A Foodie’s Guide to New Zealand’s South Island

8 October 2013
Read Time: 2.7 mins

New Zealand's South Island is a feast for the senses in every respect – breathe in the crisp alpine air in Fiordland; feel the sunshine kiss your skin in Nelson; taste the quality in a glass of Marlborough white. Southland's pristine natural landscapes are the perfect setting for a puritan foodie experience, with a side order of classic kiwi hospitality, of course!

Jam-packed with experiences you can throw yourself into or simply soak up at your leisure, the South Island offers a balance of activities to get your heart racing and slow it down again. Whether your New Zealand South Island food holiday is filled with tipple tours on a two-wheeler or cruising the Pacific Rim popping in to seafood-stuffed ports, it's highly advised you take your time to savour this pocket of the South Pacific. Nature may have made the landscapes, but the people and their passion for food make the place.


For the brewery buff: Nelson

 Mapua Wharf, near Nelson. Image courtesy of New Zealand Tourism. Photograph John Doogan.

Proving you can never have too much of a good thing, Nelson takes the trifecta when it comes to trademarks as the "sunshine capital", "craft brewery capital" and "creative arts capital". Zoning in on one of those tags in particular, Nelson's sunny disposition means hops (one of four essential beer ingredients) grows wholeheartedly in the region – so much so that 90% of beer in Australia is crafted from hops grown in Nelson. Follow the golden ale brick road, commonly known as the Nelson Craft Beer Trail, to some 20 craft beer bars and breweries over a two hour stretch from Tasman Bay to Golden Bay. Icy pilsners, cask-pulled ales and snappy ciders, oh my!


For the sauvignon savourer: Marlborough

 Blenheim Wine Tour. Image courtesy of New Zealand Tourism. Photograph John Doogan.

Perched at the northern end of the South Island, the Marlborough region lends its name to dozens of drops grown, fermented and bottled locally. Famous for its lauded Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough is the largest wine region in the country and proudly produces around 70% of the fine wines found along the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail. The vineyard-draped valleys of Wairau and Awatere are fitting for a mix-and-match holiday, where you can hop from a packaged tour to a self-guided cycling circuit at will, stopping in at your choice of more than 40 cellar doors. Perhaps it's the Yealands Estate sustainable innovation that will lure you into the tasting room, or the opportunity to create your own blend at Wither Hills.


For the chocolate craver: Dunedin

 The Jaffa Race at the Cadbury Chocolate Carnival.

The enigmatic "Edinburg of the South", Dunedin's demography as a university town means there are plenty of hip hangouts for a quick bite in between studying or sight-seeing. When it's time for dessert – which, let's face it, is any time of day – follow the scent of molten chocolate to Cadbury World Dunedin and turn your tastebuds onto overdrive at the Sensory Lab. If your Southland holiday happens upon July, you're just in time for the famous Cadbury Jaffa Race! The culmination of the Dunedin Cadbury Chocolate Carnival sees 25,000 Cadbury Jaffas spinning and springing their way down Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world, in a delicious wave of orange.


For the dusk drinker: Christchurch

 Peppers Clearwater Resort Restaurant. Image courtesy of New Zealand Tourism. Photograph Outrigger Hotels and Resorts.

The tremors haven't yet evaded memory, scarring Christchurch's heritage heart in a big way, but this plucky city continues to bounce back bigger and better by the day – and night! Part of Christchurch's inspired urban renewal includes a thriving pop-up bar scene which roars "hipster heaven" from quirky signage right down to cocktails served in jam jars. Retro-chic Smash Palace, Porthole Bar (holed up in a shipping container) and the colonial cool Pomeroy's Old Brewery Inn are just some of the evening establishments that are luring locals on any given night. Should you choose to savour further afield, Christchurch's big backyard Canterbury is decorated with fantastic food and wine trails, from seafood capital Kaikoura to spice growing Selwyn.

For the après ski appetite: Queenstown

 Happy Hour Drinks, Queenstown. Image courtesy of New Zealand Tourism. Photographer Chris McLennan

Rated by powder hounds for its prime ski terrain, Queenstown does well to satisfy the famished out-of-towners who flock to the region to carve up the slopes or dish up a serve of New Zealand South Island food travel. After working up an appetite at The Remarkables or Treble Cone, head to downtown Queenstown by the lakeside and take your pick of 150 cafes and restaurants, ranging from popular breakfast haunt Joe's Garage to boutique dinner destination Botswana Butchery. Within a 45 minute radius of Queenstown, 75 wineries sprinkled across Central Otago make up the world's southernmost wine region. With a climate on par with renowned wine producing destinations like Burgundy and Mosel, it's no surprise Pinot Noir, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay grow so splendidly here.

Ashton Rigg

When I'm not at home in Brisbane, you’ll find me wanderlusting around hipster bars, eclectic boutiques and arty nooks. From bagels in Brooklyn to strudel in Salzburg, I believe the best way to experience a destination is by taking a bite! Tweets & 'grams at @AshtonRigg