Perched on the waterfront, in amongst New Zealand’s more northern parts, is a gem of a place to call into. The world famous Mangonui fish shop, a proper “fish and chippery”, no less…
Arriving in Mangonui it feels just like a cute-as-a-button seaside village. But it’s one with a fascinating history.
It starts with the shark...
The name “Mangonui” means whopping great shark. (That’s enough to put you off a quick dip.) We’ve heard it references a taniwha - a supernatural creature - living deep in the water. This taniwha was the remarkable guardian that protected and guided the Maori canoe Ruikaramea on its journey into the harbour. (You might feel better about that swim now.)
The area also hosted some of the earliest European settlements in New Zealand. With the arrival of European settlers it became (like Kororāreka, now Russell) a pretty lawless sailors' (whaling) town. In time, it moved on to kauri milling and trading of kauri gum.
There’s nothing like learning all this to realise times sure have changed. And so, pretty as it is now, conjuring up images of its (at times) likely rather brutal past is kind of tricky. But it’s all these stories of the past, and all of the magnificent present day contrasts, that make being there all the more special.
Spoilt for choice
And so, a visit. Blue skies, loads of sunshine, and a busy hum of diners tucking into their lunchtime favourites. There’s no shortage of choices, like the sign says: king prawns, kina tubs, chowder, Pacific oysters, raw fish salad, smoked fish, marinated mussels, calamari… oh, and hot coffee and cold beer.
But fish and chips it is
So, while there's undoubtedly room to be more adventurous, on a sunny day it's difficult to go past the traditional kiwi fish and chips, fresh from the sea with local hapuka. Place your order, get your number, and wait on the dining deck, full of anticipation, for the call to come. Bingo, 95 it is, your one’s up. Perfect.
Grab some napkins and a few wedges of lemon, to go with the S & P and a splash of vinegar at your table. Combine that with mighty fine and crispy fish and chips, and a great outlook to the boats bobbing in the harbour, and your travels in New Zealand really seem pretty good. It’s just the kind of place to let the view mesmerise you for a wee while, while you meander through your meal.
There’s fish to take home too, if you’re nearby or have a chiller handy. And if it takes your fancy, grab yourself a photo outside, head atop the “look what I landed at the Mangonui Fish Shop”. (That’s right, don’t be like us, forgetting to stick a head in…)