Having trekked the trail and hiked the hill you deserve a good refuelling spot, writes Jessica Wynne Lockhart
Perhaps one of life's greatest satisfactions is hunkering down trailside with a homemade sandwich and a handful of scroggin. The only thing that tops it? Rewarding yourself with a hot meal and a cool drink once the adventure is done.
For the perfect pairing, we've selected some of the best country's walks, tramps and bike rides and the hottest spots to refuel nearby afterwards.
Christchurch: Crater Rim Walkway & Sign of the Kiwi
When politician Harry Ell built the Sign of the Kiwi in 1917 to serve as a tearoom and resthouse in Christchurch's Port Hills, he could have only dreamed that it would still be serving that purpose more than a century later. One of his other resthouses, Sign of the Bellbird — now just a basic shelter — is just a 4km walk away, along the Crater Rim Walkway. For bonus points, you can extend your exploration to reach Coopers Knob/Ōmawete, which is the highest point on the Port Hills at 573m and offers epic views of Lyttelton Harbour. Afterwards, enjoy a coffee and all-day breakfast on the historic Kiwi's front porch.
Mackenzie Country: Mt. John/Ōtehīwai & Astro Cafe
Located on the summit of Mt. John/Ōtehīwai just outside the Lake Tekapo township, the Astro Cafe boasts one of the best views in the Mackenzie—and arguably in the country—with its 360-degree vantage point of the surrounding lakes and mountaintops, including Aoraki/Mt. Cook. Avoid the $8 fee for cars driving to the summit by making the 45-minute trek from the Tekapo Springs carpark through the forest and grasslands to the top.
Hawke's Bay: Te Mata Peak & Peak House
With 99ha of parkland—including a grove of 100-year-old giant California Redwoods—and extensive cycling and walking trails, the slopes of Te Mata is the place to work up a thirst for all of Hawke's Bay's wine. The Rongokako Trail and Giant Circuit both take about two hours to complete, and both will take you to the 399m-high summit, offering unparalleled views of the region. They'll also take you past the Peak House restaurant, which serves brunch and burgers to hungry hikers. thepeakhouse.co.nz
Matakana: Brick Bay Sculpture Trail & The Glass House Kitchen
Just an hour's drive from Auckland, you'll find one of the largest outdoor displays of contemporary art in the country. The Brick Bay Sculpture Trail showcases the artwork by both established and emerging Kiwi artists, including follies designed by architecture students. To see all the sculptures will only take you an hour, but that's no reason not to indulge in a massive share platter at the Glass House Kitchen when you're done. Cantilevered over the lake just moments from the start of the trail, it's also where you can sample Brick Bay's wines.
Bay of Islands: Coastal Walkway & Third Wheel Coffee Co
You'll have to get up early if you want to nab one of the fresh cinnamon rolls at Third Wheel Coffee Co., hidden down a laneway in Paihia. And there's no better way to do so than by rising and grinding along the Bay of Islands Coastal Walkway. Following forest tracks, beach paths, mangrove boardwalks, and ferry crossings, it loops around from Paihia to Russell and takes about 6.5 hours to complete. However, shorter versions exist, such as the walk from Paihia to Opua.
Dunedin: Self-Guided Street Art Tour & The Swan
With the Otago Peninsula only short drive away, the Dunedin area certainly isn't lacking in natural experiences. But it's also one of the country's best destinations for an urban adventure, with heritage architecture juxtaposed against modern street art. There are more than 100 large-scale pieces of artwork spread throughout the city's core and towards the university, making planning your own self-guided route easy. We recommend starting at "Hongi", a mural on the uni's Castle Lecture building, and making your way towards the Octagon. After all that colour, a bite to eat within the Swan Cafe's black interior will provide a reprieve for reflection.
Rotorua: Whakarewarewa Forest & Eastwood
If you've ever been to Rotorua, chances are you're already familiar with the Whakarewarewa Forest. Also known as the Redwoods, it offers 5,600ha and more than half a dozen colour-coded trails of varying length, appealing to both walkers and mountain bikers. What you may not know is that right next door is one of the newest cafes in town, Eastwood. Located at Scion Research across the road (the best unofficial dog parks in town), it's becoming known for its made-to-order pizzas, including the brekkie pizza with free-range eggs, shaved ham, and Sichuan chilli salt.
