Whether you’re a local or one of the many thousands of international visitors we welcome to our shores every year, one question that seems to get asked more frequently than any other when road-tripping throughout New Zealand (other than ‘are we nearly there yet?’!) is ‘Where shall we go for dinner tonight?’

Food dominates our days on the roads – whether it’s a quick pit stop snack at the petrol station or the bigger question of where to go for dinner, we are all obsessed with food!

Picking the best places to eat out in New Zealand is not that easy – there are so many amazing places to choose from – hidden gems and world-renowned eateries are found in towns and cities throughout the country.

Instead of simply putting forward our best recommendations, we reached out to the wider community – foodie lovers, travel bloggers and those who simply love their local area. Thankfully these guys love to talk about food and were more than happy to share with us not only their favourite restaurants throughout New Zealand but also some of their favourite dishes.

So, without further ado, we welcome the comments of some pretty amazing Kiwis who have been kind enough to share their top tips with us.

Top 12 places to eat in New Zealand

Our first recommendations come from Helen Jackson, the brilliant voice behind the Food Lovers website. Helen has shared with us some amazing tips for places to eat so let’s kick things off with four of her favourites:

1.      Wrinkly Rams – Omarama


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Helen says: “At first glance, it could seem to be set up for the tourist market but please don’t drive past.  The food is fantastic, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. The Ram embraces good honest Kiwi fare.  The lightly battered blue cod with hand-cut fries and salad lingers long in my memory as do their selection of delicious cabinet food.”

Helen also loves a good cheese scone – a real treat for her. The secret to a good cheese scone is to cram as much cheese into the scone as possible and they go perfectly with a great coffee. Here are three of her favourite places for a cheese scone:

2.      Ramble and Ritual – Hokitika

3.      Federal Diner – Wanaka

4.      Sublime – Marton

Our next recommendations come from cookbook author and self-taught home cook, Unna Burch. Unna is the brains behind the wonderful website, The Forest Cantina – an awesome resource for foodies, travellers and those interested in interior design. Unna lives in Wellington so has some really great tips for places to eat in and around Wellington – here are three of her best:

5.      Dragons – Tory Street, Wellington

Unna says: “Dragons is a family favourite and a place we have been going to for 15 years + and a spot we always go to for Yum Char at the weekend. Dumplings are always a favourite (prawn and chive are the ones I love most) and I also really love their ham sui gok which is a fried glutinous rice dumpling filled with pork and mushrooms. And you have to end it with a mango pudding…the best!”

6.      Ortega Fish Shack


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Unna says: “For couples, my top tip would be Ortega Fish Shack. This is our special occasion restaurant where we go (without the kids) on a date night, anniversary or a birthday celebration. Their menu is seasonal, and everything is fresh and cooked so well. If you love seafood, great drinks and excellent service all in a cool and chill atmosphere, this place is for you too!”

7.      Lucky

Unna says: “For cheap eats, it’s got to be Lucky. A little hole in the wall fried chicken sandwich joint, it is always my ultimate ‘treat meal’ place to go. They have only 3 burgers on offer and the most incredible gravy fries to go with. It is always pumping with a queue of people (the sign you’re onto something good right?!), but no dining space available, we usually take this down to Oriental Parade to eat. Oh, and if you have a non-burger lover with you, like my weird 7 yr old, Tommy Millions Pizza is right next door selling pizza by the slice, yum!”

Our next tips come from Jane, the author of the Queenstown Life website and someone who is self-confessed ‘head over heels in love with Queenstown and New Zealand’. Originally from the UK, Jane has been in NZ for 13 years and contributes to lots of other magazines and editorials. She is also the perfect person for tips on where to eat in and around Queenstown.

8.      Sherwood, Queenstown

Jane says: “Sherwood and their homegrown anything. Also, their thrice cooked potatoes which you’d kill a family member for.”

9.      Chop Shop, Arrowtown


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Jane recommends: the Nasi Goreng.

10.  Aosta, Arrowtown

Jane recommends: their amazing tiramisu, piped at your table.

Our next great tips come from Millie Elder Holmes who runs the hugely successful blog, Millie. In her blog, Millie covers everything from dating tips to recipes and is passionate about great food and places to eat.

11.  Amano, Auckland

Millie says: “There are so many great places to choose from but the fresh pasta at Amano in Auckland is to die for.”

Our final recommendation comes from GO Explore favourite, Nicola – author of the fantastic travel blog, Polkadot Passport. Laura has already been a contributor to our travel bloggers tips and through her travels, she also has some great tips on places to eat in New Zealand.

12.  Culprit, Auckland


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Nicola says: “One of my favourite places to eat in New Zealand would have to be Culprit in Auckland. I love the way they showcase local, seasonal produce in dishes that are internationally inspired with a distinctly Kiwi flare to them.”

Favourite Kiwi Dishes

As well as asking for recommendations on the best places to eat out in New Zealand, we also wanted to find out about some of New Zealand’s most popular dishes and they didn’t disappoint. Here are some absolute Kiwi favourites:

Whitebait Patties

“My favourite NZ dish would have to be Whitebait Patties – I am from the West Coast after all.  My perfect pattie is crammed full of whitebait, has eggs separated and whites whisked before folding together with good pinch of salt and only a little flour.  The patties are then pan-fried in butter and served on buttered artisan white bread with a good squeeze of lemon juice.” Helen Jackson, foodlovers.co.nz

Pavlova with summer berries

“My fav national dish would have to be pavlova with lots of summer berries :)” Unna Burch, theforestcantina.com


“Fav NZ dish  – I’m partial to a good hangi!” Jane, queenstownlife.com

Lobster or Steak

“My favourite dish is either family caught lobster or Avon’s butcher tomahawk steak.” Millie Elder Holmes, millieelderholmes.co.nz


“My favourite NZ dish would be anything containing New Zealand’s favourite root vegetable, Kumara, which is known as Sweet Potato in most other places.” Nicola, polkadotpassport.com


We would like to thank all of our contributors for taking the time to give us their top tips on where to eat out in New Zealand and we hope you get to sample some of the amazing dishes that they talk about on your next trip around New Zealand.