Whangarei is New Zealand’s the northernmost city, with a varied and cosmopolitan food scene that belies its relative isolation from the rest of the north island, and one that can be held up against Auckland and Wellington.
At the very end of the peninsula, TopSail has stunning panoramic views over Whangarei Harbour. The food here looks spectacular and utilizes local, seasonal produce. Regularly chosen as one of the best restaurants in Whangarei, Nectar is also a brilliant spot for brunch or breakfast. Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, allergic to gluten or a a big fan of meaty dishes, the variety of its organic ingredients means that everybody is catered for.
For those wanting to chill out, just east of Whangarei and close to the gorgeous Tutukaka Coast is Matapouri Bay. It’s one big horseshoe-shaped white sand beach, and when the tide is low visitors can access the area’s Mermaid Pool.
As the country’s biggest and busiest city, Auckland is home to well over a quarter of New Zealand’s entire population. There is plenty to do and see, with fantastic beaches in and around the city. Mission Bay is the easiest to get to, but can get a bit busy. For quieter, more secluded beaches, choose from Piha, Karekare and Bethells Beach.
New Zealand is one of the world’s most successful wine producers, which means that there are plenty of wineries to visit; Auckland Wine Trail Tours offers a variety of different options depending on what you want to see in the area. If you want more than just wine, head to Neck of the Woods in downtown Auckland, which serves up brilliant cocktails and a great range of craft beer. For food, try some fresh, local Kiwi oysters at Depot Eatery and Oyster Bar.
You can’t go to New Zealand without sampling plenty of coffee – it’s exceptional. In Christchurch, head to any of the Addington Coffee Co-op branches, the Hummingbird Coffee Café or the Procope Coffee House.
Station One, where Harewood Road meets Papanui Road meet, is a popular brunch spot, and for good reason. Head there after a heavy night, or alternatively try Brigittes Restaurant and Bar. They’ve been serving up is excellent coffee and simple dishes that have been hitting the spot for nearly four decades. The Big Breakfast, full of plenty of poached eggs, brilliant hash browns and streaky bacon, is an absolute must-try.
If you have the time, a couple of hours’ drive north of Christchurch is the idyllic seaside town of Kaikoura. You can see amazing marine wildlife, climb the mountains or hit the beach in a place that is renowned for its focus on the local environment.
Dunedin is as good a place as any to try the country’s iconic meat pie. For fancier fare, located within the inner city is the Parisian-style bistro, Two Chefs, or for some of the best seafood around, head to Plato, where you can pick from homemade fish and chips, crispy squid and seafood chowder. Don’t worry, meat lovers, there are other options such as sirloin steak with fried egg or sautéed lamb kidneys.
Otahuna Lodge is a Victorian-style building, situated on the side of a fluted volcano. Naturally, it boasts incredible mountain views, and the lodge itself has fantastic local art and huge bathrooms in every room. Here you’ll be able to enjoy customised breakfasts and five-course menus for dinner.
The natural geothermal activity in Rotorua means that you may get an opportunity to sample Maori Hangi, one of New Zealand’s oldest traditions. It is a customary Maori cooking method that involves preparing food in an underground pit oven, lighting up a fire, laying out some stones inside and filling with food. Lake Rotorua amazes passing visitors with the geothermically induced colours of its landscape.
For the most popular food in Hamilton, head to Hood Street and to Gothenburg for brilliant tapas-inspired options. Try the pan-seared yellow fin tuna with mango chilli salsa and coconut curry, or the lamb noisette with cauliflower puree and a bacon and caper vinaigrette.
Close to Waikato Stadium (home of the Chiefs) and the Waikato River, Speight’s Ale House is perfect for pre-match drinks or just spending a relaxing evening. They do their own fantastic ales, which are perfect for washing down some very good steaks.
Visitor’s Inn is a great choice for accommodation. It has 60 rooms containing everything you need to relax; a heated swimming pool, a gym, and restaurants – and is close to all of Hamilton’s main attractions.
Situated very close to Auckland Airport, JK’s World of Golf gives you a bucket of 100 golf balls for just NZ$13 (US$9). If you’re looking to kill some time while waiting for a flight, or looking for some entertainment in the middle of the night, it’s open 24 hours a day, every single day of the year.
If you’re in town for a good amount of time, there are regular pasta-making workshops at Mount Eden restaurant Pasta & Cuore. The courses are usually two hours long and give participants a guide on how to make fresh pasta, following the traditions from the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna.
Anyone with a sweet tooth should make sure to try out Milse’s tasting menu. There is a brilliant selection of ice cream, cabinet treats and an extremely prestige à la carte menu full of classic and exciting new flavours.
With beautiful panoramic vistas, head to Mount Victoria, the 196-metre (643-foot) high summit to the east of the city centre. It makes up part of the Wellington Town Belt, a perfect spot for hikers and cyclists.
Aunty Mena’s is a favourite among Wellington vegetarians. It offers a wide array of affordable veggie and vegan dishes, and will satisfy even the fussiest of eaters. For a change of pace, and maybe some time to relax and gather your thoughts, Arty Bees is a fantastic antiquarian book retailer. There is plenty to keep you occupied, but science fiction and fantasy fans will be particularly pleased with the selection.
The last two test matches mean staying in Wellington, before heading back to Auckland for the final hurrah, and by that time, it’s all about the rugby.
Not lucky enough to be in New Zealand? You can watch the games at home with a NOW TV Sky Sports pass.