Ngati Tarara

As you're travelling around the north you might notice the preponderance of road names ending in '-ich'. Haere mai, dobro dosli and welcome (as the sign leading into Kaitaia proclaims) to one of the more peculiar ethnic conjunctions in the country.

From the end of the 19th century, men from the Dalmatian coast of Croatia started arriving in NZ looking for work. Many ended up in Northland's gum fields. Pakeha society wasn't particularly welcoming to the new immigrants, particularly during WWI - they were considered Austrians. Not so in the small Maori communities of the north. Here they found an echo of Dalmatian village life, with its emphasis on extended family and hospitality, not to mention a shared history of injustice at the hands of colonial powers.

The Maori jokingly named them Tarara, as their rapid conversation in Serbo-Croat sounded like 'ta-ra-ra-ra-ra' to Maori ears. Many Croatian men married local wahine (women), founding clans that have left several of today's famous Maori with Croatian surnames, like singer Margaret Urlich and former All Black Frano Botica. You'll find large Tarara communities in the Far North, Dargaville and West Auckland.

a modern wing facing the rear courtyard. The friendly owners know the area inside-out.

Beachcomber (% 09-408 2010; 222 Commerce St; mains $16-30; h lunch Mon-Fri, dinner Mon-Sat) is easily the best place to eat in town, with delightful service, a wide-ranging menu and a well-stocked salad bar.

Air New Zealand (% 0800 737 000; www.airnz.co.nz) has daily flights (45 minutes, check website for prices) between Kaitaia and Auckland. The airport is 6km north of Kaitaia. InterCity (% 09623 1503; www.intercity.co.nz) buses stop at the i-SITE, travelling to Mangonui ($20, 40 minutes) and Kerikeri ($31, one hour and 40 minutes).

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