The 20 Best Food Experiences in New Zealand

The 20 Best Food Experiences in New Zealand

Food Experience in New Zealand


Food and travel go together like the open road and a motorhome — you need one to fully enjoy the other.   

New Zealand has so many exceptional food experiences so it’s hard to create a list of the best 20. Regardless in this blog, we’ve extensively researched north and south to find ten outstanding, unusual or simply unique food experiences on each island.


Taste famous Bluff oysters at Buster Crabb, try smoked meat or seafood at The Stoaker Room, sample traditional Māori ingredients at Hiakai and savour a hāngī at Waitangi Treaty Grounds.


Our top 20 begins at the bottom of New Zealand and travels north so you can easily add a few of these awesome foodie experiences to your motorhome hire adventure.  



The best South Island food experiences

  1. Buster Crabb
  2. Walter Peak Gourmet BBQ
  3. Fergburger
  4. The Stoaker Room
  5. The Craypot
  6. Fairlie Bakehouse
  7. Riverside Market
  8. Kaikoura Seafood BBQ
  9. Nins Bin
  10. The Mussel Pot

    The best North Island food experiences
  11. Hiakai
  12. Pacifica Restaurant
  13. Café 35
  14. The Green Dragon
  15. The White Lady
  16. Auckland Fish Market
  17. Orbit
  18. Waitangi Treaty Grounds
  19. The Gables Osteria & Enoteca
  20. Mangonui Fish Shop



The best South Island food experiences

1. Buster Crabb

Venturing all the way south to Bluff is a must if you’re fanatical about oysters. If you still enjoy an oyster but at a lower level of obsession, stop in Invercargill for a truly unique food experience at Buster Crabb.

A gastropub with a southern hearty feel (and taste), the menu features seafood chowder, mussels and cockles, open steak sandwiches, calamari and blue cod.

Location: Invercargill


Menu: Buster Crabb

Delicacy: Oysters (seasonal)

Who was Buster Crabb?

Lionel Buster Crabb was the inspiration behind this distinctive Invercargill restaurant’s name. He served as an MI6 diver and a British Royal Navy frogman — until his mysterious disappearance in 1956 during an investigation of a Soviet cruiser moored at Portsmouth Dockyard.

2. Walter Peak Gourmet BBQ

Get ready to board the historic century-old TSS Earnslaw steamboat for your trip across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak Farm for this gourmet barbecue lunch or dinner experience. A slice of yesteryear, this half-day excursion will make your whole foodie experience even better.

The barbecue meal itself is excellent value — served as a buffet with vegetables, salads and a variety of meat including pork, lamb, beef and chicken.

Location: Queenstown


Menu: Walter Peak Gourmet BBQ

Delicacy: Crispy suckling pig



3. Fergburger



This institution is still going strong in the always-bustling southern city of Queenstown. Join the queue (as there’s almost always one) and prepare for a next-level burger experience.

While you’re in the area, try a treat from adjacent Fergbaker or a gelato from Mrs Ferg Gelateria — or even a pint from Ferg’s Bar.


Location: Queenstown


Menu: Fergburger

Delicacy: The Fergburger


A humble beginning

Fergburger opened as a hole-in-the-wall takeaway outfit in a garage in central Queenstown in 2001.

Word of mouth and the undeniable allure of its burgers quickly turned it into a success. Plus, there’s the ongoing myth as to who Ferg really is — one rumour being he was the first man to go down Shotover River in a barrel.

4. The Stoaker Room

What do you get when you combine an old wine barrel, some wood chips, a makeshift heat source and a little water? You get The Stoaker Room — an imaginative way of smoking and steaming salmon and other fresh seafood.

The special oaky flavour created by cooking in this way with old pinot noir wine barrels is worth checking out, as is the location — right next to Lake Dunstan.

Location: Cromwell


Menu: The Stoaker Room

Delicacy: Stoaker banquet


5. The Craypot


Drive to The Craypot and you’ll have gone as far south as you possibly can on the West Coast. It’s essentially the end of the road — but could be the start of a new relationship with seafood.

