A New Wave

Whangamatā has long been a hot spot for the quintessential Kiwi holiday. With its beautiful beaches, great fishing, nearby bush walks and mountain biking trails this is a town where the humble bach still out numbers the sandcastle mansions.

As any ardent Whangamatā fan will tell you, this beachside town has so much going for it, you don’t miss the lacklustre culinary scene. Don’t get me wrong, there are some standouts, like Port Road Project, along with some eateries hitting the right mark with the casual beach vibe and consistency many beachside establishments struggle with. This summer we had a delicious meal at Rassasay, and we always enjoy a quick casual bite at Craft Haus and Smoky Pallet.

In recent years there has been something in the air. It started with Simon Wright moving to town and opening Gather & Roam. Suddenly foodies from around the country began to visit Whangamatā for more than the surf. More recently the pop up bakery Rüdi’s started created ripples and long queues only ever seen outside the fish n chip shop on a Friday night began to form early each morning as punters queued for delicious pastries and breads.

Rüdi’s has since moved to Hamilton, while Simon is Head Chef at Clarence in Tauranga. And although these trailblazers have left town, in their wake is a growing sense of pride, not to mention a growing number of foodie businesses giving this town another compelling reason to visit.

Salt District

We first met Liam from Salt District Brewery at the start of last year just after he had opened their cellar door. Tucked down an alleyway off the main street, Salt District are open Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons for you to fill a flagon with one of their staple or seasonal brews. “The cellar door isn’t just a tasting room,” says Liam, “it’s a hub of camaraderie. A place to meet fellow beer enthusiasts, exchange stories and share surf reports in a laid-back welcoming atmosphere, and footwear is optional.”

Discovering his love of craft beer when travelling in the States in his early twenties, Liam recalls, “I had a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and it just totally blew my mind.” Back in New Zealand he took up a trainee brewer position at bStudio in the Hawke’s Bay and spent the next two years learning his craft and surfing, or some would say, living the dream.

Back in Whangamatā and homebrewing with his friend Kehan, the pair decided to turn a yoga studio into their HQ. With Covid lockdowns a thing of the past, what could go wrong?

Salt District had only had their doors open a few weeks when cyclone Gabrielle knocked out state highway 25. Liam says, “Looking back now it was kind of a great period to really focus on our processes, dial in our equipment, fine tune some recipe development and to continue learning as much as possible.”

Fast forward to this summer and Liam says, “Once the Christmas weather forecast was locked in and the hordes of people turned up, it was the best feeling, a great confidence boost for our small business and with customers loving our beer, branding and ethos it has really made us realise we are potentially onto something viable for the long term.”

To extend the summer season and continue to grow the community vibe, Salt District plan to host a number of events in their courtyard. These, Liam says, will involve food trucks, live music and, of course, slinging suds. There are also plans for some canning runs of the core range which Liam admits “will be really exciting and probably a little surreal to see them on the local supermarket shelf”. They also have a re-brew of the famous Coromandel chocolate porter, so watch this space.

You can enjoy a Salt District brew by filling a flagon at their cellar door or by enjoying a pint at a number of local eateries like Port Road Project, Craft Haus, Six Forty Six Café, Whangamatā Golf Club and Rassasay Restaurant.

Salt District Cellar Door, 101B Winifred Ave, Whangamatā

Coromandel Chocolate

Frenchman Thomas Capdevielle’s passion for his craft and adopted hometown is infectious. Thomas and wife Jess started Coromandel Chocolate in February 2023. In just one year they have quickly grown and recently opened a shop in town. And although Thomas talks about great chocolate taking time, I get the impression he is not one to sit back and wait.

Thomas has spent a decade gaining the skills he needs to be a great chocolatier, while also refining his vision for the chocolate company he wanted to own, and knew it had to be based in Whangamatā – where he and Jess met and where they want to raise their family.

After four years studying at a prestigious chocolate academy in Southwest France followed by apprenticeships with some of France’s leading chocolatiers, the Capdevielle’s moved back to New Zealand. Here Thomas worked with Honest Chocolate before it was time to go out on his own.

A small but perfectly formed chocolate factory was built in front of the couple’s home. While some equipment needed to be imported, a 700kg, 1950s roasting machine originally from Kawau Island which had found its way to Kerikeri and had sat idle for years was brought to Whangamatā and resurrected with help from Pieter van Leeuwen (from the Coromandel Cheese Co).

Roasting the beans is a key step in the chocolate making process, but what Thomas believes sets Coromandel Chocolate apart is they have control of the product not just from roasting the bean but before the bean arrives.

Coromandel Chocolate exclusively uses cacao beans from Meluka Island in Vanuatu, where their plantation boasts cacao trees that are 30–35 years old, flourishing under mango and banana trees.
The cacao fruit ripens to a yellow colour and develops delightful berry, dried fig and banana flavours. After being handpicked the cacao beans are fermented for 8–10 days before being dried and then dispatched to Whanagmatā.

“Why import cacao beans from elsewhere when we can invest our money right here in the Pacific?” asks Thomas. “Our goal is to raise the profile of Pacific single origin cacao and give it the recognition it deserves.”

While making a delicious product, Thomas is on a mission to shine the light on the dark side of chocolate while offering an alternative. “At Coromandel Chocolate, we truly want to help people understand the power they have by supporting small scale chocolate makers and cacao farmers.”

