6 must-try food experiences in New Zealand

Our New Zealand tailor-made expert, Scott Catchpole has cooked (and eaten) his way around the world. As a former chef, his culinary adventures have taken him from the Canadian Rockies to the sun-kissed Whitsunday Islands in Australia. Drawing from his experience living and working in New Zealand, Scott shares some Kiwi foodie favourites that will enhance your trip and make you feel like a local.

Auckland: Mince beef pie

The first Georgie Pie restaurant opened its doors in Kelston, Auckland, and at its heyday in the mid-1990s, grew into a chain of 32 restaurants spanning New Zealand. Although the chain no longer exists, the meat pie continues to be an integral part of New Zealand cuisine, deeply rooted in the nation's identity. You'll find a bakery in almost every town across the country and it’s a popular go-to treat any time of day. Although there are now many flavours, the good old classic meat pie remains a firm favourite – evident from the fact that New Zealanders consume around 66 million meat pies each year.

Rotorua: Hāngī

Hāngī is a traditional New Zealand Māori method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in a pit oven in the ground, called an umu. The Hāngī usually consists of hearty fare such as lamb, potatoes and vegetables. It’s still used for groups on special occasions, as it allows large quantities of food to be cooked without the need for cooking appliances.

At the Tamaki Maori Village, you’ll have the chance to see your Māori Hāngī meal being lifted from the earth, where it has been steamed underground on hot stones. Your hosts will explain the history of the Hāngī and show you how your dinner was prepared and cooked – they’ll even give you tips on how to make a Hāngī in your own garden.

Marlborough: Green-lipped mussels

Mussels are harvested year-round in all coastal areas of New Zealand, but most are grown in farms in Marlborough Sounds, The Coromandel, Golden Bay and Stewart Island. Male mussels are white and females are orange - both with the same flavour. I’ve seen some of the largest mussels in my life in New Zealand, some being the size of an iPhone. I recommend smoked Mussels as a cold snack; you can also cook the bigger ones on a BBQ. A top tip, if you’re travelling in a motorhome, is to grab some fresh ones from a supermarket, head to a scenic campsite and cook them up the classic way with white wine and shallots on your stove. Eat them alfresco washed down with the rest of the wine – a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, of course.

Kaikoura: Crayfish and Pāua (abalone)

Crayfish are similar to lobster (but without the claws) and taste creamy, rich and sweet. Pāua (the Mouri name for abalone) is a piece of meat with a thick oval shell that is beautifully purple and green on the inside. Found around the coast of Kaikoura due to the ocean trench and abundance of food, they can be hand caught and are great fun to go diving for.

Hapuku Lodge, Kaikoura serves crayfish from a live tank, along with spiced butter, and it is far superior and flavoursome than lobster in my opinion. The Pāua is either tempura-style with a spicy dip or enjoyed as a tasty Pāua soup.

Hapuku Lodge, Kaikoura

Bluff: Oysters

Bluff Oysters are held in high regard as the best in the world. Harvested along Southland's coastlines from March to August each year, these treasures emerge from the pristine waters of Foveaux Strait, home to one of the world's rare natural oyster beds.

The Bluff Oyster and Food Festival in May draws visitors from all corners of the globe. This vibrant event spotlights the region’s mouthwatering seafood, best enjoyed with refreshing local brews. Mingle with local characters and revel in the entertainment that includes live music, Polynesian dancing and oyster-eating competitions.

Queenstown: Fergburger

Fergburger is a burger restaurant in Queenstown which specialises in gourmet hamburgers. A burger may not be a traditional food of New Zealand, but Fergburger certainly is an institution. Since opening in 2001, it’s been a must-eat when visiting Queenstown and popular with locals and visitors alike. With a range of fillings and flavours such as Venison, brie and boysenberry (Sweet Bambi) or a classic bacon cheeseburger (Ferg Deluxe), there is a burger for everyone. It’s always busy so be prepared for a queue, but each juicy bite is worth the time in line.


Ready for a gourmet adventure in New Zealand? Our expert team has first-hand experience and insider tips to make your trip unforgettable. Download our Australia and New Zealand brochure for more inspiration or get in touch to start planning your trip to the Land of the Long White Cloud.

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