Beyond the stunning landscapes & friendly hospitality that it is known for, New Zealand is also a culinary paradise. With everything from wine & beer, a varied amount of seafood & of course the dairy industry that can be seen in pastures all over the country, your taste buds will be tingling as you explore this beautiful country.
Photo Credit: MarlboroughNZ
1. WORLD CLASS WINES
From Northland on the North Island to the South Islands Central Otago, New Zealand is home to 10 stunning wine regions. The grape varieties, soil structure and mini climates in these geographical areas are varied, producing a broad spectrum of wines.
MARLBOROUGH on the South Island is the largest region and with 84% of the country’s sauvignon blanc plantings some say it is the world’s sauvignon blanc capital. The region’s second VIP grape is pinot noir. Home to over 160 wineries, the small township of Renwick has 30 great wineries within a 24-kilometre circuit.
HAWKES BAY on the North Island is New Zealand’s oldest & second largest wine region. It boasts over 70 wineries & is the land of full-bodied reds including robust Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot as well as complex Chardonnays.
CENTRAL OTAGO in the South Island is New Zealand’s highest, & the world’s most southern, wine region. Otago’s most renown variety is Pinot Noir, a delicate fresh & fruity red wine. An inland region, it is breathtakingly different from the coastal regions with vast undulating landscapes, rugged snow-capped mountains, clear blue rivers, deep gorges and tussock-clad hills.
2. TRADITIONAL MAORI HANGI
New Zealand’s indigenous Maori people possess a tradition of food and hospitality that is uniquely their own and which boasts flavours found nowhere else in the world. There are few experiences that rival sharing a feast cooked in a traditional Maori hāngī (earth oven), a centuries-old cooking method perfect for feeding a crowd and bringing a community together. Rotorua, in the central North Island, is a region rich in Maori culture and heritage. The unique geothermal properties of the area also mean local iwi (tribes) have a unique way of cooking hāngī - in natural thermal steam and water.
Tamaki Maori Village is a cultural experience like no other that is set in a magnificent 200-year-old Tawa forest. View the geothermal hangi being prepared then be swept up by the Maori storytellers who will share customs, traditions and their unique way of life before indulging in a traditional dinner and dessert buffet feast.
Photo Credit: James Heremaia
3. BLUFF OYSTERS, SOUTHLAND
For over 100 years oystering has helped shape Bluff, one of New Zealand’s oldest towns. Bluff oysters are reputed to be the best in the world and a national treasure in New Zealand. These delicate and succulent shellfish are dredged along the coastlines of Southland between March and August every year. Originating in one of the few natural oyster beds in the world, the Foveaux Strait, Bluff oysters are meatier and have a more intense flavour than their cousins around New Zealand. They are arguably best eaten fresh, raw and straight from the shell.
Each May Bluff Oysters are celebrated in style with the Bluff Oyster and Food Festival, an event which draws visitors from around the globe. Thousands of world-famous Bluff oysters and other gourmet ocean treats are served fresh and washed down with local brews. Crowds are entertained with oyster eating and opening competitions, and local designers get creative on the boardwalk with designs incorporating the delicacy.
Photo Credit: Miles Holden
From the number of cows in the paddocks it is easy to see that New Zealand is a paradise for cheese lovers. From Invercargill in the South to Kerikeri in the North you can sample artisan cheeses fresh from the farm. Just south of Auckland lies The Waikato, a cheese lovers paradise, where the grass is greener than just about anywhere else in New Zealand. It is easy to see why this land of lush pastures was chosen to play The Shire in The Lord of the Rings films. The fertile soils and a long-standing farming heritage have made the Waikato region renowned for its dairy industry, so it should come as no surprise that it’s also home to some of the best New Zealand cheese makers.
Visit Oamaru, on the South Island, and you can see the cheese being made in the factory at Whitestone Cheese, before settling in for a sampling in the airy tasting room. They make an enormous range of cheese here, with milk sourced from a handful of farmers around north Otago, but the Lindis Pass Camembert – gooey and stinky – has been described as New Zealand’s greatest cheese. Whitestone also makes a cultured butter which is creamy and yellow with the manuka-smoked version deliciously dangerous. Dunedin’s Evansdale Cheese and Invercargill’s Blue River Dairy are also close by.
Photo Credit: HOBBITON by Sara Orme
5. CRAYFISH, KAIKOURA
In Maori, the word ‘Kai’ means food and ‘Koura’ means crayfish – so it’s not hard to guess what Kaikoura is famous for! Kaikoura's environment is truly spectacular as the village is caught between the rugged Seaward Kaikoura Range and the Pacific Ocean. Winter sees the mountains covered with snow, adding to the drama of the landscape. Whales, fur seals and dolphins live permanently in the coastal waters. There is plenty of opportunity for marine encounters from the whale watching trips that leave the town several times a day to the always entertaining local seal colony.
