New Zealand for foodies: Unique gastronomic adventures

Like a gourmet food basket in the Pacific, New Zealand is bursting with quality fresh produce from coast to countryside. We sow it, grow it, rear it, catch it – and eat it. We’ll cook inside, outside and even in the ground. Yes, we love our lamb. But there’s so much more to New Zealand’s gastronomic heritage, from burgeoning farmers’ markets to fine vineyards and – yes – even mountaintop dining.

Food festivals

Roll up at Auckland’s massive Taste of New Zealand festival. The biggest food carnival in the country is organic and manic. Top celebrity chefs from home and abroad feed 25,000 salivating food fanatics on our freshest and finest, including wild salmon and venison. And of course there’s lamb too.

The wackiest gastronomic celebration is to be found at Hokitika’s Wildfoods Festival. Put your palate to the test with possum paté, marinated earthworms, whitebait, nettles, wild boar or huhu grubs on a stick. Foraged, fried or fermented, it’s food that favours the brave.

Farmers’ markets

Skip breakfast if you plan to visit a New Zealand farmers’ market. You’ll need all the space you can find for grazing. Gorge yourself on home-grown produce and picnic on hand-made cheeses, oils, breads, pesto, pickles and preserves.

At Hawke’s Bay’s biggest market, introduce your taste buds to luscious local kiwi fruit, tangy tamarillos and thirst-quenching feijoa juice. Or find markets thriving in the grounds of historic Christchurch homesteads and sample plump salmon whisked straight from the Rakaia River to your plate.

Maori feasts

Traditionally, the Maori people gathered their kai (food) then steamed it in thermal pools, or built a hangi – a pit of hot stones covered with earth to trap the heat. A hangi is nature’s brilliant slow cooker, producing the tenderest meat, soft, sweet kumara and vegetables al dente enough to make an Italian swoon.

Watch in awe as your finger-licking feast is raised ceremonially from the ground in Rotorua. Just don’t forget to bring a hearty appetite to honour your Maori hosts.

South Island seafood

The South Island is a seafood connoisseur’s paradise. Dive into a steaming bowl of green-lipped Marlborough mussels teamed with chilled local white wine. Slurp sweet scallops the size of saucers over the hills in Nelson or creamy Bluff oysters in the cool deep south. For the best rainbow trout, catch your own and barbeque its succulent slices as the sun sets over Lake Te Anau.

For seafood central head to Kaikoura. Even the town’s name means crayfish! Glimpse whales diving for their supper then get stuck into your own seafood smorgasbord at cute caravan cafés on the rock-strewn shore.

Just desserts

Don’t leave the country without trying pavlova – New Zealand's famous melt-in-the-mouth meringue invention. In restaurant perfection high above Queenstown, top it with berries the colour of sunset and gaze over mountains that look like the very meringues you're about to guzzle. Be sure to sample the sublime sweetness of Kiwi fruits in season. Central Otago stone fruit, ruby red berries, crisp apples and, of course, kiwis are all delicious straight up.

If you prefer to clutch a dreamy ice cream, be sure it’s hokey pokey, NZ's most iconic flavour; smooth vanilla laced with golden nuggets of honeycomb crunch. Spoon it into a dish full of strawberries, pile it on top of a crisp waffle cone or have it extravagantly dipped in chocolate at any corner shop. Kapai te kai! (Great food!)