Are you looking to get off the tourist trail and to have an experience in New Zealand that nobody else will have? Then this is the answer to your prayers. Puhoi is one of only two historic villages in New Zealand and is a small, quaint village with heaps of hidden secrets nestled away in the surrounding hills.
So of course Puhoi is actually nowhere near Paihia, but it is on the way if you're travelling from Auckland and is a place you MUST stop at if you are a fan of cheese! This is countryside at it's best with the Puhoi river gently meandering amongst small shops and houses.
The Puhoi pub, which is really the focal point of the village, is a proper pub with an excellent beer garden but Puhoi's first love appears to be food, and good quality treats. Home made mustards can be purchased in the world's smallest mustard shop and a good old fashioned cholestrol rising in the form of a traditional devonshire tea can be enjoyed in Puhoi. However, there is something extra special that Puhoi has to offer those that visit the area.
It is New Zealand's answer to following the rainbow and actually finding that pot of gold, except in this case the pot is made from cheese and the gold is the wonderful selection of incredible cheeses. That's right hidden amongst the farmland, hills and trees is a little wonderland known as The Art of Cheese.
"...men in white linen trousers skip as they chase wheels of brie around the gardens."
It is called this because cheese is an art. Whether it be making it, deciding what to buy or eating it, a level of creative flair is required.
Be warned this is no ordinary cheese shop. It is also an excellent cafe with a lake and grass to relax out on and enjoy anything from cheesey omelettes to huge bread, meat and cheese platters. Women dressed in white floaty summer dresses and men in white linen trousers skip as they chase wheels of brie around the gardens. Ok so they don't do that but it is a beautiful place to go and relax whilst enjoying good food.
The cool part about the Art of Cheese, aside from the mass amounts of cheese to try, is that they make the majority of it all on site and you can peer through the window to watch the art that is involved in making the cheese ready for us to eat. Then you can focus your full attention on choosing which cheese to buy. It's not easy, with around 20 different gouda's on show it is important to think this through carefully, cumin seed or fenugreek, creamy walnut (yes!) or smoked. Then you must move on to perhaps a bohemian blue or a triple cream brie before considering a flavoured feta for a salad later in the week.
Once you have chosen and your cheese has been packed away in a bag for you, you can head back to the car and leave Puhoi with that feeling of Christmas and the desperate desire to get home so that you can crack out the crackers (pun intended - it's cheese!) and whatever else takes your fancy and fall into your happy place as you enjoy the delights of The Art of Cheese.