Only open across lunchtimes between September and Easter, The Craypot makes detouring to Jacksons Bay well worth it. Tuck into seafood chowder, crayfish salad or cascade whitebait before going on a short bush walk nearby.

Location: Jackson Bay


Menu: The Craypot

Delicacy: Blue cod


If you decide to purchase some raw seafood to cook yourself, read our guide to New Zealand cooking in your campervan.


Wildlife watching

If you’re lucky, your food experience at The Craypot will include spotting dolphins and Fiordland crested penguins. Occasionally, deer will even wander down the main road.



6. Fairlie Bakehouse

Quality, locally sourced produce combined with fresh daily baking are the secrets of Fairlie Bakehouse’s success. The array of interesting pies they can offer you if you’re passing through the Mackenzie Country in your campervan rental include:

  • Pork belly
  • Salmon and bacon
  • Venison and cranberry
  • Mackenzie lamb
  • Smoked chicken and mushroom
  • Silverside.

Location: Fairlie


Menu: Fairlie Bakehouse

Delicacy: Salmon and bacon pie


7. Riverside Market

Riverside Market


Some food experiences are simply the best because of the immense variety and unbeatable atmosphere they offer. Christchurch’s European-styled Riverside Market is one of these places.

With 30 independent food outlets and a central city vibrancy that’s hard to beat, the Riverside Market is a great choice. However, a tough decision on which type of food to eat awaits, including:

  • Empire Chicken — offering hugely popular double chicken burgers
  • Dimitris Greek Food — filling single, double and triple souvlakis
  • Malaysia Delights — cooking up authentic dishes like Penang fried noodles
  • Hikari Sushi Train — carrying a wide range of sushi to select from.

Location: Christchurch


Menu: Riverside Market

Delicacy: Too many to pick a stand-out

View our Christchurch motorhome holiday guide for more interesting places to eat in the city.


8. Kaikoura Seafood BBQ


Kaikoura Seafood BBQ

Keen for some cheap outdoor dining right on the beachfront? The Kaikoura Seafood BBQ has been making a name for itself ever since it became established near the seal colony on Kaikoura’s peninsula.

A quirky little roadside landmark, this kiosk cooks up plentiful amounts of crayfish, scallops, paua, whitebait, mussels and fish every day but Sunday. You’ll find the seafood at reasonable prices — just be sure to keep an eye on the cheeky seagulls.

Location: Kaikoura


Menu: Kaikoura Seafood BBQ

Delicacy: Seafood chowder

Meal of Crayfish

The name Kaikoura has a very relevant meaning. When translated into English, it means meal of crayfish — something that’s abundant in this seafood-rich town.



9. Nins Bin


Nins Bin

Renowned Nins Bin is a roadside caravan that’s been serving up fresh crayfish since 1977. A family-run business, it has maintained a simple philosophy over all these years — don’t mess with it.

Your hot or cold cray will be served naturally, or with lemon or garlic. Also on the menu are mussels, whitebait patties and popular fish and chips.

Location: Half Moon Bay


Menu: Nins Bin

Delicacy: Crayfish


10. The Mussel Pot

The tiny town of Havelock claims to be the mussel capital of the world. It’s a reputation that’s well-earned and makes The Mussel Pot a worthy lunch stop on your way to the Marlborough Sounds or Nelson Tasman.

For more than 20 years, this interesting wee place has been dishing up New Zealand’s famous green lip mussels to much fanfare. Pay a visit and you’ll enjoy a choice of mussels that are:

  • Steamed, smoked, marinated, grilled or battered
  • Flavoured naturally — or with white wine and garlic, Thai curry, coriander, blue cheese or tomato.

Location: Havelock


Menu: The Mussel Pot

Delicacy: Mussels

Planning to pick up some local produce to cook yourself? Take a look at the best farmers’ markets to visit on your motorhome adventure around New Zealand.

