See New Zealand through the eyes of local producers, ethical chefs and organic retailers who have changed the way the country thinks about food.
You’d expect New Zealanders to eat well. The country’s rolling pastures, ample rainfall and isolation has always produced plenty of seasonal produce and the traditional food culture, was based on wholefoods, home baking and preserving. In recent years though, Kiwis have gone further, embracing clean eating, organics and artisan producers as part of their daily routine.
Hitting the road to visit the new breed of farmers’ markets, local producers and organic shops is a great way to see the country.
Auckland – city insider
In Auckland’s bijou inner-city suburbs of Grey Lynn, Ponsonby and Kingsland – along with yoga studios and shops selling exercise gear – there’s a plethora of clean and healthy eating. None of the cult organics shops are as cult as Little Bird Organics ‘unbakery’: the cafe now has three sites around central Auckland and makes everything from scratch. The salad bowls are legendary, and so is the ‘cheesecake’.
In Grey Lynn, meanwhile, you’ll find the original Auckland wholefoods store, Harvest, which stocks everything from organic lima beans to skincare. Raw Essentials, meanwhile, sells paleo pet food for the seriously committed ethical eater.
Close by you’ll find Ponsonby’s Raw Kitchen, which has original butcher’s tiles and a long scrubbed white table and serves ‘tonics’, ‘elixirs’ and smoothies.
In neighbouring Kingsland, meanwhile, ivy-covered Mondays is down a little lane off the main street: the coffee is filter and the salads are wonderful. The courtyard here is a particularly restful spot; there’s a yoga studio upstairs.
The city also has a multitude of farmers’ markets: head to the Parnell Farmers’ Market on Saturdays for heirloom tomatoes and organic blueberries, or the Grey Lynn Farmers’ Market on Sunday for nut butter and heritage greens.
Auckland’s combination of harbours and volcanoes, as well as a flourishing restaurant and retail scene, makes for a heady mix of urban sophistication and natural diversions. Be sure to make time to head north to Matakana, where vineyards sit alongside white sand beaches and Goat Island, one of the country’s finest marine reserves.
Raglan – east coast cool
Raglan’s charming mix of surfers and backpackers on yoga holidays makes for a relaxing spot: nowhere is this seen better than Solscape, a retreat just out of town where you can stay in a tipi or an architecturally designed eco-house. The huge covered deck makes for an excellent breakfast spot. Meals are made using produce from the property’s garden and the green smoothies are particularly good.
In town, meanwhile, you’ll find the Herbal Dispensary. If you’re not on a full detox, they also serve excellent coffee and Ruapuke Artisan Bread. Look out for local hero Raglan Coconut Yoghurt while you’re there – dairy free and taking the country by storm.
In the network of laneways behind the main street, meanwhile, you’ll find Wok Raglan, selling locally-sourced products – look for Jersey Girls milk from nearby Matamata and Sweetree Honey from nearby Gordonton.
Raglan is a little over two hours’ drive from Auckland and 45 minutes from Hamilton: it’s an easy drive through rolling country. Surfing is the name of the game here – the long, even surf break is one of the country’s finest. The Raglan Surfing School will show you the ropes.
Wellington & Wairarapa roaming
Wellington has a fiercely held and well-deserved reputation as the home of craft beer and great coffee, but it also has a long tradition of supporting small local producers. The latest cult item is Good Buzz Brewing Co who brew kombucha using a 40-year-old family culture started by owner Alex Campbell’s grandmother. You can try it a number of local cafés including the Amsterdam Coffeeshop in Cuba Street. Fix & Fogg peanut butter, meanwhile, is ground by hand in a small lane in the heart of the city. They don’t have a shop per se, but they invite passers-by to “tap on the window” to learn more about what they do.
Not far away, head to Seize on Lambton Quay – it’s a beautiful, timbered space: there are salads and raw baking and all manner of clean eating to fuel you through the day.
Just north of the city, meanwhile, Greytown’s Food Forest Organics is a grocery and produce store with a beautiful garden out the back and a focus on plant-based eating – the store sells local producers and organic staples, as well as serving lunch by day. There are two airy apartments above the store for those that want to stay longer.
Wellington’s vertiginous hills and windy weather makes for a spectacular spot no matter what time of year – they say you can’t beat the city on a good day and they’re right. Along with beer and coffee, the city has a first-rate art scene and nowhere is this better seen than the City Gallery Wellington: instead of a permanent collection, it hosts international and locally-curated exhibitions of cutting-edge art.
Central Otago & Queenstown
The Central Otago wine region is evolving, and quickly, and proof of this is Sherwood – an eco-hotel-cum-restaurant on the main road into Queenstown with a spectacular view of the mountains. You’ll be served a kombucha as you check in and the restaurant has a biodynamic focus serving natural wines and produce from the property’s vegetable garden along with organic meat cooked over charcoal.
In town, head to Vudu Cafe and Larder for chai-spiced porridge, vegan bircher museli and buckwheat pancakes. The coffee’s brilliant too. Rehab meanwhile, serves brilliant smoothies and juices.
Over the hill in Wanaka, there’s a growing community of producers including the People’s Bread – the sourdough is dense and dark, made from hand-ground sprouted organic grain – and local producer Yum Granola making grain-free organic granola. You’ll find both of these at the legendary Soul Food Organics.
Central Otago and Queenstown makes for a spectacular getaway no matter the time of year. Traditionally known for its adventure tourism, there are plenty of more sedate activities on offer as well. To wind-down go for a soak at the Onsen Hot Pools.