New Zealand

The Complete New Zealand Restaurant Guide for Foodies

August 26, 2020

New Zealand: a nature-lover’s paradise with pristine lakes, rolling hills and inspiring mountain ranges. The outdoor activity list is nearly infinite and is an easy place to see why it garners so many tourists.  

But, in addition to these remarkable sights, lies cities and towns filled with incredible cafés and restaurants. 

New Zealand has some of the best coffee and food I’ve ever tasted (and honestly one of the many reasons I would love to get back there — get me a flat white, stat!).

Depending on who you speak to, some say the flat white was invented in Auckland, New Zealand. Therefore, the Kiwis really do take their coffee seriously!

Without further ado, read on for the complete New Zealand restaurant guide where I share my favourite coffee houses, burger joints, restaurants, cafés and everything in between in beautiful Aotearoa.

The Complete New Zealand Restaurant Guide for Foodies

1. Queenstown/Wanaka

First off, most of my time was spent between the Queenstown area in South Island and Wellington in North Island.

Queenstown and Wanaka is the area you see from all the postcards.  Everywhere you look is natural beauty and worthy of a photograph.

Queenstown especially is dominated by eateries in the city centre with countless options.  Wanaka is a city about 45-minute drive away and is known as Queenstown’s little sister.

Both towns are situated on a lake surrounded by mountains and, therefore, stunning!

Breakfast/Brunch

New Zealand restaurant guide 101: Bespoke Kitchen was a favourite and, by debate, the best brunch spot in Queenstown.  

On top of the quality food, their bakery items are a treat and the coffee always leaves you wanting a second cup.

Arrowtown Bakery, located in Arrowtown, is another gem to be found.  This quaint village is located just ten minutes outside of Queenstown and the bakery alone is well worth the trip.  

You won’t leave here hungry with the plate full of food you receive.

If you do have that second stomach for sweets (like I certainly do), you can’t go wrong with their fresh-baked goods.

Go to Ritual Espresso Café in Wanaka for an incredible full breakfast.

You know you have made a good choice when the café is filled with locals and tourists alike because the food is just that good!

Dinner

Along with the fabulous brunch choices, Queenstown offers an equal amount of fine dining.  

Blue Kanu is an Asian/Pacific-fusion restaurant. The menu offers a wonderful selection of fresh seafood and this is complemented with crafted cocktails.

For a steak dinner try Jervois Steak House, where you will find knowledgeable staff, top cuts of meat and a selection of the best wine from New Zealand. 

Make sure to book a table as this is a popular spot.

You can’t go wrong with pizza for dinner, especially if you choose Fat Badger. With its classic New York-style pizza, which can feed an army, your tastebuds will be dancing. 

They have a number of delicious entrees, including poutine (chips, cheese and gravy) and jalapeno poppers.

Lastly, this list would be incomplete without mentioning the infamous Fergburger.  This is a Queenstown staple and a must-visit when you are visiting — no exceptions!

Be amazed at the size of these beauties and take your feast down for a waterfront picnic.  

FYI, Ferg has all kinds of patties for everyone including beef, lamb, venison and vegetarian.

Fergburger Queenstown

2. Cromwell/Alexandra

Cromwell lies on the banks of Lake Dunstan just over 60 km from Queenstown.Alexandra is just an extra 30 kilometres away.

Initially a gold miners town, Cromwell is now known for its fruit-growing and this is evident with the many fruit stalls you’ll find in the surrounding area.

This area is also known for its wine, producing some fine Pinot Noirs.

Breakfast

The Kitchen Cromwell will give you all of your usual breakfast options seven days a week. But they also have a pancake menu on Sundays if you are after a sweet treat.

If you find yourself down by Alexandra, The Courthouse Café is a must-visit.

This café is in the old courthouse building and has a great charm along with decoration.  They had one of the best breakfasts and coffees I had in my entire time in New Zealand.

On top of that, they have some fine baked goods, especially the scones!

3. Wellington

The city I spent most of my time in while living in New Zealand was the gorgeous Windy Welly.

Wellington is located on the southernmost point of the northern island. Surrounded by mountains and shoreline,  it’s definitely the coolest little capital city.  

I would swear coffee was invented in Wellington (but yea, nah), although it definitely was perfected here.

This city is a paradise for endless amounts of cafés and food options from fine dining to street food. 

Breakfast

Head on down to The Hangar for the best coffee in town (maybe in New Zealand) and a mighty good breakfast. You can honestly throw a dart at the menu and you’ll be happy with the choice.

And if you are a coffee connoisseur, they offer coffee fights for you to enjoy (and get your taste buds tingling)!

The Hangar Coffee Wellington

Fidel’s Café, located on historic Cuba Street is another great option (in a city of many great options).

This quirky café is always busy so be prepared to wait, but it’s well worth it. It’s very vegetarian friendly but with plenty of meaty plates for those carnivores. They also serve some tasty thick milkshakes for those craving a sweet treat.

Since this is the coffee capital, here are some more cafés to satisfy your caffeine fix:

Dinner

Along with an extensive list for breakfast, Wellington has some of New Zealand’s top-rated dinner restaurants.

