When Captain Cook discovered the lush pocket of country that stretches back from the coast and wraps around Rotorua, he named it the Bay of Plenty. The name was apt. Everything grows and flourishes here; birds, animals, fish, seafood, forests, gardens and orchards.
For a taste of the rich variety of fare that the region produces today, you don’t have to go far, or wait long.
Stroll down Tutanekai Street on a Thursday evening and you’ll catch the Rotorua night market. Here you’ll find fresh produce, much of it organic, along with wines, juices oils and preserves. Local Chinese, Indian, Italian, French and, of course, Kiwi, chefs take their kitchen to the street, so you can dine or graze according to your fancy. There is food for the outer as well as the inner body, like soaps, scrubs and creams, including those miraculous Rotorua mud-packs and manuka honey moisturisers. Quality crafts and arts are also on sale, so the night market makes for very good souvenir shopping too.
Out behind the bubbling mudpools and steam holes of Kuirau Park, the Rotorua Farmers Market takes place every Saturday morning. It’s a colourful, crowded, vibrant affair, with a carnival feel. Music pounds from a tent selling CDs. Bright coloured kids clothes and souvenir t shirts swing from poles. All kinds of plants and vegetables, including puha, watercress and a great range of Asian greens are lined up and laid out in neat rows. Delicious and irresistible smells fill the air; curry, fried rice, kebabs, crepes, coffee, rewena (bread) and paraoa parai (fried bread) with golden syrup or jam. Local fund raisers hold stalls here too, so you can contribute to a school playground, a community hall or a trip for the modest price of a home-made muffin or beanie.
Both markets offer a chance to taste foods that you won’t necessarily find elsewhere in Rotorua or anywhere for that matter. They also offer a chance to see the abundance of wonderful produce that the beautiful Bay of Plenty yields today. If you’re foodie, don’t miss either of them.