Admit it… food is a big part of your travels. Eating local, finding the freshest produce, discovering flavours unknown to your tastebuds. Wine is typically the first thing we think of when it comes to New Zealand, and for good reason. In fact, we have a complete guide to New Zealand’s South Island wine regions here. What you might not know is that craft beers and brewery experiences are booming! And for foodies, you are set to be blown away – quality and freshness explode through every bite, as does the enthusiasm and dedication of those who made it happen. Here are ten of our favourite South Island experiences if food and brew dictate your itinerary.
If you happen to find yourself in Christchurch on a Friday, wander down to Cathedral Square in the city’s centre. There’s a friendly atmosphere as locals and visitors alike choose from roughly 20 food trucks. Many of the cultures that make Christchurch such a charming city are represented throughout the selection of quick and easy bites. Open from 11am until 9pm, it’s a fun gathering place especially when the live entertainment is in full swing.
Think fine dining crossed with a nighttime sightseeing tour. Originally a 1927 Melbourne tram, Tramway Restaurant has been refurbished into a colonial style dining room with room for just 36 guests and takes you through the vibrant new and heritage inner streets of Christchurch. Your 2½ hour tour includes a welcome drink, four-course meal and tea or coffee.
We know peanut butter can be divisive, some love it, some hate it. For the former, Pic’s Peanut Butter World is a must-visit. Famed tour guides Jordan and Josiah will take you through as you witness your beloved spreads being made, tell you all about Pic’s and the kids can even make their own peanut butter. On your 50 minute tour you’ll get to taste all of Pic’s nut butters and jelly. And the best part is… it’s all free.
Located in the seaside town of Kaikoura, Emporium is more than just a brewery. Whether you like beer or not, chances are there’ll be something to keep you entertained. According to the team, it’s not all about the hops (although they do love a good IPA!) – think Belgian styles, Barrel-aged Stouts, Sours, or even just a nice crisp Lager. And for those who aren’t dazzled by an amber nectar, perhaps the 18 hole mini golf course or two escape rooms might tipple, ah tickle, your fancy.
It’s a few years new but Search Light has the quality and experience to match that of a brewery that’s been passed through generations. That’s because they brew the kind of beer they want to drink. You’ll find pale ales, lagers, cider, stouts, sours and IPA across their 18 taps, each pairing well with a hearty meal best enjoyed in the beer garden on a sunny afternoon or by the fire in the colder months.
As the craft beer movement has taken off, Dunedin has risen to the challenge. One such player in this space is Emerson’s, where you can take a behind-the-scenes tour of the 5000L brewery and 1200L workshop. What we love most about Emerson’s is their Tiny Pub experience. Travelling around the country, the pub is quite literally brought to you. Bookings are essential once dates and locations are announced for each seasonal tour.
Hapuku is a hands-on farm and cooking experience rolled into one. Best known as a finalist on New Zealand’s MasterChef, founder Fiona is passionate about reconnecting the kitchen with the land and sea. As a student for a day, you will experience the best of New Zealand as you feast on a range of dishes, all cooked by you and your fellow classmates. And naturally, they will be paired with some of the country’s best wines.
As an island nation, we Australians are proud of the fresh produce from our local waters. In New Zealand, it’s no different. The seafood is as fresh as it comes, and the flavours pack some serious punch. It’s hard to get any closer or fresher than a local mussel farm in the middle of the Marlborough sounds. On this three hour cruise, your freshly steamed mussels paired with a glass of Marlborough sauvignon blanc are just the match for the stunning backdrop you take in along the way.
Right in the heart of Queenstown is a little lane, quite missed by mainstream traffic but a local’s favourite. Tucked down Cow Lane is The Cow, an old stone barn that used to house cows for their daily milking, but now a thriving and popular pizza restaurant. Once you’ve finished every last crumb, and trust us you will, keep wandering down the same alley until you find The Bunker. Unsuspecting and may at first be a challenge to find, the discreet exterior belies an intoxicating after-hours cocktail lounge. With its open log fires, leather couches, and an impressive wine and cocktail menu, it feels like an intimate evening with friends in a cozy log cabin up in the mountains.
Dunedin punches well above its weight in the culinary stakes. For a relatively petite city, there is a huge range of eateries from quirky cafes and miniature bars through to sophisticated restaurants. Locally sourced produce is something of a mantra and luckily the city has no shortage of ocean and pasture from which to draw fresh ingredients. Voted the best market of its kind in New Zealand, the Otago Farmers Market is where foodies gather for their weekly treats. With a focus on local artisan producers, there is a mouth-watering selection of fresh produce, cheeses, baked goods, chocolate, dips and sauces, honey, meats and of course coffee on offer.