Sadly, Kiwifruit Country had to close its tour operations. However, we have kept this article for its historical significance and to share the process of growing and processing commercial kiwifruit in New Zealand.
Green or gold, kiwi fruit is a delightful mix of tart and sweet. Living in New Zealand, we eat them often, but until we visited a kiwi fruit farm in the Bay of Plenty, I had no idea what goes into the process. We arrived just days before the harvest. It was quite surreal to stand in the kiwi orchard surrounded by 1,000s of kiwi fruit still on the vine.
As it turns out the western Bay of Plenty produces 80% of New Zealand’s kiwifruit crop. We toured Kiwifruit Country, a kiwi fruit farm that is one of the larger orchards in the region at 75 acres. This compares to an average size of 10 acres.
Where is Kiwifruit Country?
The majority of New Zealand kiwifruit grows in the western Bay of Plenty, well south of Tauranga and north of Opotiki (East Cape).
Kiwi fruit grows well in the Bay of Plenty due to its temperate climate, volcanic ash soil, topological conditions, and coastal location. The city of Te Puke is the self-proclaimed kiwifruit capital of the world.
Kiwi fruit is a New Zealand icon. Have you tried one? It offers a surprisingly delicate flavour packed in a green or gold berry. Often mistakenly called a Kiwi fruit tree or kiwi plant, the fruit actually grows on vines. Newly planted vines take four years before producing fruit.
In New Zealand, many of the vines producing viable fruit are 35 to 90 years old. Amazingly, there are 600-year-old wild vines in China that still produce viable fruit, although they call it a Chinese gooseberry.
Kiwi fruit or kiwifruit: a large berry fruit. Its is grown commercially in New Zealand, Italy, Chile, South Africa, and the USA (California).
Kiwi bird: a flightless nocturnal bird found only in New Zealand. With similar shape and colour, it’s no wonder the little fruit bears the same name.
Kiwi: nickname for a person who lives in New Zealand.
Kiwifruit Country – a tour of a kiwi fruit farm
Kiwifruit Country is one of New Zealand’s largest growers of kiwi fruit, producing 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.
I had to smile when I first saw the giant kiwifruit-shaped carts that transported us as we toured the kiwi fruit farm. We did get off to explore both the green and gold kiwi orchard, and then we returned to the shop for tastings.
Green kiwifruit orchard
Our driver knew everything there is to know about the orchard, as he has been part of the team for over 15 years. Furthermore, he happily shared it all with us. Our first stop was the green kiwifruit orchard, as it is the primary crop of 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.
Golden kiwifruit orchard
Golden kiwi fruit vines are started a bit differently than the green ones. Using the “tipi effect” the canes grow stronger. Although once established, the golden fruit vine grows similarly to the green fruit.
Protecting the fruit from frost
One concern in both winter and spring is frost. The images below highlight some of the protections in place. A frost fan stands tall above the kiwi orchard. It keeps frost off the flowers and is activated when temperatures drop to 1.6c (35f). Also, frost cloth serves as a windbreak.
Kiwifruit Country tasting
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 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 tried both, plus the ENZA red kiwi fruit that isn’t grown at Kiwifruit Country. Zespri has images and descriptions of each type of kiwifruit in New Zealand
More on Kiwifruit Country tours
- The kiwi fruit farm is located at 316 State Highway 33 in Paengaroa.
- Hourly tours run from 9 am to 4 pm from 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 and tasting, grab a snack in the cafe. I recommend the kiwifruit ice cream.
- We visited the region as part of a massive North Island road trip.
Cruise ship excursions that visit a kiwi farm from Tauranga
A visit to Kiwifruit Country is great on its own or as part of a cruise ship excursion from the port of Tauranga. You can usually save money by booking an independent cruise excursion over one offered by the ship. Here are two tours that include a visit to the kiwifruit orchard in addition to other stops. Note that one goes to Rotorua, the other does not.
Tauranga shore excursion – Te Puia Geyser Valley & kiwi fruit orchard: This top-rated 5.5-hour tour takes full advantage of the time onshore. It visits Kiwifruit Country, learns a bit and has a tasting, but note that it does not do the full tour. However, this tour does spend two hours at the geothermal wonderland of Te Puia in Rotorua, home to the southern hemisphere’s largest geyser. It also makes photo stops at the Rotorua Museum in the Government Gardens, Blue Baths, and Lake Rotorua.
