New Zealand's best bars and cafés: 6 insider tips

Whether you're underway as an au pair or a backpacker or some other sort of traveller, at some point you'll be wanting to sit down somewhere cool and inviting with friends or simply to meet new people. The authors at have put together six "Insider Tips" to take you to the best places in cities throughout the country.

Portershed Café in Christchurch
, in Travel tips


The largest part of New Zealand life takes place in Auckland. With 1.4 million residents it is by far the largest city of the country. Auckland is situated next to two sheltered bays. The cityscape is shaped by 53 inactive volcanoes and the resultant hills. Due to its size, Auckland is the city with the most bars and restaurants to discover. Here is our top Insider Tip for Auckland:

Ellice Road

Ellice Road is a terrific bar in Auckland's city centre. With a somewhat American ambience, you'll find tasty drinks and ample dishes served here at fair prices. Billiards and darts are also available. Depending on the day of the week, live music is offered or televised sports of various sorts.
Because Ellice Road is still a genuine insider tip, it's usually easy to get a table. It's a perfect place for spending a pleasant evening with old friends or for finding new ones. A wide selection of craft beers rounds out the range of offerings. 
Our bottom line: One of the coolest diners in Auckland.

57 Albert Street, Auckland CBD, Auckland


With 340,000 residents, Christchurch is New Zealand's second largest city and the largest city of the South Island. With a landscape strongly marked by a history of earthquakes, the city sports a lively and unique cultural scene with lots of nice bars and restaurants. On our trip, we were able to get to know several of these and we recommend the following to you for your visit: 


The Portershed is a small but special café in Christchurch. The wide-ranging menu includes excellent coffee specialities plus vegetarian and vegan dishes – something of a rarity in New Zealand. Coffee and meals are served from breakfast on throughout the day. A selection of gluten-free dishes is also available. Taken as a total package, it's no wonder that the Portershed is recommended so often.
Our bottom line: Definitely worth a visit.

322 Lincoln Road, Christchurch


With 46,000 inhabitants, Nelson is New Zealand's 11th largest city. It's made attractive especially by its location directly at the sea. Lots of pretty spots and several exotic bars and restaurants entice travellers to visit the city. We had our best experiences in this café: 

Smugglers Pub & Café

Besides its lovely location directly at the sea, the Smugglers Pub & Café offers great food at fair prices. In keeping with the rustic atmosphere of the pub, the food is traditionally prepared with a nice eye for detail. Dishes with names like the "headless chicken" help to shape the general atmosphere of establishment and turn any visit into a real experience. Perfect for enjoying a tasty meal with friends or for spending a relaxed pub evening. A good selection of beers and cocktails make for a solid pub experience. Reservations are not essential, but can be helpful depending on the time of day. We wish lots of fun in Nelson and in seeking out the little details that make the Smugglers so special.

8 Muritai Street, Thunanui, Nelson 7011


Paihia is a small city in the north of New Zealand. With just 1,700 inhabitants, it's the smallest municipality on our list of recommendations. In many months during the year, Paihia is hosting more guests than it has inhabitants which makes for a well-supplied tourist infrastructure. Here's our tip for you: 

ThirtyT30 Craft Beer Bar

The burgers are super-delicious and during Happy Hour drinks are just 6 NZD, the burgers 10 NZD – ideal for the backpacker budget. As the pub's name indicates, beer lovers are well provided for here with classic New Zealand beers as well as more exotic brews. On the first Wednesday of the month, there is a Bingo show with two cool emcees. All guests can take part. You get your Bingo card with the purchase of a drink and it's worth it then to plan for a longer evening. On weekends, there are regular live-music performances and also various theme evenings. On Sundays, there is a jam session where anyone can take part who wishes to join in. There's a nice mix of tourists and locals in the bar and it's easy to spend a great evening here.

16 Kings Road, Paihia 0200


Queenstown - the city of adrenaline. With just 12,000 inhabitants, there are usually more tourists than locals in Queenstown. No surprise therefore that there are lots of bars and restaurants. The burger restaurant that we've chosen to present is not a secret, but there's a reason why people queue up to eat here. And we've also got a tip how you can shorten your waiting time a little bit! 


Unlike our other suggestions, the Fergburger is already widely known as an attractive destination. But if you're visiting Queenstown and enjoy burgers, you've got to pay it a visit, too. Regardless of whether you sit down in the restaurant or use their takeaway service, the best burgers of New Zealand are served here in various forms – even vegetarians can find something to their taste (only vegans won't be able to satisfy their hunger).
The Fergburger is always well frequented and usually there's even a queue, for tables as well as for the takeaway service. And thus our tip for you: You can check online what you'd like to have and place a takeaway order by telephone. Your benefit: You skip waiting in line and can simply take your burger with you. No waiting and a convenient option when you're especially hungry. The classic Fergburger is always a good choice. If you prefer to experiment, the other burgers also offer good value. Even vegetarians give the burgers top reviews.

42 Shotover Street, Queenstown 9300


Wellington is New Zealand's capital and at the same time only its third largest city. Nonetheless, there are 191,000 inhabitants living in the hills around Wellington Harbour. Thanks to the diverse immigrant population and the many tourists, the city has a wide range of restaurants and bars. Our last tip is a ...

Dirty Little Secret

The Dirty Little Secret (in fact not dirty at all) is a rooftop bar and the ideal place to get a fantastic view over the roofs of Wellington. In a relaxed beach-bar atmosphere, you can enjoy pleasant conversation, good cocktails and delicious meals.
The kitchen is open from 12 noon onward. In addition to a good selection of burgers (including a vegan burger), there are also salads to enjoy. The drink selection is ample – whether your preference is cocktails, wine or beer no one comes away thirsty. The entrance to the bar is, however, a little bit difficult to find. To come into the establishment, you need to first enter the Inglewood Hotel and then take the lift to the eight floor. Depending on how full the bar is, it can get a little bit loud which can make conversation difficult. To enjoy the special feeling that the bar can provide, we recommend a visit on a sunny day. However, the view gets even more spectacular in the evening when the lights of the city come on and are reflected in the sea.

Level 8, 7-11 Dixon Street, Hope Gibbons Building, Wellington 6012


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About the authors
Kathi & Julian are experts for New Zealand. On their blog Project-NewZealand, they tell all about their travel experiences in the country. Also on the blog is important information about Work & Holiday stays in New Zealand.