A and I finally went on a belated honeymoon to New Zealand for 10 days in March. We decided to visit only the South Island, with the hope of coming back to explore the North Island on another trip. Our experience is so hard to describe. Every place we saw was more amazing than the next and we truly got to do and see things most people won’t be able to in their lifetime. It was just incredible and we are extremely lucky and blessed. We of course had to experience New Zealand culture through their food and made it a point to try what locals considered some of the best and most recommended in their area. We usually specifically travel for food and honestly did not have high expectations for the food in New Zealand. We knew the scenery would be stunning, but who knew New Zealand was an amazing food destination? We did not. We were blown away. You can tell that everything is so fresh. Farm to table is not a novel concept there, it just is what the food is. We loved it. So below, our favorite places to eat in New Zealand’s South Island, plus some pictures of the ridiculous scenery to entice you to go.
In no particular order:
Amisfield Bistro, outside of Queenstown
Excellent wine, excellent food. They do a “Trust the Chef” tasting menu for lunch or dinner, which is very reasonably priced and was delicious. Food was also beautifully presented. Definitely recommend. They also gave us free bubbly as a congrats on our honeymoon which was a sweet touch. Remember to make reservations before you go.
Redcliff Cafe, Te Anau, Fiordland
One of the best meals this trip was at Redcliff Cafe. We had very low expectations for food in this tiny town and man, were we surprised. Our first sign that it was going to be great was when we walked in and it was packed and they weren’t sure they would be able to seat us. Eventually we got a spot at the bar and had squid ink pasta with NZ baby Abalone (below), roasted lamb, these amazing fried duck wings, and octopus. Everything was so so good. Definitely make a reservation before you go.
Postmaster’s Residence, Arrowtown
This was our first meal in New Zealand for lunch the day we arrived. Most memorably we had this plate of house cured fish, chicken liver mousse, local cheeses, aged steak, and homemade breads. Mom and pop type place, popular with the locals, really good.
This place has a line that often runs the whole block. The night we went we only waited in like for about 10 minutes, then another 15 minutes to get our food. It is a Queenstown institution which is why it is on this list, and has a ton of different types of meat- beef, chicken, fish, lamb, and venison burgers. We tried one lamb and one beef burger. Truth be told, we were a little underwhelmed. The fries were delicious, the burgers were fine. We didn’t have burgers anywhere else in New Zealand to compare, but just seemed like a regular solid burger to us. Given all the other awesome places, I could take it or leave it. Good for cheap eats, nothing too special.
St Claire Vineyard, Marlborough, New Zealand
This place was beautiful.You can sit and have lunch in the vines overlooking the vineyard in Marlborough. The wine was excellent and the food, like everywhere else was regional, local and amazing. We had a cheese plate with local cheeses, lamb tagine, and a seafood tasting with smoked New Zealand salmon and abalone.
The Pier Hotel Restaurant, Kaikoura
Kaikoura is famous for its marine life and its seafood. Here we went swimming with a pod of about 150 dolphins.. in the wild.. in the open ocean. It was one of the coolest and most unbelievable experiences we have ever had. It is a definite must do when in New Zealand, and one that we wholeheartedly recommend. See a few snaps of the dolphins below.
After a day on the water we craved some fresh seafood and went to the Pier Hotel. We had a whole NZ crayfish, white bait (those tiny fried fish as below), and some more abalone (not pictured, and my new favorite sea snail).
Fresh Crayfish and Tarakihi onboard overnight cruise to Doubtftul Sound with Deep Cove Charters
We took a Deep Cove Charters overnight cruise to Doubtful Sound, the lesser known sound to its cousin Milford Sound. Our captain and first mate caught fresh crayfish for us that day and served it for lunch as you can see below. We then proceeded to fish for our dinner, and a New Zealand native fish, Tarakihi, was prepared into sashimi right there for us. Doesn’t get better than that. This is definitely a must do in New Zealand. We did not visit Milford Sound, so I can’t say whether Doubtful Sound is better or not, but I can say for a fact it is more isolated, there is no cellphone reception or wi-fi, there were only 11 passengers on our boat, and it was the perfect way to unplug and enjoy the stunning backdrops.
Pedro’s House of Lamb, Queenstown or Christchurch
Anyone who has met my husband knows his favorite meat is lamb. Granted, he is Arabic so that is what he grew up with, but he still cooks it more than any other person I’ve ever met. When we had the one dish served at Pedro’s House of Lamb, a roasted lamb shoulder with potatoes, he stopped eating and claimed, “that is the best lamb I have ever had.” I mean, a place that only serves one dish, every single day, has to be good right? It’s more than good, they’ve perfect it, and New Zealand lamb has lived up to its hype. It does not taste like the New Zealand lamb we get in the US, it tastes infinitely better and much more tender. We still dream about this dish.
We can’t wait to go back and explore the parts that we missed of the South Island and the whole North Island!!!