You can feast on fresh crayfish from one of the many ‘Seafood Caravans’ that dot the highways surrounding Kaikoura. The most famous is Nin’s Bin, run by a local family who have been selling crayfish here since 1977. Nin’s Bin is an iconic favourite with the locals & the menu is simple - crayfish and mussels. Pair the freshness of a crayfish picked straight from the sea with unbelievable views & you'll soon realize that sitting on the beach devouring crayfish cooked with garlic and butter and looking out to the Pacific Ocean is a special kind of kiwi bliss.
Photo Credit: NIN'S BIN, KAIKOURA by Graeme Murray
6. CRAFT BEER
Craft beers are a growing phenomenon in New Zealand, and microbreweries can be found all over both islands, especially Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, and Auckland. You will even find specially brewed ale at Hobbiton Movie Set’s Green Dragon Inn.
Nelson, at the top of the South Island, has 10 craft breweries & 13 brands of craft beer so it has earnt the title as New Zealand’s craft brewing capital. Hops thrive under its golden Tasman sun; hence the region rapidly became the only hop growing area in the country and, with some of the most sought-after hops in the world, remains the centre of the hop industry.
Given Nelson has more craft breweries per capita than anywhere else in the country it’s no wonder it plays host to MarchFest, one of New Zealand’s best beer events. Unlike ordinary beer festivals, all the beers available at MarchFest have been specially brewed for the event and have never previously been tasted by the public before.
The South Islands West Coast may be known for its untamed natural wilderness of rivers, rainforests & stunning glaciers however the region is also known for its white bait seafood. These juvenile fish, caught in nets, are considered a delicacy equal to caviar or truffle. The tasty little fish are eaten whole and require no prep work. The flavour of whitebait is so good that a serving of whitebait seldom comes with much embellishment. The most common way to do whitebait is the humble whitebait fritter. All good Kiwis enjoy their fritter served between two slices of white bread and a lashing of butter. If you want to go upmarket, you could add a dash of salt and a squeeze of lemon. Whitebait season on the West Coast runs from September to November each year.
9. MANUKA HONEY
Manuka is said to be the “Champagne” of honey with the word mānuka being the Māori name of the tree Leptospermum scoparium. Today the humble manuka is one of the most valuable commercial plants in New Zealand & its honey is used in all sorts of foods, drinks, health products and skin care, and is a favourite take-home souvenir. Although these trees can be found throughout New Zealand it only flowers for a short period each year making the collection of this liquid gold limited.
At the Bay of Islands Honey Shop, you can walk right inside a live working beehive, New Zealand's largest. Those brave enough to enter the hive will discover first-hand how the bees make their delicious honey. Walk right inside to see the honeybees hard at work as you learn the difference between the workers, drones, and queen. Watch the queen lay her eggs & you can even observe the communicative Waggle Dance! Inside the hive one bee will dance while other bees watch to learn the directions to a specific flower patch. The dancing bee smells like the flower patch and gives the watching bees a taste of the nectar she gathered before the swarm flies out to forage the pollen.
10. GREENSHELL MUSSELS, MARLBOROUGH
Marlborough Sounds is a place of outstanding beauty, where wedge-shaped hills shelter a network of shining waterways. It is here where more than 70% of the country's export production of Greenshell mussels are harvested inconspicuously beneath barrel-like floats in the deep, clean and cool waters of the Marlborough Sounds.
In Havelock, the Greenshell Mussel Capital of the World, enjoy the natural beauty of the Marlborough Sounds with the indulgent Greenshell Mussel Cruise, featuring freshly steamed mussels paired with a glass of Marlborough sauvignon blanc for the ultimate wine/food match.
With 75% of King or Chinook harvested salmon also coming from this region there are plenty of seafood farms to visit where you can sample the local delicacies with a glass of award-winning Marlborough wine.
Photo credit: MARLBOROUGH SOUNDS by Rob Suisted
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8. KIWI FRIUT, BAY OF PLENTY
Beaches aren’t the only thing the Coastal Bay of Plenty is famous for...it’s also home to Te Puke, self-proclaimed kiwifruit capital of the world. The warm, moist climate and fertile soils are favourable for much horticulture with production of kiwifruit, avocados and citrus fruit such as lemons and oranges making this area New Zealand’s fruit bowl. New Zealand’s substantial kiwifruit industry, now a major export crop, had its beginnings in Te Puke. Hundreds of local growers produce millions of trays of the traditional ‘Green’ kiwifruit and the new sought-after ‘Gold’ variety that are both shipped out worldwide. Enjoy a visit to a working kiwifruit orchard and discover how this unique pocket of land, in the Bay of Plenty, is able to produce one of the worlds healthiest fruits.