Check price and availability
Tauranga shore excursion – Bay of Plenty afternoon highlights tour: This small group 3-hour tour hits three of my favourite spots. First, a tour of Kiwifruit Country followed by a visit to Papamoa Beach and then Mount Maunganui’s main beach. Note: This tour does not visit Rotorua.
Check price and availability
Kiwi fruit picking jobs and other related opportunities
Fruit picking 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 current information on kiwi fruit picking opportunities.
This is what you will look like:
Different seasons bring other opportunities. In winter, the kiwi plantation 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.
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Save for later
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Which do you prefer, green or golden kiwi fruit?
You might also like:
- First time visitors guide to Rotorua
- Wai-O-Tapu: a photo review of geothermal Rotorua
- Waimangu Volcanic Valley: world’s youngest geothermal system
- Free things to do in Rotorua
Disclaimer: We were media guests of Kiwifruit Country. However, the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.
How apt to include a trip to a Kiwi Farm when visiting New Zealand. I had no idea about the process of kiwi harvest till I read your post and this tour sounds like a fun, off-the-beaten-path experience. Those kiwifruit shaped carts are adorable. I’d love to taste the red kiwi – that’s a type of kiwi I haven’t tried yet. Lots of great information here – adding this tour to our NZ bucket list.
Going to a kiwi farm is such a cool trip! I absolutely love going to fruit farms where I can pluck fruits – it just gives me so much joy which has been forgotten in the urban lives that we live. Your guide is perfect. Would love to check out sometime!
I didn’t know there were different types of kiwi. My very first taste of kiwi was in middle school as it was a part of the school lunch. I fell in love with the fruit and started buying it from my local grocery store. I’m still amazed that all those kiwi are handpicked! What a fun tour especially if you like kiwi 🙂
Although I associated the Kiwi birds with New Zealand I never realized the fruit was also from there. Sadly kiwi is one of the two foods I am allergic to. My son as well.
Isn’t it funny how we never get around to exploring our own backyard. It’s nice to hear that you’ve taken some time to learn about your locally grown iconic fruit. I’m fascinated that the vines producing fruit are so old! This looks like a really fun day tour for the whole family, kids would love it.
Thanks for this post. I didnt know there were red ones? Wow where can I buy them in the south island?
Before this tour, I didn’t know there were red ones either. However, since then I once saw them in Countdown. But I live on the North Island. I don’t know where to get them on the South Island.
I’ve never had the golden kiwi fruit, just the usual one. I’ll look for it.
Quite an interesting tour.
As someone who’s into tropical fruit farming, this really sheds some light on how fruits from temperate climate are grown. I’d have gone crazy looking at the abundant kiwifruits hanging from the vines!
I love kiwi fruit and found your post so interesting, Rhonda! I hope you have a plentiful harvest.
I do peel my kiwi. I’m not sure why, and maybe next time I’ll leave the peel on. I’ll have to look into coming to NZ to pick and get paid. What a great way to finance a trip. Although, I did pick cherries one summer, and I have picked apples here in Nova Scotia. It’s not the kind of work I have love for…haha
What prodigious vines! It’s so labor intensive with protecting the fruit from wind and frost then waiting four years for the fruiting to begin!! Still what a fun excursion and insight into a wonderful fruit that is popular now around the world.
Oh wow, would I love to try some fresh kiwi just now!
I love kiwis. I ones that I buy are green but I never had a bottle of kiwi juice. I’d love to drink it . I noticed that when their filled they can give a great deal of shade. See ya Rhonda.
I had never had kiwifruit juice before either. It was surprisingly delicious (but the kiwifruit ice cream was the best.)
I love the Kiwi fruit cart! Exploring these orchards and sampling all that fruit sounds like a wonderful way to spend a day.
It’s a fascinating way to spend a couple hours.
Lyn aka The Travelling Lindfields
I cannot image a fruit salad without kiwi fruit, but it would never occur to me to eat the skins. I didn’t even know you could.
I don’t think I would leave the skin on kiwifruit put into a fruit salad, as it doesn’t look as pretty. But, I do leave the skin on when I make a kiwifruit smoothy.
There was a time when my youngest daughter was obsessed with kiwifruit. It’s interesting to see the entire operation – man, that’s alot of fruit!
It sure is a lot of fruit, it was growing everywhere.
Wow, this looks like a super fun and informative visit! The little kiwi cars are awesome. I had no idea that there were different types of kiwis! Looks absolutely delicious. Thanks for the great information, I’ll keep it in mind if I ever get the chance to visit 🙂
I agree, the little kiwi cars were great fun.
