The biggest and best concentration of restaurants and cafes is in Paihia, but there are some close rivals in nearby Kerikeri. As always in the provinces, service tends to wax and wane. The Sugar Boat Restaurant, Waitangi Bridge, Paihia (tel. 09/402-7018; www.sugarboat.co.nz), offers excellent meals in a unique ship setting. It's open daily in summer (mid-Nov through Mar) from 5pm to late with main courses around NZ$35. They also have a cocktail and tapas bar. A very pleasant new addition on the Paihia waterfront is Island Life Restaurant, 78-94 Marsden Rd. (tel. 09/402-6199; www.islandlifepaihia.co.nz). Its a la carte menu presents a little of everything - Pacific rim, asian, classic European; and the deli serves lovely breakfasts and lunches. It's open daily 8am until late and they feature live music on Friday and Saturday nights.
Fine Food -- Pick up the Northland Food and Wine Trail brochure from the Bay of Islands Visitor Centre and discover the wealth of boutique food producers and wineries throughout the whole Northland region. You can tailor-make your own food trail, from their detailed descriptions and maps, to suit your own timetable.
The Gables, The Strand (tel. 09/403-7618, has previously won widespread praise, but it seems to have lost its gloss and is overpriced compared to some of the competition. The Duke of Marlborough, The Strand (tel. 09/403-7829; www.theduke.co.nz), gets good marks for sound pub-style food but variable service; and Gannets, on York Street (tel. 09/403-7990), scores the most points for tasty, good-value meals in a simple interior. The broadbill fish steaks are excellent. Omata Estate, Aucks Road (tel. 09/403-8007), is part of a luxury lodge and winery on the water?s edge, nearer the Opua Ferry Landing than Russell itself; it's recommended for its six-course degustation menu and dishes like confit of salmon and scallops with lime risotto; reservations are essential. Kamakura, 29 The Strand (tel. 09/403-7771; www.kamakura.co.nz), is my pick for the best on this side of the water. It?s a sophisticated restaurant where "Pacific Rim cuisine meets Mediterranean with a touch of Japanese." You?ll get the finest local produce and seafood, including fresh New Zealand crayfish blended into first-class meals with a high level of creativity. It's open daily, 8am until late (dinner only Thurs-Sat) with entrees around NZ$28 to NZ$34.
Good cafes and restaurants come and go in Kerikeri, but worthy of mention are Café Zest, 73 Kerikeri Rd. (tel. 09/407-7164), which is a great spot for vegetarians; and Marsden Estate Winery, Wiroa Road (tel. 09/407-9398), which serves fabulous antipasto platters with estate-grown wine on a grape-covered courtyard overlooking lakes and vineyards. Ake Ake Vineyard, 165 Waimate North Rd., Kerikeri (tel. 09/407-8230; www.akeakevineyard.co.nz), presents a delicious lunch Tuesday through Sunday in summer (Fri-Sun in winter) and dinner Thursday through Sunday all year-round. Curry King, Cobblestone Mall, Kerikeri Road, Kerikeri (tel. 09/401-6172), is a popular choice for traditional Indian meals from 11am to 2pm Tuesday through Friday for lunch, and daily for dinner from 5pm. If you?'e looking for the best picnic food in town, don't drive past Kerikeri Bakehouse Café, 334 Kerikeri Rd. (tel. 09/407-7266); it's open daily from 7am to 4pm and supplies the most astounding range of edibles you'll find for hundreds of miles.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.