Location: 40km Northwest of Tauranga, SH2 on the way to Auckland
The Mural Town of Katikati is widely known as an open air art gallery - for the magnificent 40-plus murals that give the town its name. 'Catty-cat' was established by Irish settlers in the 1870's - when two shiploads of settlers sailed out to establish the only planned Ulster settlement in the world.
The murals depict everything from school days and farming, to early motor vehicles, and the inside of a motor mechanics workshop and a general store. Katikati is also known for New Zealand's only Haiku Pathway, invisible from the downtown - but marked by a large curving 'haiku' sign in the main street. The path leads down into a green, peaceful valley, and follows the meandering Uretara River through some of the greenest fields you'll ever see.
Katikati's main street is a vibrant shopping area, with some real variety. First stop is the town's Information Centre where you'll spot a local landmark, 'Barry the Kiwi Bloke' reading his newspaper. Wander past excellent stores such as Pheasant Valley Gallery & Antiques, a large shop packed with quality collectables and 'interesting things' at very reasonable prices. At Virtue Boutique, there are new and pre-loved clothes and accessories, including Tamsin Cooper bags, jewellery, classic garden-party-style hats and more.
Katikati Craft & Mural Centre stocks a wide range of crafts and paintings. The non-profit society is a co-operative venture, for local painters and artisans to show off their wares. Look for everything from wood carvings to scarves. And don't mistake Finer Wines for your standard provincial wine shop - it's one of the best in the country run by a fanatical wine buff, American expat Jim Bartee, who stocks an incredible 11,000 plus bottles. Jim describes his stock as 'top-notch wines of all prices.' Katikati may be on the highway but its not a 'drive through' - pleasant surprises await those who pull over.