When agriculture is the number one industry, expect dining to be truly “fine” in New Zealand. And with more than 730 wineries producing internationally recognized Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc (make that “Sav” if you’re a local), trying new wines means an abundance of taste-titillating choices.
Craft beers are catching up to wines too, with more microbreweries on offer than ever before. Gourmet lamb and beef remain mainstays, and there’s a dizzying array of delectable seafood, such as world-famous, green-lipped mussels, crayfish, salmon, and savory white-bait fritters. Fresh produce offerings include kumara, the Kiwi version of sweet potato, among an array of other garden vegetables. Another must-try is the traditional Māori hāngī, a scrumptious feast cooked in the ground.
These culinary experiences are now in reach with New Zealand’s borders open to U.S. travelers. We’re a visa waiver country, so in addition to most needing pre-departure testing and proof of vaccination, we need a NzeTA or New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority. You can learn more about entering the country here. And when you’re planning, remember that there’s a lot of great food, wine, and beer to be had, so to enjoy all that in the country’s main cities and beyond, try to spend three weeks to get your fill of fine fare and fun. Keep reading to learn more about food and drink, New Zealand-style.
Dig into the North Island’s culinary finds
In Auckland, Federal Street is home to some of the best places for elegant dining in the country. At the top of the SkyTower, the Sugar Club is an awe-inspiring place for dinner with a view, including a private dining option. Pasture-raised New Zealand beef and lamb are on offer at The Grill. Elsewhere, don’t miss Indian-inspired SidArt on Ponsonby Road, and Ortolana for European and local cuisine in the farming community of Kumeu. And you can get out on the water with a 2.5-hour Auckland Harbor Dinner Cruise or have a casual repast courtesy of Coops Corner Pub.
For characteristically Kiwi or Kiwiana-inspired cuisine, visit the Tuitui Museum Bistro & Café at the Auckland Museum. Go for gin and craft beer at Bozo Bar. Across the water on Waiheke Island, do separate vineyard courses with an entrée at Stonyridge, a main course at Te Motu, and dessert at Tantalus Estate—each accompanied by their own wine pairing.
In the country’s capital city, don’t miss “Wellington on a Plate” every August. But any other day, Hiakai is a distinctive gourmet choice with a tantalizing combo of Māori and Polynesian ingredients. Bellamy’s by Logan Brown is in the Beehive, the executive wing of New Zealand’s Parliament buildings, offering executive-style fine dining. Waterfront choices include Chocolate Fish Café, with fish, of course, scallops, and paua, a type of edible snail.
Bring your pooch to Beach Babylon’s retro beachside café, with seasonal menus featuring small plates. Your head will spin with creative craft brew choices, such as Heyday Beer Co., Fortune Favours, and the Garage Project, among others—in the craft brew capital of New Zealand.
In Rotorua, go for the Māori hāngī or earth oven feast, which uses mutton cloth, foil, and wire baskets, set on hot stones in a hole, then covered with a wet cloth and dirt which doesn’t touch the food. Enjoy lamb or fish, kumara, potato, and cabbage, and the joy of celebrating a traditional Māori meal. The city’s Eat Streat, with a dozen restaurants and bars, offers all-weather alfresco dining. There, Brew Craft Beer Pub features selections from Croucher Brewing and gastro-pub food. Centrally located Atticus Finch triumphs with contemporary New Zealand cuisine, and Sabroso makes authentic home-style food from Latin America.
Cheers!” to South Island wineries and craft brews
In Christchurch, fresh choices abound Saturdays at Lyttleton Farmers Market with free-range eggs, bread, meat, fish, cheese, herbs, and plants. Choose Chinese at Miss Peppercorn, Italian at Francesca’s Italian Kitchen, English food at Pomeroy’s Old Brewery Inn, and yes, even Mexican at Mexicano’s.
Fried chicken has become another Kiwi staple in Christchurch with Evil Genius, Empire Chicken, and Smokey T’s. In the new category, try the Pink Lady Rooftop Bar for an open-air drink, or the Mr. Brightside Rooftop Bar. Also, celebrated British chef Simon Levy welcomes diners to his seafood-centric Hali. Cellar Door offers a wine bar with flights, craft beer, and a seasonal menu, sometimes with hāpuku or grouper.
Moving on to Queenstown, pick your favorite from more than 150 bars, restaurants, and cafes, or make it official with one of many expert food and wine, wine, or craft beer tours. Local produce and tender beef and lamb rate high at Jervois Steak House, while 20 minutes away in Arrowtown, Aosta gets raves for its Northern Italian innovations. Try the “trust the chef” menu at Gibbston Valley Lodge, about a half-hour away.
Check out Queenstown’s Altitude Brewing, Lake & Wood, or Searchlight Brewery for inventive craft beer. Gibbston is the epicenter of Central Otago Wine Country, especially for sublime Pinot Noir, and 75 wineries wait for you only 20 minutes from Queenstown, including Kinross, Amisfield, Peregrine, Chard Farm, and Rockburn. Cheers!