Upper South Island and the West Coast Restaurants

In Marlborough visit a winery restaurant—there's no better way to ensure that your meal suits what you're drinking. Cloudy Bay clams are harvested here, salmon and Greenshell mussels are farmed in the Marlborough Sounds, and local crops—besides grapes—include cherries and garlic. In Kaikoura try crayfish. The region is named after this delicacy (In Māori, kai means "food" and koura means "lobster"). Nelson is also famous for seafood, in particular scallops, and for fresh produce and, yes, for wine. On the West Coast, try the local delicacy whitebait fritters—a sort of omelet filled with the whitebait—tiny, young eel-like fish netted at river mouths as they migrate upstream in late spring.

Some restaurants in more remote tourist regions close in winter (June through August); others may curtail their hours. In summer, all doors are open and it's best to make reservations. If a restaurant is open on a major holiday, it may add a surcharge to your bill.

Year-round, the restaurants and cafés around the glaciers and other remote spots can be quick to close their doors at night. Arrive by 8:30 (it's sometimes even earlier in winter) or you might go hungry. Some of the smallest towns, including Punakaiki, settlements in the Marlborough Sounds, and parts of Golden Bay, have few cafés and no general stores, so bring your own supplies.

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  • 1. Hislops Café

    $$$ | Café

    This wholesome foodie café is a local institution, a few minutes' walk north of town and worth the trip. In the morning you'll find tasty free...Read More

  • 2. Theatre Royal Hotel Kumara

    $$$ | New Zealand

    Even though it's a 20-minute drive from either Hokitika or Greymouth, on the main State Highway 73, this popular spot draws locals from both...Read More

  • 3. Cafe Cortado

    $$$ | Café

    With a blend of South American and Mediterranean influences, tapas, seafood, and pizza are paired with top Marlborough wines and craft range...Read More

  • 4. Café Neve

    $$$ | New Zealand

    This standout along Fox Glacier's main street sparks up no-nonsense options with fresh local flavors, such as the pizza topped with locally...Read More

  • 5. Denniston Dog

    $$$ | Café

    This old bank building, complete with a vault, is loaded with local character in its new guise as a cheerful pub and gathering spot. If the...Read More

  • 6. Harrys

    $$$ | Asian

    Asian cuisine is the focus at this local favorite, with an accent on Thai. Chilli-salt squid served with herb and sprout salad is a popular...Read More

  • 7. Le Café

    $$$ | Café

    Sitting outside Le Café on the waterfront you can look right down Queen Charlotte Sound and watch the local boats and the big Cook Strait ferries...Read More

  • 8. Mussel Inn

    $$$ | New Zealand

    Swing by for a quintessential slice of Golden Bay life, music, and craft beer. Locals come for the live music (usually several evenings a week...Read More

  • 9. Raupo

    $$$ | New Zealand

    An imposing structure of glass, wood, and river stone sits beautifully on a small bend in the Taylor River, and is named for the nearby bulrushes...Read More

  • 10. Riverside Café

    $$$ | Eclectic

    You can chill in this rambling 150-year-old colonial cottage, along the Great Taste Trail cycle path and part of a community for Christian...Read More

  • 11. Scotch Wine Bar

    $$$ | Eclectic

    If you want a break from winery restaurants, this contemporary black-booth and brick-decor main street favorite should fit the bill—there's...Read More

  • 12. Slip Inn

    $$$ | Café

    Down at the marina, and overlooking the main boat ramp and working port area, this is a sunny spot to stop for a coffee, light lunch, or dinner...Read More

  • 13. Speight's Ale House

    $$$ | New Zealand

    This restored heritage building, once known as "The Brick House," indeed has a stately brick facade. It's one of Greymouth's original buildings...Read More

  • 14. Stationhouse Café

    $$$ | Eclectic

    You can come to beautiful Lake Brunner on a day drive from Greymouth, as part of a round-the-lake trip, or stop off the TranzAlpine train for...Read More

  • 15. Stella Cafe and Cheesery

    $$$ | Café

    A live bee display provides much of the honey used in menu dishes in this friendly spot where owner Rachel says, "a menu is just the start of...Read More

  • 16. The Alice May

    $$$ | New Zealand

    One of those cozy, buzzing places so prevalent on the West Coast serves country fare that is good and plentiful, with a welcome range of light...Read More

  • 17. The Bay House

    $$$ | New Zealand

    Tucked among flax bushes beside the wild, foaming surf beach at Tauranga Bay, this busy little restaurant serves as fine a menu as you'll get...Read More

  • 18. The Brigand

    $$$ | New Zealand

    This day/night bar and café is in a lovely old house on Takaka's main street and has a sunny courtyard, impressive handmade furniture, plenty...Read More

  • 19. The Commercial Hotel

    $$$ | New Zealand

    In Murchison's historic hotel you'll find tasty café food during the day and, on the weekends, simple pub-style food (lamb shanks, steak, salmon...Read More

  • 20. The Mussel Pot

    $$$ | Seafood

    Outside, giant, green fiberglass mussels play on the roof; inside, the real things are steamed for three minutes in the whole shell or grilled...Read More

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