Where to go and what to eat in New Zealand for the tastiest time in Kiwi country.
By Katy Heerssen
Centuries of cultural diversity and more recent culinary innovations have left New Zealand’s name on the lips of foodies across the world. Come along for a North and South Island exploration of New Zealand’s edible delights curated by our experts. You’ll discover wonderful wineries, fresh fare, and culinary pros who are eager to teach you tricks sure to dazzle guests at your next dinner party.
Voted 11th in the Top 50 World’s Best Vineyards, the Craggy Range Winery is our preferred lunchtime stop south of Napier. Savor a private lunch within view of Te Mata Peak at this acclaimed winery and its intimate eatery. Boasting “two hats”— the New Zealand Michelin star equivalent — the Craggy Range Restaurant is at once inviting and relaxed. Head Chef Casey McDonald sources inspiration and ingredients from the establishment’s own kitchen garden and the bounty of Hawke’s Bay. Consider fresh-caught octopus, lamb shanks paired with brussels sprouts and polenta, halloumi cheese drowned in honey, and chocolate pudding topped with coconut sorbet and sprinkles.
Snack your way along the Matakana Coast, located about one hour north of Auckland. This wine enclave has enough diversity to fill your entire day, and with a private guide you’ll visit some of its finest wineries for tastings, lingering lunches, and peeks behind-the-scenes. Comparable to a Tuscan-style pairing experience, the visits here are always authentically Kiwi. Purveyors of gourmet cheeses, handmade chocolates, craft beers, sausages, coffee, olive oil, and ice cream are among the passionate and proud locals you will meet. If your visit falls on a Saturday, flying through the local farmers market is a must.
Stick around the city and take a walk with local foodie fanatic Lynn Huhtala for a resident’s perspective on the best culinary artisans and inventive eateries in Auckland. The glittering entertainment precinct rolls out the red carpet for your private walking tour. Come hungry: artisan breads, celebrated cheeses, and gelato are just a taste of what awaits.
The bucolic Wairarapa region is often compared to France’s Burgundy region, both celebrated for their intimate vineyards and award-winning pinot noir. Just an hour away from Wellington, Martinborough is the regional hub for wine, and the success of its nearly 40-year-old vines has inspired culinary creators to move in as neighbors. Take a full day with your private guide and meet the pros plying their trades in historic small towns. Sample delicious herb-infused olive oils at the farm where the olives are not only harvested by hand, but are pressed the same day they are picked. The baked treats in the local french bakery are indeed concocted by a French pastry chef. And while a sip of pinot noir is surely a must, there’s also chardonnay, rose, pinot gris, riesling, and sauvignon blanc to tempt you.
Making a Difference
As a guest of the Martinborough foodie tour you will not only experience the very best of the region, but you will be supporting the community in a sustainable way. An estimated one in four New Zealand children live in poverty, and your visit directly contributes to two charities that work to meet their needs and provide a sense of security around food. Kaibosh Food Rescue diverts surplus food to homeless and vulnerable families in the Wellington community, and Eat My Lunch provides free lunches to children in need at 79 schools in Auckland and Wellington.
One of our favorite experiences in New Zealand is a cruise on the luxury yacht MV Tarquin. Its owner is Chris Godsiff, a former mussel farmer who turned his passion for sailing into a gateway for guests to enjoy unique access to the Marlborough Sound’s range of gourmet endeavors. With your very own private crew and chef along for the ride, you will make stops at local salmon, mussel, and oyster farms for fresh tastings. Meals of local seafood and produce are all matched with the best of Marlborough’s wines, and guests are even invited to the galley to learn a few of the chef’s secrets during a private cooking master class.
There are a variety of ways to zoom over the undulating landscape of the Otago region surrounding Queenstown, but for a change, we suggest a private helicopter flight that ends at one of the region’s most celebrated wineries. After your flight over unbelievably blue waters and rocky hills, land on the snow at Old Woman Ridge — at 5,300 feet elevation — for a spectacular view. Take off again to get to the meat (and wine) of your excursion. The Mt Difficulty Cellar Door is your destination, and despite its name, life here is easy. Grab a glass of their acclaimed pinot noir 2017 or rose 2018 to enjoy with rugged Bannockburn as your backdrop. Indulge in local lamb and venison, fragrant and filling cheeses, and fruit-filled sweets like sticky date pudding and pear strudel before hopping back on your private flight.
Some 30 minutes south of Christchurch in tiny Tai Tapu, the English gardens and elegant country charm of Otahuna Lodge offer a bygone experience. Enshrined as a Relais & Chateaux property, Otahuna holds true to their standards of culinary excellence and superb service. Tantalizing five-course dinners come standard, but for true foodies, a wander through the gardens and grounds with Chef Jimmy McIntyre reveals a glimpse of the process at the heart of Otahuna’s food and wine program. Cooking classes are wholly immersive, including harvesting from the organic gardens, foraging on the grounds, and working side by side with Chef Jimmy in his kitchen. You’ll add a few new skills to your own kitchen prowess and get to enjoy the fruits of your labor too, of course.
Pro Tip! No matter the season, bring a fleece on your helicopter trip. It can get chilly on top of a ridge or a glacier, and you’ll want to spend time taking amazing photos! – Catherine, Designer
Now that you know where to go and what to eat in New Zealand, it is time to start planning your journey. Contact your designer to start planning your trip.