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Planning a trip to NZ - what's good to eat?

My husband and I are taking our long-awaited honeymoon (we were married in 2006) in New Zealand, and we would love to get some suggestions on where to go to eat, which wineries and brew pubs to visit, and any other food-related places we should check out during our month-long journey to both North and South Islands.
We are flying into Auckland, and then down to Queenstown, after which we plan to travel by car around both islands. Any recommendations would be appreciated! We are interested in all sorts of food-related places to see - farms, wineries, breweries, tasting rooms for local products like cheese, and any culinary specialties of New Zealand to taste and try...let us know! As we have a lot of time and flexibility, things off the beaten path would be great.
Thanks for your help!

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  1. You'll find the wineries without my help but if you are visiting Cromwell I recommend the Big Picture Wine Centre for something a bit different & educational as well.

    1. Well, the good news is that it is pretty hard to go wrong in new zealand when it comes to food and wine...couple of suggestions for you

      While in Auckland...
      take a day (or weekend) trip out to waiheke island, a boutique wine growing region in the hauraki gulf. Not the best wine you'll drink while you're down there, but a beautiful spot and you can bike from vineyard to vineyard and hit a beach or two along the way

      If you have access to a grill, check out the auckland fish market which has a fabulous selection of fresh seafood (its near the viaduct harbor/americas cup village)

      A wander down parnell road offers a diverse variety of cuisines, dunk is a great place for brunch. Across town, ponsonby road is another foodie destination with a more alternative bent.

      On the south island...

      In my opinion, the most interesting nz wines hail from central otago (near queenstown)
      a stark region irrigated by glacial runoff yielding pinot noirs with pretty intense minerality (hard to picture until you taste them...). Amisfield is a cant miss, stop there for lunch on their patio, it'll be a highlight of your trip. Mt Difficulty is another one of my favorites

      I'd also recommend the Nelson area, the vineyards up here are much more "blue collar" by which I mean you're likely to find the proprietors in overalls and tending the vines when you pull up. ( be prepared to hear about the weather and the great apple market crash). In Nelson itself, they have a fantastic farmers market in the middle of town, there's also a great little brewery called founders, pouring organic ales ( dont be put off, its in some kind of touristy historic village attraction -- the beer is excellent)

      Anyway, I could go on and on. I was down there last year at this time and wish I could go back. Talk to the locals, avoid the touristy spots and you'll have a brilliant time

      1 Reply
      1. Here's the official link for farmers markets. Note that some are seasonal, not open in the winter. You'll often find local baked goods,, honeys (bring some plastic jars for takehome), cheeses, even wines! as well as fresh veggies and good coffee. Well worth planning a trip around. The one in Waipara is at Pegasus Bay, all the more reason to visit. The Waipara Valley is within easy reach of Christchurch if you don't have time to go to Blenheim. There's a great casual cafe in Amberley, the Nor'wester, serves ostrich and local veggies.


        Be sure to try the local ice creams. Also, some of the B&B's are operated by excellent home cooks!

        Two that I can recommend (the first is REALLY out of the way).


        They have a dairy farm as well as owning a stretch of beachfront. Think home-made yogurt, scones from their own butter, fish patties from what came up in the net that day... and just a wonderful family.


        This is more of a homestay situation. Great meals, she asks what you'd like for dinner and then gets it. Nice location near some beautiful beaches in the Coromandel.

        I second Amisfield Bistro. The chef's choice dinner is the way to go. They don't stay open super late so be sure to check the website.

        Also worthy of a detour in the fishing village of Moeraki, is Fleur's Place. Fleur is a legend! Get the blue cod. Reservations are needed.

        1. I'm not an NZ local, but my better half and I just got back from a too-brief trip to NZ. We can't recommend Amisfield highly enough, it was the best meal of our trip by a vast margin.

          In Queenstown, Vudu Cafe had the best coffee of our entire trip. Being coffee addicts from Seattle, we were hurting until we found this place.

          While Auckland proper was pretty boring from our perspective, we really enjoyed staying - and drinking - at the Shakespeare Brewery & Tavern. Extremely friendly and hospitable staff, excellent beer brewed just behind the bar, and the rooms are a steal for the location. Just down Albert Street towards the harbour was a respectable little Asian food court (not of the shopping mall sort) that we found a good chow experience.

          Also in Auckland, Galbraiths Alehouse in the Mount Eden neighborhood was everything I'd hoped for; the cask conditioned real ales really did it for me as a huge fan of the English style.

          Except for Amisfield, we found "fancy" places in NZ pretty disappointing. Give 'dine by Peter Gordon' in Auckland a miss. Food was uneven, service moreso. Fine dining doesn't seem to be where NZ shines, at least from what we experienced.