Coromandel Chocolate Boutique, 100 Hunt Road, Whangamatā, open Friday–Tuesday 9am–5pm

Coromandel Cheese

A few kilometres north of Whangamatā is the van Leeuwen’s 60-hectare dairy farm. Originally from Holland the family moved to Coromandel in 2001 to enjoy the lifestyle the area offered.

With their Dutch heritage and an abundant supply of fresh milk, the van Leeuwen’s had always made cheese for friends and family. It was youngest child Marten’s idea to make the cheese to sell. And so, four years ago, Coromandel Cheese was born.

Pieter and Sabina (aka Dad and Mum) are the farmers and cheesemakers while son Thijs and daughter in law Lisa have established ‘The Little Dairy Company’ to market and sell the cheese and future products. “I have to tell them to slow down,” Pieter laughs, “as we don’t have the storage facility.”

Pieter has ingeniously converted some shipping containers into the cheese factory. There are plans in place to expand this to include yoghurt making facilities plus room to age and store more cheese.

The family’s herd of 90 pure bred Holstein Friesian cows are milked year-round and graze only on grass. They have been bred to all have the A2A2 genetics. Lisa, who spends most of her weekends at markets selling the cheese says, “people love it”. And believes the A2A2 milk is a real advantage with customers who haven’t been able to eat cheese for years enjoying Coromandel Cheese.

Sold in very cool 1/2kg rounds, this beautiful cheese makes a gorgeous centrepiece to a cheeseboard or antipasto platter. But the van Leeuwen’s are adamant that their cheese is not just for special occasions, and part of the ethos from the start was that it needed to be a fair and affordable price for all.

The range currently consists of five flavours, the original – Kawakawa with its leaves picked from nearby Onemana beach – along with plain, chilli, cumin, and fenugreek. A more aged cheese is on the cards when room allows for cellaring and so too is a strained yoghurt. In the meantime, the family are working on online orders and deliveries, so those who can’t visit them at the markets can still enjoy their cheese.

You can find Coromandel Cheese at local markets most regularly at Waihī Beach Farmer’s Market, Hamilton and Cambridge Farmer’s Markets and the Howick Village Markets.

Keep an eye on the website: thelittledairycompany.co.nz.


This Spanish-style eatery opened just before Christmas and has quickly become the hot ticket. Co-owner Rowan Crowe says, “The first two months have been incredible; we have been fully booked out every night. We didn’t really know what our expectations were but whatever they were they have been completely blown out of the water.”

Rowan and co-owner Barend Beukes have both called Whangamatā home for several years. Rowan moved the family to Whangamatā from Devonport in 2020, wanting to raise his children around family and so that they could grow up surfing and enjoying small town life.

Barend, who is originally from South Africa has cheffed around the world, including Michelin starred restaurants in England and superyachts in Sapin. When he moved to New Zealand he worked with Jason Scott at Scotts Epicurean in Hamilton, following Jason to Whangamatā when he started Port Road Project seven years ago.

Rowan, who worked in the building trade after moving to Whangamatā, says, “My love for people made me want to do something different and when Barend presented his idea of doing the restaurant with me, I jumped at the opportunity.”

Those building skills were to come in handy as they transformed the iconic cinema building that, until recently, the only culinary memories it would conjure up were of tangy fruits or crushed jaffas.

Camina includes a warm, intimate dining room and casual laneway gathering space, making it the perfect spot for drinks with friends or a refined night out.

In keeping with the Spanish theme the menu gives a nod to traditional tapas, all perfect to share – except the Coromandel Chocolate s’mores, that one you’ll want to keep to yourself!

Like the s’mores, the food is centred around fire, with locally sourced produce shining.

The majority of their fresh produce comes from Pākaraka permaculture garden just outside of Thames. Rowan says, “We feel so grateful to have such incredible produce from such amazing people so close to the restaurant. Seeing it turn up and then on people’s plates so soon after it got pulled from the ground is very special.”

Camina Restaurant & Bar
708 Port Road, Whangamatā

Nāhana Honey

Husband and wife Mike and Tanya Ward moved to Whangamatā in 2013, where they established 50 beehives. The hives thrived in the warm climate and now number over 1000, plus those of parents, siblings, children, cousins, and friends, making up this true family business.

Mike’s interest in beekeeping began on his parents’ property in Makakahi Valley near Mt. Ruapehu where the mānuka covered hills offered an opportunity to find a complementary income for the multi-generational farm. As he has learnt the craft, and the couple have built the business, they have done so with a community of friends, family and neighbours around them.

Around two years ago they launched the brand and began selling their honey to the public. They called the new beekeeping venture Nāhana (meaning ‘belonging to him or her’) as an ever-present reminder of their role as stewards of the land, working to leave an even better legacy for future generations.

Tanya says, “In essence, honey is a lot like wine in many ways – the area the honey comes from has a significant impact on the taste.” The terroir of honey is especially noticeable in honeys like Nāhana, where there has been minimal processing or heating.

Tanya says their Native Honey is a good example of this. Often labelled ‘Bush Honey’ by other brands, Nāhana Native honey, according to Tanya, “has the distinct flavour of rewarewa [which grows well in the Coromandel with its warm weather and low alpine ranges] paired with the smooth sweetness of kānuka. Both are sought after honeys on their own and together they create a truly delicious honey.”

In addition to their Native honey, Nāhana have a Mānuka honey sourced from the family farm in the Central North Island, along with a Pōhutukawa honey and Multifloral Mānuka honey, which are also harvested from the coast surrounding Whangamatā.

Look out for Nāhana Honey at Coromandel Chocolate on Hunt Road and a growing number of outlets.


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