Sweet as: Hunting for honey in New Zealand

New Zealand honey is creating quite a buzz with its health benefits attracting both the curious and the sweet toothed.

New Zealand honey is creating quite a buzz with its health benefits attracting both the curious and the sweet toothed. 

New Zealand has thousands of beekeepers managing more than 500,000 hives. Thanks to growing awareness about the unique health benefits of bee products, demand is blossoming. Discover the secret world of bees through apiarists opening their hives and lives to visitors.

Arataki Honey in Hawke’s Bay

Producing top-quality honey since 1944, Arataki Honey is one of the biggest bee-keeping enterprises in New Zealand with more than 20,000 hives dotted throughout bush and farmland making the most of regional variations of flavour. Learn all about honey and meet the bees at the interactive, fun and informative honeybee centre. Take a close look at these industrious creatures in the large glass observation hives, dress up as a beekeeper or look at life through the eyes of a bee. Entry is free.

Travel Tips

Hawke’s Bay is on the east coast of the North Island with regular flights from Auckland and Wellington. This picturesque region is famous for its beaches, vineyards, food and cycling, while Napier’s art deco buildings are a delight. It’s perfect for visiting all year round. 

Bay of Islands Honey Shop 

Aside from being home to New Zealand’s biggest beehive, this sweet little business in Kerikeri, in the North Island’s far north, offers hive tours and beekeeping courses, safe and fun for all ages. Learn how honey is made and the difference between workers, drones and queens. Watch the queen lay her eggs, observe the waggle dance and listen to the tremendous noise these busy creatures make.

The shop has a wide range of New Zealand Manuka and honey-related products including skincare, beeswax candles, sweet treats, beekeeping equipment, giftware and delicious local honeys. At just $4 per person, the tour is wonderful value. 

Travel Tips

Kerikeri is three hours’ drive from Auckland. Famous for horticulture, clean air and history, Kerikeri makes an easy base for exploring the north. From hearty walks to lazing by the river and admiring the Stone Store, this genteel town is ideal year round, although spring to autumn is most popular.

Blueskin Bay Honey, Dunedin

Blueskin Bay Honey’s Dave Milne has more than 100 hives scattered throughout the region surrounding New Zealand’s southern city of Dunedin, with most in the Blueskin Bay area. His company supplies local restaurants and shops and sells its wares at the famous Otago Farmers Market. Dave’s quality product is all-natural, not artificially overheated, overfiltered or creamed.

Recently launched hive tours enable visitors to kit up and try their hand at beekeeping while learning about honey making. This two-hour adventure includes an informative introduction, information about the region’s plants, a walk around the hives, removal of honey and the all-important tasting.

Travel Tips

Book hive tours through the i-SITE visitor information centre or the Blueskin Honey website, with pick-ups around Dunedin. Visitors can also visit Orokonui Ecosanctuary to spot kiwi (flightless birds) and tuatara (lizards unique to New Zealand). Or simply buy Blueskin honey at Marbeck’s Foodstore and Cafe – a destination in itself.

Comvita, Bay of Plenty

Comvita's headquarters today is a very different set up to the one Claude Stratford operated from the garage of his home in the small Bay of Plenty town of Paengaroa, 40 years ago. Today's operation is slick and streamlined with up-to-the-minute systems and modern premises that include a visitor centre that attracts visitors from around the world. Comvita’s long potfolio of innovative products – everything from health-giving New Zealand Manuka honeys to medical dressings-  are exported worldwide .

As well as shopping and sampling from Comvita's product collection, visitors can experience the life of a bee in the virtual beehive and take educational tours explaining the process from raw material to final product. Sampling honey and enjoying health foods from the centre's café have become popular with locals and tourists. 

Travel Tips

Bay of Plenty is on the east coast of the North Island, a short three-hour drive from Auckland. The region is the gateway to one of New Zealand’s most popular volcanic attractions, White Island. A short trip by air, the privately owned island, which is an active marine volcano offers a spectacular and other-worldly landscape.

Huka Honey Hive, Taupo

For 23 years Huka Honey Hive, next to the majestic Huka Falls at Taupo, has been considered the place to discover the story of bees. At Huka Honey you can view live hives and shop for honey and honey-based products. Moreover, you’re free to wander around and admire the bees and sample the fruits of their labours. The coffee lounge is charming with indoor and outdoor seating. But like the bees, you’ll want to make the most of the sunshine. And the honey ice cream has to be tasted to be believed.

Travel Tips

Lake Taupo is right in the centre of the North Island and bulging with tourist attractions from jet boating to cycling, water sports and action adventures. Built around a lake the size of Singapore, Taupo is a year-round delight. Huka Honey Hive is open 362 days a year.

The Honey Centre, Warkworth 

Loved by local and international visitors, the Honey Centre in Warkworth was opened in the 1990s by the Fountain family, friendly bee experts who are more than happy to share their knowledge. Wonder at the working hives and watch the bees go about their industrious business. With plenty of bee products on offer, including skincare and children’s toys, you can also taste honey and learn how regional differences and various blossoms affect flavour. Situated by a duck pond, be sure to allow plenty of time to enjoy the cafe and the Honey, Mead and Fruit Wine Shop.

Travel Tips

Just 40 minutes north of Auckland, Warkworth is a picturesque riverside town and the gateway to some of the country’s most beautiful beaches. With walks, orchards and ocean activities, Warkworth is an enjoyable destination year round. Nearby Matakana is also a popular hangout, where markets and restaurants draw crowds.