          Up in the Bay of Islands north of Auckland, we took an overnight cruise (http://rocktheboat.co.nz/) that was really exceptional. The food at dinner and breakfast was admittedly pretty dull except for the red snapper - which we had caught off the back of the boat right before the crew cleaned and grilled them - and the green-lipped mussels which were also fresh from the bay. Another highlight of that cruise: fresh uni (sea urchin roe)! I'd never liked it before, but then I'd never eaten it straight from the sea before. I gather the roe is particularly fat right now.

          Hope this is useful.

          1 Reply
          1. re: terrier

            Thanks for the tips! We have already booked at Shakespeare for our first 2 nights, and we're looking forward to it. Thanks for the Galbraiths tip, as we love cask-conditioned ales especially. I was wondering (since the dollar is so weak now) - whether to give some of the high-end places a miss...

          2. When you get here, pick up a copy the annual Cuisine magazine guide to New Zealand Wine. In addition to including the latest vineyard tasting room hours, it lists local foods to try. If you get here soon, you will be just in time for Bluff Oyster season.

            1. I don't live in NZ, and have never even been there, but this is a little quirky so I thought I'd mention it. My mom went there a few years ago and kept raving about the Taiwanese food. Apparently there's a significant community of Taiwanese there. There aren't too many places outside of Taiwan where you can get the food, so if you'd like a change ot pace, it might be worth checking out.

              1. My wife and I went to NZ for our Honeymoon in April of 2007. It was such a beautiful experience...we can't wait to go back. We kinda did the same thing as you plan on doing: Flew in to Auckland, rented a car and drove to Rotorua, Taupo, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown. We did that in two weeks...I wish we had the four weeks you guys are taking. Even four weeks isn't enough.

                Anyways...as for food, a response above said you shouldn't have too much of a problem finding wineries. My wife and I are not too big into winery tours so we didn't partake in any tour while there. But, on the trip from Blenheim to Christchurch, you could barely blink without seeing a wine field.

                The thing we really noticed about NZ food was it's really not too much different than what we have in the States, but there are alot of different takes on the same idea. I remember ordering a cheeseburger from a nice lunch-eatery/cafe and it came with all sorts of options for cheese, toppings, sauces, etc. I seem to recall one burger I had was topped with beets. It was all very good (We live in Central Illinois, and while we have great dining establishments, there isn't anything too far off the beaten path in terms of exotic ingredients. There may be elsewhere in the country, but not in Bloomington/Normal/Peoria).

                The lamb/mutton is to die for. I had it several times and it was tremendous. Even their Italian restaurants put their local spin on their dishes; a lot of dishes with seafood. Again, maybe not uncommon in other parts of the States, but we don't get that type of variety or freshness in The Midwest.

                We visited several cafes....at least one a day (usually for lunch), be it in Auckland or Wellington, or if it was along the road on our journey between towns.

                But as for specifics, here's what I can remember:

                - Orbit for dinner (a top of Sky Tower). Pretty much fine dining/cuisine. This was our first night of the honeymoon diner. Very pricey, but it was worth it.
                - take the harbor ferry over to Devenport. Nice little area to walk around in...several cafes within a few blocks of the docks.
                - There are several great pubs, Irish pubs, and small dining establishments. Pretty much just walk around, find something that looks appealing and have at it.

                - Try to go to the Mitai Maori Village. They have a great Hangi dinner.
                - Fat Dog cafe was a nice stop
                - Pig and Whistle: I know that there is a Pig and Whistle in Queenstown as well. Great beer selection and food was pretty good too.

                Taupo - Plenty of cafes/restaurants that line the lake. We ate at a cafe/restaurant facing the lake and just near the visitor's center.

                - Spent a lot less time there than planned. Ate dinner one night at a sports bar. Rugby was on so it was a lot of fun. Tons of great restaurants there though.

                - Yet again, more great restaurants and cafes. Restaurants seemed more pricey here then anywhere else.
                - There's a cafe located in the same building where you can go punting on the Avon. They had some awesome chocolate chip biscuits that we still rave about today.

                If you're going to be there for a while, you'll probably order pizza one or two times. There's a chain in NZ called Hell Pizza. Great stuff....tons of toppings, exotic toppings...stuff you'll never see on top of an American pizza.

                And as for beer. Well...so much of it is good. We knew Steinlager because they do import into the States. It tastes even better there. Speicht's was probably our favorite. Very comparable to Sam Adams Octoberfest. They do not import to the US :( Red Lion was another good beer too. Tons of Aussie beers available as well.

                1. Be sure to try the green lipped mussels, often served with frites (French fries). I got tripped up on the kiwi terms for different kinds of coffee drinks and accidentally ended up loving one one called "Flat White", which appears to be a cousin to a latte.

