When a town proclaims itself the ‘kumara capital of NZ’ (it produces two-thirds of the country’s sweet potatoes), you should know not to expect too much. Founded in 1872 by timber merchant Joseph Dargaville, this once-important river port thrived on the export of kauri timber and gum. Once the forests were destroyed, it declined, and today it's a quiet backwater servicing the agricultural Northern Wairoa area.