If you’re a foodie like me, then you probably make it your goal to sample as many local specialties as possible when traveling. I’ve been up and down New Zealand more times than I can count and I’ve done my fair share of sampling along the way. I put together this special guide to help you discover some of New Zealand’s unique culinary treasures. In Part 1, I’ll cover my favourite North Island treats. Check back soon for Part 2, in which I’ll share some of the best indulgences on the South Island.
Thanks to its balmy climate, farmers in the Northland region are able to grow a wide variety of food year round. This has contributed to the increasing growth of farmers and growers markets throughout the region over the past 10 years. These growers are committed to a ‘gate to plate’ philosophy to ensure that top quality products reach people like you.
You’ll get a real taste of Northland food and culture at one of these weekly markets:
- Whangarei Growers Market (Water Street, Whangarei) – New Zealand’s original farmers’ market is open every Saturday from 6:30 – 10:30am. Here you can buy some of the best organic produce, honey, eggs, oysters and beef that the region has to offer.
- Bay of Islands Farmers Market (Hobson Street Car Park, Kerikeri) – Offering local produce and treats, this farmers market is a social gathering, complete with live music most weeks.
Did you know that Auckland holds the world’s largest Polynesian population? There is no better place to sample authentic Polynesian food than in Auckland. Our favourite place to enjoy the taste, sights and sounds of Auckland’s diverse Polynesian culture is at the Otara Markets. Held every Saturday from 6am to 12pm, you can find this market on Newbury Street in South Auckland.
The Coromandel peninsula is the summer playground for Kiwis and visitors alike. Surrounded on three sides by water, it’s no surprise that seafood is the one of the main attractions here. You can’t leave the Coromandel without trying smoked mussels. The best place to buy them? At Coromandel Smoking Co., of course!
Waikato is famous for its cheeses, which are made from the milk of happy cows, sheep, and goats pastured on the verdant plains of the region. Cheeses from Waikato take home numerous national cheese awards each year and are sold in grocery stores throughout the country. If you’re a cheese lover like me, be sure to stop by Over The Moon’s boutique factory in Putaruru, where you can learn about cheese making in Waikato and sample some of their best cheeses.
Bay of Plenty
You haven’t experienced Māori culture until you’ve participated in a hāngi. In this traditional style of Māori cooking, food is cooked over coals in an underground pit for several hours. It’s possible to hāngi nearly any type of food, with lamb, fish, chicken, and root vegetables among the most popular options. In Rotorua, it’s easy to find operators offering the Maori hāngi experience to visitors. Check in at your local i-SITE to see what’s available during your stay.
Hawkes Bay isn’t the only wine-producing region in the North Island, but it is the oldest and arguably the best place to sample classic New Zealand wines. It’s easy to visit several wineries in one day because they tend to be set in small clusters throughout the area. These are two of my favourite Hawkes Bay producers:
- Mission Estate Winery – The perfect place to start your tour of Hawkes Bay wineries, Mission Estate is New Zealand oldest winery. Learn about the history of Mission Estate and winemaking in New Zealand as you tour the winery and grounds, and then sample some of the finest wines the region has to offer. What more could you ask for?
- Clearview Estate Winery – Not only does Clearview consistently make some of the best wines in the country, but it also boasts one of the most charming Cellar Doors I’ve ever seen. You can easily spend several hours here! Relax with a tasting flight on the terrace or sample some of the tasty dishes in the attached restaurant. If you’re lucky, a live band might even be playing.
If you’re into beer, you’ll be spoilt for selection in New Zealand. The craft beer movement is thriving here, with over 150 smaller craft breweries producing a wide variety of beer styles. New Zealand’s oldest and one of the better-known craft beers is Mike’s Organic Brewery, located in Urenui, Taranaki. Their tasting room offers flights of beer along with freshly baked pizzas and other snacks to complement the brews. All of this can be enjoyed in their beautiful garden setting. Keep an eye out for upcoming events – Mike’s famous Oktoberfest is a not to be missed event held on the last weekend of October every year.
You’ve finally made it to Wellington! To celebrate, treat yourself to a nice dinner in the culinary capital of New Zealand. Some of the best chef’s in the world are at work here, putting our nation’s rich resources to good use in this innovative and fresh food scene. Try seafood from our coastal waters or New Zealand lamb – and don’t forget to wash it down with a glass of New Zealand wine or a local craft beer (Wellington is home to many craft breweries, too!).