Waitaki: Kurow Hill Walkway & Wild Safe Café
Considered New Zealand's "hidden" wine region, the area surrounding Kurow won't be a secret much longer if it continues to produce award-winning drops. One of the best spots to sample the winners is at Wild Sage, a cosy cafe serving pizza, burgers and homestyle sandwiches, such as the chicken cranberry melt. First though, work up a sweat and an appetite by doing the 45-minute climb to the top of Kurow Hill, which offers panoramic views of the Hakataramea Valley.
West Coast: Lake Matheson/Te Ara Kairaumati Walk & Matheson Cafe
We would be remiss if we didn't include this classic walk and brunch combo — one of the country's best. It takes only about 90 minutes to complete the easy circuit around Lake Matheson outside Fox, but you'll want to arrive at dawn on a calm day if you hope to catch the famed mirrored view of Aoraki/Mt Cook reflected in the lake. Even on a windy day, it's worth it, thanks to the award-winning Matheson Cafe and restaurant with its range of breakfast, lunch and dinner options.
Mount Maunganui: Dine on a Lime
You could eat before or after your adventure—or you could turn eating into an adventure in itself. Whatever you're looking for, Dine on a Lime is the answer. Launched this year, the self-guided foodie trail was developed to highlight locals' favourite dishes at nearly 20 establishments — all of which can be reached by scooter. If that sounds like a lot to eat, you're not wrong. Scooting is great, but you might want to work it all off with a 3.4km walk around Mauao, which should leave you feeling just hungry enough for round two.
Whanganui: Mountains to Sea Cycle Route & Behind the Door on 4
When the $2.5 million Ūpokongaro cycle and pedestrian bridge over the Whanganui River opened in December 2020, it was cause for celebration, as it marked the completion of the Mountains to Sea Cycle Route—a 217km journey that starts in Ōhakune. For those who only have a morning rather than days to spare, you can explore the last 10km of the route by cycling upstream. After you've replenished your resources at Behind the Door on 4 in Ūpokongaro, you can either cycle all the way back, or you can time your trip to catch the MC Waiura riverboat back at 2:30pm.
Central Otago: Four Barrels Walking Wine Trail
Although we understand the appeal of cycling to wineries, not all of us have the greatest balance after a tipple. That's why there's something both refreshing—and exceedingly practical—about being able to complete Cromwell's Four Barrels Wine Trail on foot. An 8km loop, it starts at Misha's Vineyard, and makes its way to three other tasting rooms, including Aurum Vines, Scott Base and Wooing Tree.
Waikato: Te Awa River Ride & The Bikery Cafe
Stretching for 70km between Ngāruawāhia in the north and Karapiro in the south, the Te Awa River Ride is one of Waikato's finest cycling journeys. Running alongside the Waikato, it takes riders to waterfalls, historic Māori sites and even through urban landscapes. Keeping in theme, make your stop for food at The Bikery Café in the Avantidrome, just outside Cambridge. With an understanding that "life is about balance" (get it?) this cafe specialises in serving food meant to fuel your ride, such as local seasonal produce, fresh smoothies and handmade raw slices.
Hurunui: Waipara Valley Vineyard Trail & Brew Moon
North Canterbury's Waipara wine region may be one of the country's most laidback; you're just as unlikely to encounter big tour buses as you are likely to sample world-class wines. And if you've got two hours to spare, you can visit a handful of the most popular spots on the 14.5km Waipara Valley Vineyard Trail, which starts at the Glenmark domain. Platters and toasties are available at nearby Terrace Edge winery but if you're over wine by that point, head back to Amberley to visit Brew Moon Brewing. There, you can order wood-fired pizzas while sampling locally brewed craft beer.
Taupō: Crater Mountains Bike Park & Kefi at the Hub
With 50km of trails—ranging from entry-level to technical cross-country and downhill tracks—through pine and eucalyptus plantations, Crater Mountains Bike Park outside Taupō has something for everyone. So, too, does Greek restaurant Kefi (so named for the joy it sparks in visitors), right across the street. "My Big Fat Greek Breakfast" will feed the truly hungry, while the cabinet food provides the perfect solution for trailside takeaway.
For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, go to newzealand.com