 15 minutes north of Whangārei) stocks one of the best selections of Northland products from local artisan producers such as Hukerenui Gardens, Pickled Sheilas, Mahoe Cheese, Bella Vacca Milk, Cocavo and loads more. 1675 SH1, Whakapara, Hikurangi

In Kerikeri, you can’t miss THE OLD PACKHOUSE which runs near-legendary weekend markets. The Saturday market is all about Northland-made products and produce with anywhere between 60-100 vendors. Sunday’s market is smaller with more of an eclectic mix. There’s an onsite bakery and butchery/ deli and, for us, one great reason to stop by has been the to-die-for French patisserie by La Patisserie ( – pastry chef Alan Bartos will be back at the markets in September after a trip to France. 505 Kerikeri Rd, Kerikeri