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The welcome is friendly and the cheese is sublime.

Cheese-y New Zealand

By —— Bio and Archives--May 26, 2016

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Hit the trail and see why New Zealand’s artisan cheese industry is blooming as a new generation of cheese makers return to age-old ways of crafting the tastiest cheeses.

Until the 1920s, New Zealand was dotted with small cheese factories – as back then, before refrigeration, the milk could only travel a few kilometres before it spoiled. In the past couple of decades, this approach to cheese making has been revived, as a new generation of cheese makers up and down the country – many of them farmers as well – have returned to an artisan approach to the craft of making cheese. Many of them have farm shops where the welcome is friendly and the cheese is sublime.

Auckland and Northland

Start in the far north at Mahoe Cheese, near Kerikeri, which has won multiple prizes, including the Champion of Champions at the New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards. You’ll find the cheesery and the farm shop down a long gravel driveway off State Highway 10 on Anna and Bob Rosevear’s family farm. Son Tim milks just 60 Fresian cows, while brothers Jesse and Jake turn it into Dutch-style cheese: the “Very Old Gouda” is beautifully tart and complex.

Award-winning artisan cheese makers, Grinning Gecko(photo below), source top-quality certified organic milk from a local farm and make some of New Zealand’s finest soft cheeses. From their little factory situated in the heart of Whangarei, Northland, you can view cheese being handmade three or four days a week. 

From there, head south towards Auckland – via the scenic route down State Highway 16 – stopping at the Matakana Farmers’ Market for Whangaripo buffalo mozzarella. Along the way, just outside the city in Taupaki, drop in on Crescent Dairy which farms goats organically and produces just one or two cheeses a day. The products are phenomenal – the Dirty Devil washed rind creation is for the serious cheese obsessive, while the Parvenu mild farmhouse is gentle, beautifully soft and creamy.

Meanwhile, on Auckland’s North Shore, Il Casaro makes fabulous, authentic mozzarella in a warehouse from milk sourced just outside the city. The mozzarella is springy on the outside, just holding together on the inside. Not surprisingly, it’s been a hit with Auckland restaurants, but you can also buy it directly from the factory shop and several markets.


The Waikato – where the grass is greener than just about anywhere else in New Zealand – is a cheese-lover’s paradise. Many of the country’s best-established cheese makers are here – including Mercer Cheese, a tiny shop beside the main state highway, next to a truck stop. Here, since the early 1980s, Alfred Alfrink and wife Ineke have been making 12-kilogram rounds of edam, maasdam and gouda, which they slice to order in front of you in the shop.

Over The Moon Dairy, meanwhile, is a relative newcomer. It started in 2008, in the little country town of Putaruru, producing cheese from sheep’s, goat’s and cow’s milk – all sourced from farms close to the factory. Their cheeses are marked by intense flavours and technical precision. Many of the recipes were created by co-owner Neil Willman, who is a master of cheese and runs the New Zealand Cheese School. If you are really keen, you can drop by for a cheese-making course as well. The Galactic Gold – a washed rind – is the cheese to end all cheeses.

Over The Moon Dairy

Lower North Island

Beside the mighty Whanganui River, Lonely Goat Cheese makes artisan cheese using traditional hands-on techniques and recipes. Self-taught Rae and Brian Doughty have earned two medals for their Fiery Feta and Pepato cheeses. The Whanganui River Traders Market, on the banks of the Whanganui River in Whanganui, is the best place to buy this delicious cheese (Saturdays, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.).

A little further south, artisan cheese makers, Cartwheel Creamery, make outstanding cheeses reflecting the natural goodness of the Pohangina Valley, near Palmerston North. Milk sourced from local organic dairy farmers (Gorge Fresh Organics) is combined with bespoken traditional recipes to produce Camembert, washed rind, blue, tangy feta and three varieties of haloumi. Try the spicy Blue Rhapsody at Feilding Farmers’ Market (Fridays, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) or from the creamery itself (Sundays, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.).

Pohangina Valley: Credit: Destination Manawtu


Cartwheel Creamery

Cwmglyn Farmhouse Cheese (pronounced coom-glin) is handmade in a cheese room using milk harvested from a tiny herd of Jersey cows. Cheese maker Biddy Fraser-Davies milks the cows and makes the cheese, and she is good at it. The prize-winning hard cheese (Super Gold at the World Cheese Awards 2014-2015 in London, among others) has a wholly natural rind, and is matured in a climate-controlled store for between three and seven months. Guests are welcome to visit Biddy at her farm, just south of Eketahuna in the rural Tararua District.

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Kaikoura and Canterbury

Kaikoura Cheese owners, Dan and Sarah Jenkins, had no previous farming experience when they started with three goats on land outside of Kaikoura a couple of years ago. Now they have 60 goats and their little factory and shop is right in town. The Tenara ash-coated soft goat’s cheese is sublime – at once nutty and floral, with a beautiful texture.

Kaikoura Cheese Goats

Next, head for Christchurch, starting with the Canterbury Cheesemongers, a shop with an incredible range of New Zealand cheese. From here, head out to Banks Peninsula to Barry’s Bay Cheese which overlooks the pretty Akaroa harbour. They’ve been making cheese using traditional methods and fresh local milk since 1895. Watch cheese making through the viewing window and enjoy samples of their award-winning cheeses.


Barry’s Bay Cheese

The Deep South

A few hours’ drive south at Oamaru, you can see cheese being made in the factory at Whitestone Cheese before settling in for a sampling in the airy tasting room. They make an enormous range of cheese here, with milk sourced from a handful of farmers around north Otago, but the Lindis Pass Camembert – gooey and stinky – has been described as New Zealand’s greatest cheese. Whitestone also makes a cultured butter which is creamy and yellow – the manuka-smoked version is dangerous.

Whitestone Cheese Company: Lindis Pass Brie

Further down State Highway 1, as you approach Dunedin, you’ll find Evansdale Cheese <>, which started up in the 1970s. There is a small shop outside the factory, but they’re also regulars at the Otago Farmers’ Market on Saturdays. The welcome is cheerful and the staff knowledgeable. For a nutty, soft, beautiful cheese, try the Ruby Bay, wrapped in bright red wax.

Carry on south to Invercargill’s Blue River Dairy where you must try the fantastic pecorino, made from local sheep’s milk. While you’re there, indulge in a gourmet version of New Zealand’s legendary cheese roll (and sheep’s milk coffee) at Blue River’s Sheep Milk Café.

Everything’s close in New Zealand, from dramatic natural landscapes to vibrant cities. You set the pace – from outdoor adventures, to cultural connections, or pure relaxation. And it’s safe, friendly and easy to get around. Whether you’re escaping to an uncrowded beach or immersed in the soothing waters of a hidden thermal spring – you’ll find an incredible choice of things to do. Adrenalin seekers and nature lovers can leap headfirst into outdoor adventures, the curious can connect with the unique Maori culture, and the hardworking can find total seclusion and pure relaxation. Food lovers can savour fresh, locally sourced produce, matched with delicious world-class wines.

Air New Zealand has direct non-stop flights from Vancouver to Auckland and offers flights from many other North American cities. Amazing new experiences are just one flight away.

For more information on New Zealand or to create your unique adventure, please visit: NewZealand.com and check out the “Wishlist” handy vacation planner.


Grinning Gecko



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