The other mussel pot

Mussels must be a go-to food at the top of the South Island as Golden Bay has its own special mussel paradise. The Mussel Inn is a hugely popular destination in its own right — with fresh steamed mussels and mussel chowder being two favourite menu items.


The best North Island food experiences

11. Hiakai

Hiakai Wellington


Hiakai is different — it places a special focus on showcasing Māori and Pasifika ingredients in modern and innovative ways. For a dining experience like nothing else you’ll find in New Zealand, consider making a booking but expect to pay above-average prices.

The cosy, chilled-out atmosphere helps create an ideal environment for consuming locally-foraged foods. Service is impeccable with knowledgeable staff able to discuss traditional Māori uses of ingredients.

The popular tasting menu changes seasonally with delicacies like:

  • Horopito smoked eel
  • Kina mōwai with pickled kelp
  • Harakeke risotto with pipi clams
  • Hokey pokey whipped cream and kānuka honeycomb.

Location: Wellington


Menu: Hiakai

Delicacy: Tasting menu (ten small plates)


12. Pacifica Restaurant

Marine Parade Napier


For great care in hospitality and incredible creativity in food, book your table at Pacifica Restaurant. Representing everything superb about dining in Napier, this humble blue bungalow on Marine Parade has a philosophy of bringing old flavours forward and using natural techniques.

Refreshingly, there isn’t a menu. You simply choose the six-course degustation — with or without wine pairings. Easy.


Location: Napier


Menu: Pacifica Restaurant

Delicacy: Degustation menu (six items)

See our Napier motorhome holiday guide to find out about other outstanding eateries in the city.

Napier — a foodie paradise

Napier is a true culinary haven offering fresh local produce, award-winning wineries, innovative fine dining restaurants and seasonal food events.

Check out the Napier food guide for everything food-related in the region.


13. Café 35

When you’re sourcing a key ingredient all the way from the Chatham Islands, it’s inevitably going to taste good. This is where the pāua in Café 35’s uniquely creamy pāua pies comes from.

Expect to find the smell of freshly baked goodness emanating from this hidden gem on the East Cape. But it’s not just the pāua pies that get people talking. A visit here offers excellent coffee, a friendly environment and unusual artwork — plus, relaxing indoor and outdoor spaces to enjoy your savoury treats.


Location: Tokomaru Bay


Menu: Café 35

Delicacy: Pāua pie



14. The Green Dragon


The Green Dragon


“There's only one Dragon in Bywater, and that's Green.”


If you plan to visit Hobbiton in Matamata on your campervan hire adventures around New Zealand, consider taking the evening banquet tour for an unmatched food experience. Utilising local produce to create a two-course feast of hobbit-inspired and old English traditional fare, you’ll indulge in food that’s fit for any adventure.

Just remember that the evening banquet tour sells out quickly — and rumour has it, no one has ever finished all the food on their table.

Location: Matamata


Menu: Hobbiton Movie Set Evening Banquet Tour

Delicacy: Cumberland sausage


If you’re a fan of Lord of the Rings, get our North Island and South Island LOTR campervan itineraries to enhance your adventures.


15. The White Lady

A popular hangout in Auckland, The White Lady has been parked up in the CBD for more than 75 years. This takeaway outfit based in an elaborate caravan offers burgers, toasties and shakes — just what you might need after a night out in the city.

Open until the early hours (and 24 hours over weekends), The White Lady has two central locations and can be found at various events, festivals and concerts.

Location: Auckland


Menu: The White Lady

Delicacy: The White Lady burger


If you don’t fancy eating in the big city while on your motorhome holiday, check out our top tips for cooking on the road in your campervan.


The mystery of the White Lady

Also known as the Phantom of Grafton Bridge, the White Lady is perhaps more than just a famed takeaway truck.

According to legend — or urban myth — a ghostly figure in a flowing white gown has appeared since the early 20th century at Grafton Bridge. The White Lady food truck began its life as a burger bar on Grafton Bridge.

