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Waikato is the country's fourth-largest region in area and population - it covers 25,000 square kilometres and 460,100 live in its many urban centres and rural districts. Its fine foodie offerings include Port Waikato whitebait in the north, delicious Coromandel farmed oysters and mussels in the east and award-winning cheeses in the rich, green dairy heartland. The likes of Meyer Cheese on the outskirts of Hamilton, Mercer Cheese in north Waikato, Over the Moon Dairy in the south and Aroha Organic Goat Cheese near Te Aroha have all won top national titles.
The Waikato terrain and mild temperate climate are also perfect for growing asparagus, blueberries, strawberries and beef, pork and lamb. A surprise feature is Zealong Tea Estate at Gordonton, now gaining international recognition. It is the country's only commercial tea estate, producing fragrant, flavourful award-winning organic teas and offering warm hospitality and a unique visitor experience.
Wherever you are in the Waikato, you're guaranteed to find markets, roadside vegetable stalls, a decent cup of coffee made from locally roasted beans and cafés and restaurants serving meat, fish, seafood, vegetables, dairy products, honey, craft beers and more sourced from regional suppliers. Hospitality promotional group Waikato Food Inc provides invaluable networking between producers, restaurants and foodies, and it runs the annual Matariki Dish Challenge for chefs, and FermentFest celebrating local cheesemakers and brewers.
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