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Gazebos and trestle tables appear, hot plates sizzle and coffee queues form as the town’s weekly Market Central springs to life.
In part, it is the unique setting that makes this market special. Shoppers and vendors gather directly across the road from the region’s famous watery expanse, with its mountain backdrop and pleasure boats in the foreground.
And quality is high. No imported or on-sold junk is allowed, everything on offer has been baked, crafted, sewn, grown or otherwise produced by the stallholders themselves. Between 60 and 100 of them show up each week, some driving from as far away as Wellington or Auckland, others venturing into town from neighbouring farms or villages.
Their wildly varied offerings include fresh eggs in pastel hues and locally-distilled gin, repurposed European linens, Japanese-inspired jewellery, kaleidoscopes and Korean-style fried chicken. Not to mention a range of long-handled bug swats made from coloured leather, stiffened and shaped into a giant house fly.
In the end though, it is market owner-operator Kaz Cederwall who sets the relaxed tone. Kaz hand picks the regular vendors and invites musicians to perform for the lunchers and brunchers who congregate at picnic tables and on bean bags in the midst of the market. She will give local charities a free spot each week and ensure visiting artists, old friends, children, hungry foodies and curious passers-by feel equally welcome.
It is the only market Andrew and Robyn Leary regularly attend, to sell their handcrafted kauri kaleidoscopes and coloured glass jewellery and bowls. The Learys make the specialist mirrors required for their multi-hued optical instruments, as well as a quirky bubble kaleidoscope and one that interacts with music. Sometimes, they also bring their dog Jess along on a Sunday morning.
“We love the fact you can bring your dog to this market,” Robyn says. “Some markets are run by very stern people. Here, it’s a great atmosphere.”
They appreciate the scenic location, too.
Retired Taupō carpenter Ernie Stielglbauer and his wife Lorraine have been attending markets for about 50 years. These days, 91-year-old Ernie sells wooden spoons made from native timber, though he also built the cot that was once used by Kaz’s children.
Families are well catered for at Market Central Taupō. Look out for a bouncy castle and the Rustic Charm Travelling Farm where smaller visitors can pat lambs, kid goats, alpacas and kune kune pigs. Kaz offers enterprising young people free spots to sell their wares and there is plenty of hand knitted baby clothing, small jackets made from woollen blankets, wooden toys and fun food including rewena burgers from Kailicious and handcrafted Argentinian empanadas from Bamo.
For more decadence, visit the Onetai stand. This local manufacturer turns the region’s milk and west coast honey into decadent dulce de leche spreads and chocolate confections.
Tūrangi-based chocolatiers Sande and Paul Jansen are regulars at the market, with their handcrafted artisan Volcanic Chocolate bars, bites and bonbons as well as a very handsome chocolate fish. The range includes award-winners like their pineapple and ginger filled bonbon and a layered coffee ganache and salted caramel concoction.
One baker has taken a step further and made the walls of her stall, as well as the cinnamon or chocolate scrolls that she displays in an antique lolly cabinet. During the week, Siobhain Rainbow runs the Taupō-nui-a-Tia College school canteen, where she makes about 700 gluten-free chocolate brownies every week.
Sundays find her at the market, selling those same brownies inside the gazebo she created using a bolt of floral fabric found in a second hand store. Siobhain’s Simple Somethings stand offers savoury scrolls, too.
Market regulars know to head straight to K’s Kitchen for crispy chicken, dumplings and burgers. The Korean couple who own the business had to quit their day jobs in local eateries due to the popularity of their beloved food truck fare.
Vegans and people with allergies are catered for too, at their plant-based Purple Cat stand.
Food lovers will also be drawn to Czech Republic-born Taupō potter Didi Chapman. Her Quirky Pottery stand includes handmade ceramic lemon squeezers and tiny dishes with a serrated fish scale pattern based designed for grating ginger and garlic. Some of her bowls are imprinted with leaf shapes, others are speckled like a bird’s egg.
To find real eggs, look for laden trays at the Wild Range Eggs stand.
Stallholder Yuyu collects her shelled gems from a clutch of heritage hens, which roost in trees and are free to roam her five hectare property just 15 minutes’ drive from downtown. One bird variety, which are a lavender shade of grey, lay eggs that have a soft green hue. Others produce eggs with hints of pink or blue.
When all those eggs need to go into one basket, circumnavigate the market to find bags made from recycled denim jeans or hemp cloth, or baskets woven from harakeke (flax). Fill those receptacles with olive oil and plants, hand painted gift cards, honey, goat’s milk soap, sacred crystals or pendants that have been carved from pounamu (greenstone) or fashioned into tiny gold-plated paper cranes.
If shopping works up a thirst, head to the Beehave! Craft Meadery stand. Try before you buy a honey-based range of drinks that include sparkling, still and even non-alcoholic drinks. The Suckerpunch is laced with lemon and ginger while the high-alcohol blueberry mead is dubbed Rhapsody.
Find these treasures and the amazing vendors behind them every Sunday morning!
Wherever you are in the Taupō region, there’s always a friendly face, a warm cuppa, and epic views not far away.