A food lover’s paradise
No matter where you go in the country, you will find some amazing local cuisine. As a country with over 14,000 kilometres of coastline, it’s perhaps no surprise that seafood dominates many menus up and down the country. From Bluff in the deep south to Paihia in the north, we have some of the best seafood restaurants in the world and the freshest catch is just waiting to be enjoyed.
One of New Zealand’s most famous exports is our lamb and it’s another popular choice on menus all over the country. We love to celebrate the very best of New Zealand food and wine alongside our passion for hiking. You can read more about our story and where the idea for Nature and Nosh came from, but for now, we are going to guide you through some of our land's most popular cuisine and talk more about the best places in New Zealand to find those foods.
1. Coromandel Penninsula
Let’s start with a place that’s close to our hearts – the Coromandel Peninsula.
Renowned for its natural beauty, coastlines, misty rainforest, pristine golden beaches, and mountain range, the Coromandel is also a destination for food lovers. Seafood is your ‘go-to’ when you are visiting the Coromandel - famous for a wide range of seafood including scallops, mussels, oysters, and more. The Coromandel is also a great place to get your fish and chip fix where you will find some of the best fish and chips in New Zealand.
The Coromandel is also a haven for hikers although it is not as well known as some areas in New Zealand which makes it the perfect place for Nature and Nosh to run our tours – taking you off the beaten track and exploring the trails less travelled.
Making our way down the country south from the Coromandel and a great place to experience a truly unique New Zealand food experience is in Rotorua. A hangi is a traditional Maori feast where food is cooked in a pit of heated stones and covered with earth. Whilst there are many places in New Zealand to enjoy a hangi, Rotorua is a great choice and there are a couple of places to give it a try – Mitai Maori Village and Tamaki Maori Village. As well as getting to sample a delicious hangi, that traditionally consists of roasted meats and vegetables, both destinations are a great place to explore Maori history and understand more about New Zealand’s earliest settlers.
Rotorua is also a great place to head out for a hike. The Redwoods are perhaps one of the most popular destinations for trampers and mountain bikers alike but there are heaps of trails from short strolls to full day hikes. If you are looking for a challenge, try the Tarawera Trail – a 5 to 6-hour hike that ends at Hot Water Beach. For something more relaxed, the Lake Tikitapu track is a 1.5-hour loop which provides stunning vistas over the Blue and Green Lakes.
Taking our journey across the Cook Strait to the South Island and one of our favourite places to visit is Kaikoura on the east coast between Picton and Christchurch. Kaikoura is one of the best places in the world for whale watching as well as offering the opportunity to swim with dolphins – a massive tick on many people’s to-do list. Kaikoura is also renowned as being one of the best places in New Zealand to sample crayfish.
In Kaikoura, you will find plenty of options when it comes to getting a crayfish fix. The place where all the locals head is Nins Bin a simple shack located next to the beach where you will be able to sample the freshest catch. Other good options include The Craypot and The Kaikoura Seafood BBQ Kiosk.
Whilst most of the action in Kaikoura takes place on the water, don’t leave your tramping boots at home. There are some great walks to be found in and around Kaikoura from short strolls to more challenging hikes. The highlight for us is the Mt Fyffe Summit Track – an 8-hour return hike which will give you some truly breath-taking views. For those looking for great views but not the 8-hour hike, try the Kaikoura Peninsula Walk which will take between 1-2 hours one way.
4. West Coast
Switching coasts and heading across to the rugged West Coast on the South Island will take you through another culinary adventure. We would highly recommend a stop off in Westport to enjoy one of New Zealand’s most famous dishes – whitebait fritters. Whilst whitebait fritters can be found all over New Zealand, the West Coast is the home to whitebait and Westport hosts an annual Whitebait Festival so this is your place if you want to sample the best.
If seafood isn’t your thing, nearby Hokitika hosts an annual Wildfoods Festival which is a celebration of the best that New Zealand has to offer. As well as some enjoying an assortment of tasty delights including marinated tuna, whitebait fritters, gourmet sausages, smoked salmon, and more, you can also try some alternative wild foods including huhu grubs, mountain oysters, duck heads, crocodile bites, fish eyes, scorpions, worms, and pig ears.
Like most of New Zealand, Westport has some hidden gems when it comes to walking trails if you’re willing to look them out. The Charming Creek Walkway is one of our favourites – it’s 3 hours one way and is set along the tracks of an old railway. The highlight is the suspension bridge which offers up a spectacular view of the Mangatini Falls. Another great walk is the Foulwind Walkway and seal colony which can be found around 16kms south of Westport. The walk ends at the spectacular lighthouse – one of New Zealand’s most famous.
We finish our culinary adventure through New Zealand in the far south and Bluff. Not only is Bluff famous in New Zealand, but the legend of the Oysters from Bluff travels far and wide. Again, oysters can be found throughout New Zealand, however if you want to sample the cream of the crop. Bluff oysters are the pinnacle. You don’t necessarily have to travel all the way to Bluff so sample them as restaurants all over the country scramble to add them to their menus during season, however, if you want the real deal, sampling Bluff oysters in Bluff is simply the best. Unsurprisingly, there is an annual festival and this is the best time to sample the oysters at their finest.
Bluff is another great place for those who love to get out and stretch the legs. A trip to Bluff is not complete without a visit to the famous sign which shows the distances to famous places around the world. There are not as many big walks for the most dedicated trampers, however with a series of interconnected walking tracks, you can soon get some decent KMs under your belt. Favourites include the Foveaux Walkway, Ocean Beach Track, and Glory Track.
Getting around New Zealand
We have found the best way to explore New Zealand is on a self-drive holiday and many of our guests on our tours say the same thing. Whilst there are a number of options for renting a car or campervan in New Zealand, we love to support local and there is no one better than GO Rentals. Voted New Zealand’s favourite rental car company in 2018 and 2020*, they have a great range of modern rental cars to choose from for all budgets. Best of all, they have six branches in five locations throughout the country including car rental in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown, and Dunedin.
* GO Rentals were awarded the Canstar Blue award for most satisfied customers in the hire car category in 2018 and 2020