Travelling to the top of New Zealand’s North Island means going rural, but if you know where to look, there are plenty of greatfar north restaurants.
From fast food to fine dining, we covered the full gambit of options on our recent road trip. However, our top three favourite far north restaurants remained the same. From fish and chips overlooking the water to a cafe overlooking vineyards, eating in the far north is about more than just the culinary delights.
Our three favourite far north restaurants in order from east to west:
- Mangonui Fish Shop
- Cafe at the Karikari Estate Winery
- Pukenui Pacific Cafe
As American expats who have been living in and exploring NZ for over 20 years, we see things from both a local’s perspective and from that of a visitor. Therefore, we understand what it’s like to come here and have things be similar, but not always exactly what we are used to. We share the information on this page from this perspective.
Mangonui Fish Shop
137 Waterfront Road, Mangōnui
Open daily from 10 am to 7 pm
Offering a variety of seafood options, if you ask around, you will discover that Mangonui Fish Shop is the place to go for fish and chips. In fact, many people refer to them as the best of thefar north restaurants, as well as one of the best in New Zealand.
But that’s not the only reason to visit, Set out over the water, the views from the large open windows are sensational. The casual atmosphere created by large, usually shared tables only adds to the experience.
A family-friendly environment, Mangonui Fish Shop is one of those places where you can just be yourself.
You enter at a seafood display counter where you will most often need to take a number. The queue tends to move quickly and includes a mix of customers eating in and those getting takeaway.
If you have never ordered fish and chips in New Zealand before, don’t be surprised when they arrive wrapped in newsprint that contains all of the fish and chip orders for your table. The paper absorbs much of the grease.
Having never fully adjusted to the early eating hours in New Zealand, we arrived very close to closing time, and there was only one other family (behind me in the photo). During crowded hours diners share large tables.
Winery Cafe at the Karikari Estate Winery
109 Matai Bay Road, Karikari Peninsula
Open daily from 11 am to 7 pm
We stopped at Karikari Estate for a late morning tea at their cafe. It is New Zealand’s northernmost winery.
Sitting outside, yet in an elegant atmosphere, we overlooked the colourful flower gardens, immense Carrington Farm, the bright white silica sands of Te Kokata (the Sandspit), and in the far distance the giant sand dunes our girls sandboarded on the day before.
The light meals appeared good-sized, well presented and very tempting, as did their pizza. Our server seemed quite happy for us to enjoy the stunning surroundings with only a cup of coffee (and hot chocolate for the teens) without indulging in meals.
*It is only open in the summertime from Labour Weekend until May.
Of course, there is also a Cellar Door offering daily wine tastings.
Pukenui Pacific Cafe
4 Lamb Road, Pukenui
Open daily from 9 am to 7 pm
This roadside stop on the drive to Cape Reinga is a real gem amongst thefar north restaurants. My salad was fresh, insanely delicious, and reasonably priced. The more traditional cafe food brought smiles to the rest of the family. I think the biggest hit was the fresh organic strawberry milkshakes. A month later and they were still talking about them.
We found Pukenui Pacific Cafe in Pukenui along the SH right next to the Four Square.
Importantly, while they have closing hours listed, they often close earlier if they are not busy. As a result, it’s best to book if you want dinner.
Note that The Te Kao Store, located about 25km north of the Pukenui Pacific Cafe on SH1, is famous for its ice creams, but having just enjoyed the wonderful milkshakes at the cafe we drove past.
Where are these far north restaurants
Practical information on these Far North restaurants:
Late-night options (dining after 9 pm)
Forgetting for a moment that we were outside of a major city, we stayed to enjoy the sunset from the 90-mile beach, which in December isn’t until about 8.30 pm.
This left us with very few options of Far North restaurants that were open.
We asked several locals as we drove around. Should you find yourself in this situation, the only two options we found are both in Kaitaia – McDonald’s (open until 11 pm during the week and 12 am on Friday and Saturday) or Kentucky Fried Chicken (open until 10 pm).
Which are your favourite far north restaurants?
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