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A Taste of New Zealand by Campervan - 25 Must Do New Zealand Food and Wine Experiences

by Wilderness HQ | Apr 20, 2015

Think of any country, Italy, Spain, Mexico – what is the first thing that comes to mind? Sampling the food and wine is one of the best ways to get to know a country, and New Zealand is no exception!

Our fresh seafood, abundant produce, world class wines and boutique beers will all give you a unique insight into our culture and what makes New Zealand so special.

The great thing about a campervan road trip is you can collect fresh local flavours while you are touring each day, and have your own epic cook up at your camp site each night.  

Here are 25 Must Do food and wine experiences to sample on your road trip:

1. Farmers markets

An ideal opportunity to pick up locally grown supplies for the road and a great way to get to know local produce is a “farmers market” where growers, farmers and producers sell their wares direct to the public. Think fresh avocados, citrus, nuts, herbs and all the goodies you might want on the road.

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2. Tuatua and pipi

Two of our local clams, tuatua are generally found on ocean beaches and pipi in harbours and estuaries in the North, Coromandel or Marlborough. Ask a local in the know for a bit of advice, dig your toes in the sand at low tide, and you might just get yourself a meal to cook on your campers BBQ! Or for the less adventurous, check out the awesome shellfish bar at Depot in Auckland for some giant tuatua drizzled in chardonnay vinegar & shallots!!

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3.  Green Lipped Mussels 

Not only delicious, but this shellfish also has tremendous health benefits.  Farmed sustainably in Coromandel and Marlbourough,  you will find restaurants devoted to the mighty mussel like the Mussel Kitchen in Coromandel and Mussel Pot in Havelock. Or buy a bag of fresh mussels yourself and open them over your campervans BBQ or campfire!

4. Scallops

There is nothing quite like the fresh juicy texture and rich taste of a NZ scallop! Time your trip around the start of the season and take part in the festivities of the Whitianga Scallop Festival 

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5. Bluff Oysters

Harvested in the coolest, southern waters of New Zealand – Bluff oysters are plump and delicious and maybe the worlds best! Harvested seasonally, time your trip in May and they will feature at many good restaurants, festivals, or grab a tub to enjoy on the road!  

6. Maori Hangi

A hangi is the traditional Maori method of cooking food in an earth oven, using heated rocks to steam the food. Baskets of food are placed on the stones, covered and cooked for several hours, with the flavours of meat, sweet potato and vegetables all intermingling – it is a very distinct taste! Many cultural shows in visitor towns like Rotorua now include a hangi as part of the experience. Well worth a taste!

7. Kiwi Fruit

This furry brown berry, maybe the healthiest fruit in the world. Packed full of vitamin C (twice that of an orange) and Vitamin E (twice that of an avocado). You will find them readily available at most fruit and vege (vegetable) markets, or for a treat - on top of iconic Kiwi desserts like Pavlova. To find out more about the Kiwifruit visit Kiwi360 in Te Puke maybe and grab a bottle of Kiwifruit liquor while you are there to enjoy at your campsite!

8. The Kumara 

Roast kumara, kumara salad, kumara chips, you name it you will find the kumara featuring a lot during your time in New Zealand! The kumara is New Zealand’s sweet potato, a staple food of the first Polynesian settlers in New Zealand that is now a feature of the Kiwi diet! Grab a few to sample as part of your camper van cuisine!

9. NZ Cheeses

With such a huge dairy industry in New Zealand you can be sure that we produce some of the worlds best cheeses! There is nothing quite like a good cheeseboard around the campfire at the end of a day of road tripping and sightseeing!  There are plenty of cheese factory shops to check out while you are on the road including Whitestone in Otago, Puhoi near Matakana and Kamai near Matamata

10. Crayfish (Lobster)

One of New Zealand’s delicacies, the crayfish is New Zealand’s red spiny lobster and veritably crawling out of the ocean in places like Kaikoura (which literally means a meal crayfish).  Grab a scuba guide or fishing charter who can take you to catch one or failing that park up at the popular Kaikoura crayfish caravan ‘Nins Bin’ and splash out on a few bucks to buy one.

11. Fish and Chips!

With over 17,000 kilometres of coastline there is no shortage of fish to choose from in New Zealand! Stop at an icon fish n chip shop like at Mangonui where the fish of the day are unloaded right in front of you and sample bluenose, hapuka, snapper or the fish of the day.

