The first vines in New Zealand were planted in the Bay of Islands by the missionary, Reverend Samuel Marsden in 1819. Later James Busby planted vines at Waitangi and made wines. He went on to govern New Zealand from Sydney and from there established the Hunter Valley.
In the late 1800's, the Croatian gumdiggers arrived in Northland, bringing their European tradition of winemaking. This has been the foundation of the New Zealand wine industry.
The Industry's Renaissance began in the 1990's and was boosted by the (then) most Northern winery in the country, Okahu Estate, winning the regions first ever gold medals for its Syrah and Chardonnay. This success prompted a surge of new vineyards and wineries, resulting in award winning wines across the region.
Northland is gaining a reputation for quality wines; with tropical Chardonnays, popular Pinot Gris and vibrant Vigoniers, leading the white wine growth. However, its almost Mediterranean climate is attributed to the consistent production of spicy Syrah's, peppery Pinotage's and the popular new world red, Chambourcin. The industry is growing fast in Northland with the Northland Wine Growers Association (formed in 2007) boasting a membership of over 50.
With its warm climate, vast coastline of sweeping beaches and beautiful bays, this "Mediterranean of the South Pacific" also boasts production of a wide range of tropical fruits, guavas, loquats, bananas, passionfruit, pineapples, figs, mandarins, fresh vegetables and New Zealand's largest avocado plantations. There is oyster, mussel, paua and fish farming, game fishing and a vibrant fishing industry alongside dairy, sheep and beef farms. Farmer's markets throughout the region offer a range of produce, much of it available in the diverse range of cafes and restaurants throughout the district.
All of these natural attractions make Northland a great place to visit and no trip would be complete without visiting the cellar doors and restaurants of the area.