Charley Noble is a brilliant steakhouse in the heart of downtown. They have a wide-ranging menu, including vegetarian options and an extensive seafood selection. 

They also pride themselves in sourcing sustainable foods and offering healthy, organic options.

Capitol Restaurant offers fine dining and is perfect for a date night. This is a very intimate restaurant so be sure to make a booking as it is always busy. 

Capitol is located next to the Embassy Theatre, an impressive cinema for those movie and a dinner nights.

For a bit more of an upbeat night, head to Mr Go’s, which serves Asain hawker-style food. Good for nights out with friends or equally a significant other, Mr Go’s serves small plates best for sharing.

If you are in the mood for Italian, look no further than Nicolini’s. They have fresh pasta, are very authentic and quite possibly the best option outside of Italy.

New Zealand Restaurant Guide Charley Noble

Lastly, for a tasty fish-and-chips (or fush-and-chups in your best kiwi accent), Mt Vic Chippery is the place to go.

One of the best fish shops I’ve ever been to, they have around five fish to choose from and different styles of potato, as well as other starters.  

Basically, you can’t go wrong!

4. Nelson

Nelson is a small town that has a lot going for it, including. a busy central district with many cute shops, cafés and restaurants.

The surrounding mountains keep it warm and dry here and it is a favourite beach destination for many Kiwis.

Within driving reach is Abel Tasman National Park, which is great for hikers. There is also Marlborough, which is possibly New Zealand’s most famous wine region.

Dinner

As the name suggests, Harbour Light Bistro is set on the banks of the harbour. Therefore, it has stunning views looking out west over the water, especially from the second-level dining room.

The fact that they serve some of the best fresh fish over a sunset dinner makes for a perfect evening.

Similarly, located in the heart of the city is Hopgood’s & Co., who present a modern, fine-dining experience. This restaurant resides in a historic building, giving a great ambience.

They even offer a creative menu paired with the best of the region’s wine.

5. New Plymouth

Located in the Taranaki Region, New Plymouth is another small city on New Zealand’s west coast with much going for it.

The biggest draw is Mount Taranaki in Egmont National Park.  The mountain dominates the skyline to the east.

Breakfast

Chaos is certainly one of the best breakfast options in the city, therefore, I had to include it in this New Zealand restaurant guide.

Their menu is expansive and includes burritos, bagels and pancakes, as well as turkish-inspired, vegan and full breakfast options.

Dinner

Salt Restaurant will give you a lovely atmosphere and an equally great meal. They are located close to the waterfront with second-story dining facing westward.

I would describe the food as ine dining without fine-dining prices.

6. Tauranga

Tauranga City’s name means ‘place of rest or anchorage’ in Māori. This is represented by the area’s beautiful beaches, including Mount Maunganui Beach which is rated as New Zealand’s best beach!

Breakfast

Eightyeight Café, located in Mount Maunganui, serves up the best breakfast in the area.

From right when you walk in until the moment you leave, you’ll be amazed at the baked goods and food on offer. In fact, picking from the menu may be the hardest decision of your day.

If you’re a carrot cake fan, save room!

New Zealand Restaurant Guide Tauranga

Dinner

While in Tauranga, my fiancée and I decided that we fancied pub food and stumbled upon The Crown & Badger. And it did not disappoint.

Located in the heart of the town with brilliant views of the water, this lively spot serves a nice meal.

Try a tapas-style dinner and some small plates, or go all in with fish and chips or the pie of the day.

7. Auckland

The most populous city in New Zealand at nearly 1.5 million is Auckland. The city is also known as the City of Sails as it’s located between two large harbours creating multiple bays, beaches and beautiful scenery.

And don’t miss out on going to Waiheke Island from the Central Business District’s harbour with its lovely beaches and many wineries.

Breakfast

Bestie Café, located in St Kevins Arcade, is a posh little diner in the heart of one of Auckland’s most cultured areas.

Their seating is in the unique Arcade halls with large windows looking toward the CBD, which provides magnificent views.

Dinner

Because our time in Auckland was short with a late arrival and an early departure, we opted for a cheeky burger at one of New Zealand’s burger chains called Burger Fuel.  

Note that this is a very satisfying option if this is what you’re in the mood for.

Having said that, Auckland is a city filled with fine dining. If you are around for a few days, do some exploring to see where your cravings take you!

New Zealand Restaurant Guide Alexandra

Getting Your Fill of This New Zealand Restaurant Guide 

Whether you’re planning your first trip or a return visit to New Zealand, enjoy the sights, cities and food and coffee culture. It truly is a gem of a country. 

In fact, this New Zealand restaurant guide gives just an appetiser of the good food out there.

Here’s to good vibes and good eats!

Have you been to The Land of the Long White Cloud? Where did you like to eat? Let us know and we may add your contribution to this New Zealand restaurant guide!

American blogger Nathan is the founder of Art of Lifestyle. He has a great passion for food, travel, technology and his hometown Green Bay Packers. Follow him on Instagram for further lifestyle inspiration!

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