Photo: Wilderness hirer @suebloss (via Instagram)

12.  Lamb

Another of our big exports and lamb is a favourite Kiwi dish, with some ‘Kiwi as’ mint sauce over the top of course! Find a good local butcher to prepare the perfect cut for your motorhomes BBQ to enjoy with a good NZ red.

13. Venison

Another very distinct Kiwi flavour, you will find venison features prominently on restaurant menus around the country, and there is no better way to wash it down than with a glass of one of our best Pinot Noir.

14. Flounder

This flat fish is simply delicious, and is the quintessential fish of the Firth of Thames just out of Auckland on your way to the Coromandel. Stop and pick up a fresh flounder from the well known flounder shop at Piako Petes - just opposite the 'Bugger' cafe near Thames!

15. Salmon

The High Country Salmon farm is a popular stopping point for many Wilderness campervan travellers touring Twizel and the MacKenzie country to stock up up some smoked salmon, free range eggs and other produce.

16. Prawns

Another aquaculture project you can get up close to and check out on the road is the Huka Prawn Farm  where prawns are bred in captivity using waste geothermal heat from the geothermal power station next door.   You can dine on these monster prawns or even catch your own!

17. Wineries

New Zealand’s unique combination of soil, climate and water come together to produce some of the worlds best wines.

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Photo: Taken at Brancott Estate by Wilderness Reservations Manager Claudia 

Some our best wine producing regions include Marlborough, famous for its  crisp Sauvignon Blanc; Central Otago, reputed for its aromatic Pinot Noir; and the Hawkes Bay renowned  for its rich chardonnay. There are so many other wine regions to explore including Gisborne, Martinborough, Gibbston Valley, and the list goes on.

There are many wine trails you can follow in your camper, if you want to indulge in a few during the day maybe park up and use your bike to get around.

One could easily spend a few weeks travelling by campervan from one great wine producing region to another.

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Photo: Wilderness hirers @danandlin (via Instagram)

18. NZ honey

80% of New Zealand’s flora is unique to our country, providing a source for our honeys that cannot be matched anywhere else in the world.  NZ’s native Manuka honey has a distinct taste and health benefits. Well worth checking out in your travels is the Comvita experience, learning about the and the honey bees important role in nature and the incredible health benefits of natural plants.

19. Paua (Abalone)

Better known as ‘Abalone’ the paua is prominently found in the southern waters of NZ. With the help of some local knowledge you are likely to be able to score yourself a feed of this delicacy.

20. Craft Beers of NZ 

Kiwis are known to fancy a beer or three.  While mainstream breweries once dominated, there is now a plethora of options for the avid beer connoisseur. NZ continues to gather awards at international competitions, and is home to a comprehensive range of craft beers.  In fact in most popular visitor regions like Coromandel and Nelson you will find an endless range of craft beers and micro breweries to choose from.

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Photo: Wilderness hirer @madamzed (via Instagram)

21. Whitebait

If you see the locals lined up riverside sporting big nets from August to November – they are catching a little delicacy called whitebait.  Sourcing a bag of Whitebait at this time isn’t hard there are many roadside stalls selling it, and mixed with a few eggs and a bit of salt – you have yourself a whitebait fritter. It doesn't get much better!

22. Catch your own sashimi!

If you love a slice or two of sashimi, then get to the source! Go catch yourself a kingfish, trevally or tuna on one of the many fishing charters around New Zealand, and enjoy it sliced up fresh that night.

23. Chocolates of NZ

Another artisan industry which is flourishing in New Zealand.  Stop in and grab some hand crafted chocolates at Bennets of Mangawhai or even better learn how to make them yourself

24.  Smoked fish

Smoking fish not only preserves the shelf life but infuses a very distinct taste into the flesh.  Fishing is very much a part of Kiwi culture, and many Kiwis smoke their own fish.  There are many commercial ‘smoke houses’ you can stop and stock up on your travels.

25. Sample some of NZ’s best restaurants

It is a holiday after all, you can't do all the cooking! Relax and let New Zealand's best chefs indulge you in some of NZ's unique flavours restaurants. There are no shortage of good local restaurants like Fleurs Place, Moeraki using homegrown produce and fresh seafood and local flavours.

Combining New Zealand's best food and wine, together with epic landscapes and the freedom of exploring it all in your own
luxury camper vanSounds like the perfect holiday doesn't it?

  • NZ Travel Tips
  • NZ Food and Wine
  • NZ Culture
  • Camping in New Zealand


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