                  In planning our visits to wineries, we were on the hunt for small producers who don't export to the US. There were lots. One that does export, but which we enjoyed, was Cloudy Bay near Blenheim.

                  1. We've spent the past several months on the North Island of New Zealand and just finished a 6 week long road trip around the North and South Islands. Our hands down favorite dining experience in the entire country was this spot:
                    More info about our New Zealand food and wine experiences can be found on our blog:

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: debtslave

                      Yes, I also recommend Fleur's! Surprise surprise they were short handed and Fleur herself was a server. Fleur bought her restaurant a share of the local fleet in order to serve fresh seafood.

                      Since it's out of the way reservations are essential, although I was lucky to get a seat at lunch w/o reservation.

                    2. Hi there. I am not sure if you have already left for NZ, as your post is a February one and does not give your travel months.
                      Anyway, I recommend you look at www.cuisine.co.nz (and buy their fabulous magazine at the airport bookshop when you arrive). Their supreme award winner for restaurants was Martin Bosley's in Wellington which is fine dining equal to anywhere in the world. If you are a seafood lover, this is a must. (www.martin-bosley.com
                      )Also in Wellington, Logan Brown's (www.loganbrown.co.nz) and Citron are very classy never-fail-to-please places. Expect to pay for classy food, great service and ambience.
                      In Auckland (which is not as easy to get around as Wellington, Christchurch or Queenstown), Meredith's is absolutely fabulous fine dining in the city as is the French Cafe. (www.thefrenchcafe.co.nz
                      )I agree with earlier posts that Amisfield Winery Bistro (www.amisfield.co.nz) in Queenstown is a must, as is Fleur's Place at Moeraki. Rick Stein could pick anywhere in the world to go - he chose Fleur's Place. And with good reason. She rocks!
                      Ruth Pretty (www.ruthpretty.co.nz) runs a fantastic cooking school/homestay north of Wellington at Te Horo. This woman is a complete legend also. She was caterer to Lord of the Rings premier parties, kING kONG, NZExpo, America's Cup, Wearable Arts (are you going to be in Wellington in September ) and has been inducted into the NZ Culinary Hall of Fame like Fleur.
                      Other vineyards, Craggy Range in Havelock North (www.craggyrange.com), Mission Estate Winery (www.missionestate.co.nz), Te awa Winery (www.teawa.com) in Hawkes Bay, the annual Toast Martinborough day of eating and drinking in Martinborough vineyards is brilliant (Ruth Pretty does the food at Ata Rangi vineyard and this is a must) - google Toast Martinborough, Herzog in Blenheim (www.herzog.co.nz
                      )I could really go on. There are thousands of great places. Ruth Reichel on a recent trip to NZ said she was pleasantly surprised and had no idea the food, coffee, restaurant scene was so buzzy. Anyway, happy travels!

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: wellingtonian

                        Amisfield is between Queenstown and Arrowtown, you'll need a car to get there.

                        Solera Vino in Queenstown is pretty good, too.

                        1. re: wellingtonian

                          Ditto the recommendation for Herzog. They do tasting menus and wine pairings. Definitely worth the splurge. Also the restaurant at Craggy Range was very, very good. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of food in New Zealand. If you like lamb, you are in for a treat. Another thing I found was that the portions always seemed to be more than generous, whether at a simple cafe or at a finer dining establishment.

                          1. re: spicygal

                            Herzog restaurant is only open in summer (The location is Blenheim at the top of the South Island). Please post when your travel dates are, and you preferred cities/travel route if you know it, so I can get really specific, and leave out the irrelevancies. (I am a total foodie and travel the length of NZ for my work. I even got to go to the annual Bluff Oyster Festival through being in the location at the right time for work)

                            1. re: wellingtonian

                              Haven't been to the vineyard but have been to a dinner with Therese and Hans Herzog and they are wonderful people.

                        2. Hi. We just returned from a fantastic month-long trip to NZ and loved every minute of it. Have you gone on the trip yet? If not, I'd be happy to tell you the great places we found. Can you list the places you'll visit after Auckland - that would make it easier to suggest restaurants etc.

                          1. For a special splurge, you MUST visit Herzog Estate, located in Blenheim on the South Island. Beautiful wines are paired with a carefully selected menu of fresh local ingredients. The service is excellent, and since the weather should still be warm when you are traveling, be sure to dine outside if possible. The ambiance cannot be beat. For more information you can visit their website: http://www.herzog.co.nz/

                            1. I would also highly recommend Allan Scott Winery, for dining, http://www.allanscott.com/ and Hapuku Lodge, in Kaikoura. Enjoy your travels!