Kiwifruit Country produces a classic New Zealand icon, the kiwi fruit. And not just a few, they grow 1,500 tonnes annually. That’s a lot of fruit, especially when you think that each piece is handpicked. We toured their kiwifruit orchard just days before the start of the annual ten-week picking season. The fruit on the vines was plentiful.
Visitors tour in giant kiwifruit shaped carts. Our driver, Simon, has been working for Kiwifruit Country for over 15 years and knows everything there is to know about the orchard.
Green Kiwifruit orchard
Green kiwifruit is the primary crop of Kiwifruit Country. Often called a Kiwi fruit tree or kiwi plant, the fruit actually grows on vines. In New Zealand, 35 – 90-year-old vines are still producing viable fruit. Even more impressive, some wild vines in China are thought to be 600 years old (and the fruit is called the Chinese gooseberry).
Newly planted vines take four years before producing fruit.
Growing kiwi fruit at Kiwifruit Country
The western Bay of Plenty produces 80% of the New Zealand kiwifruit crop. The nearby city of Te Puke markets itself as the kiwifruit capital of the world. Kiwifruit Country is one of the larger orchards (at 75 acres), amongst about 2,500 in the region (average size is 10 acres).
Kiwi fruit grows well in the Bay of Plenty due to its temperate climate, volcanic ash soil, topological conditions, and coastal location.
We arrived in autumn when the vines were ready to be picked. This is a labour intensive job, and New Zealand brings in almost 20,000 people to pick and pack for ten weeks. It’s an opportunity for people to visit New Zealand and earn enough to pay for their travels. Click here for more information on kiwi fruit picking.
This is what you will look like:
Different seasons bring other opportunities. In winter, the kiwi crew prunes the trees and sets the foundations for the following year. Spring is for flowering and pollination. An interesting fact: the flowers have no nectar, so sugar water is provided for the bees.
One concern in both winter and spring is frost.
Golden Kiwifruit orchard
Golden kiwi fruit vines start out a bit differently. Using the “tipi effect” grows the canes stronger.
Once established, the golden kiwifruit vine grows similarly to the green kiwi fruit.
Kiwifruit Country tasting after the tour
After an hour surrounded by all that kiwifruit, I could hardly wait to taste the smooth fruity flavour. A bit of a cross between strawberry, banana, and possibly pineapple, the kiwifruit has a bit of distinctive character that is difficult to define. Then there is the gold kiwifruit, a bit smoother with an added flavour some describe as mango. We got to try them all, even the ENZA Red kiwi fruit that isn’t grown at Kiwifruit Country.
Do you eat the kiwi fruit skin? It is loaded with vitamins and nutrients. But don’t worry if you don’t, as it turns out, only 10% of consumers eat the skin.
Visiting Kiwifruit Country tours
- Located 316 State highway 33 in Paengaroa, Kiwifruit Country is easy to find.
- Hourly tours run from 9 am to 4 pm most of the year (September to April), with reduced hours from 10 am to 3 pm during harvest season (May and June). Winter tours are on demand and require booking ahead.
- After the tour, grab a snack in the cafe. I recommend the kiwifruit ice cream.
- For more information, check out their official website.
Visiting Kiwifruit Country from the Tauranga cruise port
A visit to Kiwifruit Country is great on its own or as part of a cruise ship excursion from the port of Tauranga. Cruise ship season brings additional tours added to the schedule, many through excursions. You can usually save money by booking independent cruise excursions like these, each of which includes a visit to a kiwifruit orchard in addition to other stops.
Tauranga Shore Excursion: Small-Group Bay of Plenty and Tauranga Tour
We included this highly-rated 5-hour small group tour as it specifies a visit to Kiwifruit Country. In fact, it will be your first stop after pick up from your ship. Next, learn about the production of Manuka honey, and see the bees at work. Then head to McLaren Park to see the falls and take a bushwalk. Note: This tour does not visit Rotorua. ⇒ Check pricing and reviews of this Bay of Plenty and Tauranga tour
Full-day small group Cruise Tour Rotorua and Tauranga Highlights Tour
This 6.5-hour tour goes first to Rotorua where you will have a short visit to the Rotorua Museum. followed by a two-hour visit to Te Whakarewarewa Maori Living Village including a 25-minute concert. Next, a visit to the kiwi 360 orchards followed by the Bule Baths and Government Gardens. ⇒ Check pricing and reviews of this Rotorua, Tauranga and Mt. Maunganui
Rotorua Highlights & Maori Village Tour from Tauranga
This 7-hour excursion heads first to Mt Maunganui, then to a honey shop before visiting a kiwifruit orchard. Next, it’s on to Rotorua to visit the Te Whakarewarewa Maori Living Village with your local guide, a resident, can share first-hand stories. Finally, a visit to Lake Rotorua before returning to the ship. ⇒ Check pricing and reviews of this Rotorua Highlights & Maori Village Tour.
If you are cruising, don’t miss these 25 Tips for Cruising that Everyone Should Know.)
Where to Stay When You Visit Kiwifruit Country
We were travelling up the east coast of the North Island (on an Auckland to Wellington road trip) when we visited the Bay of Plenty. Having driven around the East Cape, we spent our final night of that portion of the adventure in the most lovely B&B just outside of Opotiki called Pohutukawa Lodge. It was our first introduction to the kiwi berry, as they had just harvested their annual crop days before our arrival. A bit over an hour drive brought us to kiwi country:
After our tour of the kiwi orchard, we drove only another 15 minutes to Papamoa Beach Resort where we relaxed and rejuvenated in a charming beachfront Bay of Plenty villa for a few days. See our complete review at Papamoa Beach Resort: the Perfect Stay in Bay of Plenty New Zealand.
Which do you prefer, green or golden kiwi fruit?
Disclaimer: We were media guests of Kiwifruit Country. However, the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.