People claim the White Lady is either a grieving or guardian spirit, while others say she’s the restless spirit of a woman wrongfully accused. Whatever the truth, it’s likely The White Lady burger caravan was named after this mysterious Auckland figure.



16. Auckland Fish Market

Auckland Viaduct


Opened in 1904, the Auckland Fish Market has been a central part of New Zealand’s seafood landscape for well over a hundred years. You’ll find it in the Wynyard Quarter by the waterfront — normally bustling with people and displaying a variety of mouth-watering foods.

With ten eateries inside the market, you’ll have plenty of choices, such as:

  • Lobster & Tap — serving up classic lobster rolls with a pint of tap beer
  • Market Galley — offering a mix of Eastern food, Western food and sea food
  • Oji Sushi — delivering fresh sashimi, sushi and sandos
  • The Fishmarket Grill — sizzling up grilled meats and seafood, including octopus.

Location: Auckland


Menu: Auckland Fish Market

Delicacy: Too many to pick a stand-out


17. Orbit

Orbit Sky Tower


Fancy dining at the top of the southern hemisphere’s second-tallest freestanding structure? You can, at Orbit — a revolving restaurant on level 51.

Enjoy incredible 360-degree views as you slowly rotate every hour while feasting on lunch or dinner. Whether you want to celebrate a special occasion just for two or give the kids an exciting treat, Orbit is a super option.

Location: Auckland


Menu: Orbit

Delicacy: Harissa-rubbed lamb rump

Take a look at our Auckland motorhome holiday guide for more notable food establishments in the city.


18. Waitangi Treaty Grounds


If you’re visiting New Zealand from abroad, one culturally significant food experience you need to add to your itinerary is a traditional Māori hāngī.


What is hāngī?

An authentic method of steaming food, hāngī is cooked in the earth — in an underground oven.

A pit is dug into the ground and hot stones are laid out in it. Traditionally, fish and sweet potato (kumara) were cooked on top of the stones, whereas today, other vegetables plus lamb and pork are more common.

Mutton cloth and wire baskets contain the hāngī food, which is placed inside the pit. In the past, flax leaves were used instead.

The food is then covered with a wet cloth and a pile of dirt that traps the heat coming from the stones. The hāngī takes about three to four hours to cook.


Although Rotorua is often touted as the place to try hāngī, consider The Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Located in the small town of Waitangi, which translates to noisy waters, it’s a special place — where New Zealand’s Treaty of Waitangi was first signed in 1840.

Location: Waitangi


Menu: Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Delicacy: Kumara


19. The Gables Osteria & Enoteca



The Gables' claim to fame as the oldest restaurant in New Zealand is debatable. However, its continuous operation, historical significance and early establishment as a restaurant certainly stand out.

For a historic food experience near the country’s first capital of Okiato, choose The Gables and enjoy the heritage charm of open fires, kauri panelling and vintage photos. The menu features:

  • Homemade pastas — like ragu and vongole
  • Market fish
  • Sirloin steak
  • Smoked eggplant.

Location: Russell

The Gables Osteria & Enoteca

Delicacy: Fresh fish


20. Mangonui Fish Shop

Nestled in a picturesque setting, the iconic Mangonui Fish Shop showcases a breathtaking view that enhances the freshness of its delectable seafood.

Since the 1950s, the Fish Shop has traded fresh fish on this site — only 100m from the wharf where the catch is landed. It’s located on stilts above the sea so you’ll be able to indulge in your favourite seafood while watching stingrays, kingfish and even sharks swimming below.

Groper, snapper, tarakihi, gurnard, blue cod, lemonfish, bluenose and hoki are all on the menu — and you can guarantee they’re fresh. In fact, the only way to get fresher fish would be to catch and cook it yourself.

Location: Mangōnui


Menu: Mangonui Fish Shop

Delicacy: Fresh fish



Great food experiences will elevate your motorhome rental journey to new heights — but you may not want to eat out all the time. Find out just how easy it is to cook in your motorhome with our 23 recipes for the road ebook.


where to go & what to do motorhome cooking