Mmm! I loved the kiwis in New Zealand! Another of my favourite fruits from that trip is the Feijoa! It was such an interesting fruit, and I even brought home some feijoa flavoured vodka! MMMM!
I love feijoa too. They are not exported though as they have a short shelf life. Kiwifruit, on the other hand, are very hardy.
I didn’t know there were kiwifruit tours here, apparently the industry is short of workers this season.
I heard that too, about 2000 workers short.
I’m suddenly in the mood for a big juicy Kiwi fruit! I’d really love to visit this orchard and pick some kiwis for myself. Even though I know Kiwis are from New Zealand, it never occurred you could visit the orchard, doh! The kiwi fruit ice cream sounds delicious too and very refreshing. Would like to try it one day.
It’s not a self-pick orchard, but we did go to one in Northern California years ago. I don’t know if it’s still there.
My mouth was watering all the way through reading your post, Rhonda. I love kiwifruit, but they are not very sweet here, in California. Besides, you have a lot of varieties there, from all I can see. I only tasted the green ones.
Let the kiwifruit get a little softer before you eat it and it will be sweeter. It can take a while. The reason they are such a good crop is that they stay firm so long off the vine.
I love kiwi’s but had never seen how they’re grown, that’s awesome! I’ll bet they’re just amazing when you get them ripe off the plant!
Actually, they are picked before they are ripe, and continue ripening off the vine.
Oh, how wonderful! I love orchards. Unfortunately, this one is a little out of reach for me as I am SO allergic to kiwifruits (BOO!).
Oh no, I guess this wouldn’t be a great place for you.
Ah this looks like a lovely day out! Kiwi fruit is delicious and it must have neen interesting to learn all about the growing process. I have tried both and like green best 🙂
The tour is about an hour plus time in the cafe. Like you, I prefer the green ones.
Mango-flavored kiwi fruit! That almost sounds too good to be true. Would love to try one.
It’s more of a hint of mango.
I haven’t been to NZ yet but really want to go. I love kiwifruits, one of my favourite fruits. I haven’t tried the skin, I usually toss it, I would try that next time 😀 I actually haven’t thought about visiting a Kiwifruit Orchard before, but would be so fun to check that out.
I leave the skin on when I put kiwifruit in my smoothy (I just pull out the thick core at the top). But when I eat the fruit, I generally don’t eat the skin.
My uncle is a Kiwi fruit farmer in NZ! I love the red ones myself, less acidic, with a beautiful floral sweetness to them. Fun!
I have only had the red ones twice, and I like them too, but it is the green Kiwifruits that are my favourite.
Hi Rhonda – I’d love to try the other varieties … especially the mango-flavoured one … I don’t eat the skin – but interesting to know one can. A great tour to see … and lovely photos describing your route and methodology – fun … cheers Hilary
It’s not really mango flavoured, more of a touch of mango added to a green kiwi. It’s like eating an entire tropical fruit salad in one bite.
I love kiwi so this would be such a fun tour for me. I’m amazed that there are 35 – 90-year-old vines producing kiwi! I also didn’t realize you could eat the skin. Next time I’m keeping it on so that I get those extra vitamins and nutrients 🙂
I was amazed by the age of the vines too, but even more amazed at the ones in China that are 600 years old.
I didn’t know there was golden. I’ve only seen the green around here.
What a fun experience.
Have a fabulous day and weekend, Rhonda. ♥
Apparently, lots of people don’t know there is golden kiwi fruit. It has a slightly different flavour. One of my girls prefers the golden, I prefer the green.
Alex J. Cavanaugh
That is a scary amount of fruit in one place! They’re more like grapes. And such a long time to live.
I can’t even imagine what it looks like when it is all picked.
I cannot believe I have not enjoyed a kiwi fruit since I’ve been here Rhonda. Only a few weeks left so I need to get my rear in gear. I do love the fruit so, when buying ’em back in the States. I recall looking through the paper in Opotiki to see plenty of fruit picking jobs available. Seemed to be an in demand gig with competitive hourly salaries and ample opportunity. Thanks for sharing 🙂
PS….Zeroing in on 2 days in Auckland before we fly back to NYC. I’ll send you a Facebook message for a meet up.
What are you waiting for? They somehow taste even better when you are standing in New Zealand. Too bad you missed Kiwifruit Country when you were only an hour away in Opotiki.