When in Mangawhai

They call it Magical Mangawhai, and with its beautiful beach, great food and proximity to Auckland we can see why

The sunny courtyard at Bennetts of Mangawhai. Picture / Babiche Martens

Shop... Coolectables, the best vintage shop in the area. Owner Sue has a great eye for quality retro clothing, furniture and collectables, with her home shop crammed with secondhand goodies. It's impossible to leave empty handed.

Indulge... in gourmet chocolates at Bennetts of Mangawhai. The development is one of the most popular spots in town, with a busy chocolaterie and cafe (the coffee and menu here is fantastic). There is a wide selection of chocolates, but a new offering to look for this summer is a collaboration with Waiwera Spirits (think gin and cranberry, vodka and blackcurrant).

Also worth buying is the Fairy Tern chocolate box - with all profits going to aid the Fairy Tern Trust in their conservation work in protecting the NZ Fairy Tern. Fewer than 40 of these birds remain, with many of them calling Mangawhai home.

Visit... the bustling Saturday markets at the library hall, with organic vegetables, hand knitting, honey, vintage goods, seafood, secondhand books and much more. There's also a larger market on January 11, at the Mangawhai Domain down the road.

The Mangawhai Museum recently opened too, following development since 2009 - for a bit of local history on a rainy day.

See... local Jamie McDell, who returns home for a performance at the famous Mangawhai Tavern with Jason Kerrison on December 27. The outdoor garden area is known for its summer gigs - also look for The Black Seeds with Katchafire and Sons of Zion on January 3.

Eat... the cheese sticks that everybody raves about. They pump them out of the kitchen at the Mangawhai Deli, a charming spot in the main shops of the Heads - people have been known to pre-order them in the morning so as to not miss out. They also do good coffee, sandwiches and bread pies.

Drive... to Kaiwaka, for more cheese. The Dutch Cheese Shop on the main highway, a 15 minute drive from Mangawhai, has a large selection of gourmet cheese and Dutch foods to take back to the batch. Next door is Eutopia Cafe, with its striking boat shaped front, domes and moon gate entrance. The organic cafe has new owners, and is currently closed for renovation.

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New Zealand Herald

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