Thanks to the fertile soils and temperate climate, the region is a highly productive food basket. Through the year there are foodie challenges where chefs vie to create winning dishes and gourmet events from food festivals to the fresh is best local markets.
The Kawhia Kai Festival
Held in February each year on the weekend closest to Waitangi Day, Kawhia Kai Festival is a major event on this Waikato west coast beach community’s calendar. It’s a must-munch event showcasing traditional Māori kai (food) from the land and sea, as well as the traditional hangi cooking method where food is served in kono (flax serving baskets). As well as eating delicious food, visitors are entertained by kapa haka performances, and can also see artists working in traditional Māori art forms, including flax weaving, cloak making, wood carving, stone sculpting and tattooing. The festival is staged on the Kawhia foreshore a short distance from where, at low tide, geothermally heated water bubbles up through the sand and you can dig yourself a spa bath.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/kawhiakai
Great New Zealand Food Show
The Great New Zealand Food Show, held at Claudelands event centre each year, is everything fabulous about food and the talented chefs and foodies that are passionate about bringing us the delicious and nutritious.
A cooking theatre sponsored by the Waikato family owned Heathcote Appliances features a line up of chefs that share winning tips and techniques to take home to your own kitchen.
There are also masterclasses where you can learn dishes and techniques, informative sessions with industry professionals, foodies and wellness advisors, as well as exhibitors keen for you to taste the latest foods and beverages.
The HLive Seat & Eat zone is where you can sit down, relax and enjoy a glass of wine, beer or cider as you indulge in a plate of scrumptiousness from one of the many pop up eateries.
It’s a most palatable day out for all of the family and groups of friends.
For more information visit www.greatnzfoodshow.co.nz
Gourmet in the Gardens
Gourmet in the Gardens is one of the best ways to eat and be merry on a summer’s evening. During the summer months (November-March) this twilight foodie gathering is held in Hamilton Gardens.
Food vendors set up stalls with the choice of cuisines very much a world tour for your tastebuds - Jamaican, Argentinian, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese and more. Ceviche prepared from freshly caught fish and local limes, anyone? Or crispy crust woodfired pizza?
Gourmet in the Gardens attracts people from around the Waikato region to eat, catch up with friends - and often to dance to the live music. There’s also entertainment to appeal to the children. Take a picnic blanket to lounge on. For more information visit www.facebook.com/gourmet-in-the-gardens
Culinary Cambridge is a five-day celebration of Cambridge’s food producers and eateries. From high tea and tapas, to compost workshops, beer tastings and organic farming tours, all things food are highlighted in this festival held in November each year. For a full list of events and how to book individual events www.culinarycambridge.co.nz events where you can also download the Cambridge food trail map.
Waikato farmers’ markets
Waikato farmers’ markets are a great way to sample the region’s finest and freshest produce - and meet some of the people producing the tasty food New Zealand is famous for.
Hamilton Farmers’ Market is every Sunday morning at Claudelands. This market began in 2006 with just 15 stallholders and has since blossomed to include deliciousness like artisanal bread and pastries, locally roasted coffee and a range of smallgoods like salami and biltong, as well as seasonal produce including berries and other fruit, and garden-fresh vegetables. Not forgetting our canine companions, there are also nourishing dog treats.
Each Friday evening there’s also a night market in Hamilton at The Base shopping precinct. The main attraction is food stalls offering a range of local and international cuisine, much of which features locally produced ingredients. You’ll find plenty to savour, from hangi to noodles, dumplings, sushi, tacos, churros and more. There are also stalls with the likes of clothing and jewellery for sale, and bands to entertain as you munch.
Cambridge Farmers’ Market is every Saturday morning. Start your weekend by visiting the market and chatting with the local gourmet producers - and then enjoy a picnic brunch or a stroll along the Waikato River that runs through this picturesque town. The market is held at Victoria Square and in the summer months shares the park with local cricketers.
Pirongia market, held on the last Sunday of each month, combines art, craft and food stalls, while the Te Awamutu twilight market, held every Thursday afternoon into the early evening, offers everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to seedlings for your garden.
Tamahere Market, on the third Saturday of each month, is a popular event drawing locals and visitors alike. There are arts and crafts, flowers, plants, locally grown fresh produce and gourmet food items to take home and yummy things to eat as you shop.
For more information, check out our Waikato Markets page.