Oratia? It’s over there, by Glen Eden.

If you’ve ever driven out to the Matakana Farmers’ Market, you might have found the whole thing a little overwhelming. There’s the lengthy crawl through the show-home-heavy bits of Orewa, and that giant roadworks project which is seemingly never going to get finished, and then by the time you’ve made it to Matakana there are approximately 97,000 people all trying to sample the Omaha blueberries at once. You might have said to yourself ‘I wish there was a relatively obscure newish farmers’ market in the Auckland region – say, out west – which is much closer, and much more laid-back, and way less crowded, but also a bit rural and close to some vineyards and beaches.’ Luckily, the Oratia Farmers’ Market, weekly on summer Saturdays from 9am-noon, fits the bill. Yes, the drive is a little less picturesque (OK, a lot less picturesque if you come down Bruce McLaren Road), and there are fewer foodstuffs to choose from, but there are several advantages: petrol savings, westie-spotting, some flirty Italian guys who make fresh pasta right in front of you, and a gloriously rich-tasting-icecream stall. There’s also the close proximity (like, 20 metres) of the market to a local vineyard with its own cafe, and everything is right next door to my favourite weird antique/junk shop, Just Plane Interesting. Where else in Auckland could I have bought a vintage promotional poster for Smokey and the Bandit II? And by the time you’ve made it all the way out to Oratia, you might as well pop over the ranges to Piha.