The great food and wine guide to New Zealand

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The great food and wine guide to New Zealand

A vibrant culinary scene coupled with a reputation for exceptional produce and a prowess for producing fine wines makes New Zealand a must for foodie travellers.

From coast to countryside, local growers and producers showcase their skills and creativity as they supply restaurateurs and café owners with an impressive arsenal of fresh ingredients. Visitors, every laden plate is a treat: enjoy a literal taste of this delightful country as you explore New Zealand’s food and wine.

Varied vineyards

The world has woken up to New Zealand’s potential as a wine producer and travellers will be thrilled with what’s on offer. Set your sights on the Marlborough region, home to around two-thirds of the country’s vines. Sauvignon Blanc takes centre stage; these grapes have been grown and bottled here for more than five decades. Download a winery trail map and with more than 30 cellar doors to call on, you’ll soon discover why Marlborough’s terroir is held in such high regard. Hot on its heels is Hawke’s Bay. This is where you’ll find the country’s oldest winery, Mission Estate, whose first vines were planted by French missionaries in 1851. Today, Hawke’s Bay has built an enviable reputation for red varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot.

You’ll most likely hear locals refer to Gisborne as the Chardonnay capital of New Zealand, though it’s also a great place to sample Pinot Gris. North Island is also home to charming Martinborough, from where you can walk or cycle to more than 20 wineries. Book a spot on a guided tour to taste its highly sought after Pinot Noirs at family-run cellar doors. Oenophiles should also make time to explore Central Otago. The most southerly of New Zealand’s wine-growing regions is also renowned for its Pinot Noir. See why at Kinross, a boutique winery in the Gibbston Valley, or at Maude, a family-run business on the shores of Lake Wanaka. Both make the most of cooler climes to produce remarkable wines.

Kiwi classics

Farm produce underpins many of New Zealand’s favourite foods. Seasonal farmers’ markets and roadside stalls with honesty boxes are a common sight for road trippers; time your visit to take advantage of cherries, apples, kiwifruit and fruits less familiar, like feijoas. New Zealand’s thriving dairy industry means there’s no shortage of good cheese. Up and down the country, artisan producers turn the milk of cows, sheep and goats into creamy, flavoursome cheeses. In Oamaru, feel the silky smooth texture of Whitestone’s award-winning Windsor Blue on your tongue; in contrast, the Edam and Gouda-inspired cheese from Mahoe is reason enough to make the journey to the Bay of Islands.

New Zealand lamb has garnered a worldwide reputation for excellence. Lush pastures abound, ensuring tender, grass-fed meat reaches the tables of restaurants across the country and beyond. Meat pies are a mealtime staple as well as a filling snack on the go. According to the FSANZ, 66 million pies are consumed each year by Kiwis – that’s about 15 each. Taste the country’s best at Patrick’s Pies in Tauranga; this year their coveted roast duck, onion and mushroom filling secured them an eighth win at the prestigious NZ Supreme Pie Awards. Finally, seafood lovers should seek out regional specialities. Try crayfish from Nin’s Bin on the beach in Kaikōura, green-lipped mussels harvested from the Marlborough Sounds and creamy Bluff oysters in the far south. Even a humble plate of fish and chips is elevated to something special when it’s consumed overlooking the ocean.

Traditional Māori food

Sample Māori food – a must for travellers. Seize the chance to experience a hāngī (a traditional underground oven). Hot rocks are placed in a shallow pit. Meat, fish and vegetables wrapped in leaves or damp cloths are layered into these earth ovens; geothermal steam is also used. Dirt shovelled on top helps retain heat – the ultimate slow cooker. Alternatively, sniff out a classic boil-up. This hearty stew typically comprises pork, pūhā (bitter greens) and potatoes. It’s easily stretched at community gatherings with the addition of doughboys (dumplings).

Māori take advantage of New Zealand’s countryside and long coastline for fresh produce. Sustainably-sourced seafood such as green-lipped mussels, oysters and abalone is a longstanding favourite, while inland, tender fern shoots known as pikopiko (bush asparagus) are commonly eaten. Smokeries pounce on wood chips from the mānuka tree to infuse meat and fish with their sweet aroma, but the medicinal and antiseptic properties of its honey are what’s given the plant international recognition.

In some respects, as it has evolved, traditional Māori cuisine reflects New Zealand’s settlement history. The country’s fertile soil was ideal for root vegetables like kūmara (sweet potato), yam and taro brought from Polynesia many centuries ago. Later, Europeans brought corn and potatoes which were widely adopted. Kānga kōpiro (fermented corn porridge) once helped sustain Māori communities through the winter and it has a bold, intense aroma. Parāoa rēwena (Māori bread) is less of an acquired taste; its sourdough starter comes from potatoes, first introduced by Captain Cook.

Sweet treats

New Zealand’s a great fit for travellers with a sweet tooth. Kiwis will tell you their nation is the home of the pavlova, a delicious confection consisting of a large meringue piled high with whipped cream and fresh fruit. It is named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova who toured the country in the 1920s. Australians claim the dessert as theirs too, but regardless of its provenance, it has been a local favourite for almost a century. Hokey Pokey is another of the country’s signature sweet treats. The phrase originally referred to ice cream sellers on the streets of cities in the US and the UK, but to Kiwis it’s synonymous with ice cream mixed with pieces of honeycomb toffee. Statistics suggest it’s been the country’s second most popular variety – after plain vanilla – ever since.

Biscuit lovers are spoilt for choice. Munch on Anzacs, a heavenly combination of rolled oats, desiccated coconut and golden syrup or Afghans, made with cornflakes and cocoa powder. Chocolate-encased Mallow Puffs are also justifiably popular; their fluffy marshmallow tops a biscuit base. Embrace Kiwis’ affection for lolly cake, a staple of kids’ parties. It’s made with crushed malt biscuits, soft lollies and condensed milk. Don’t leave without a bar of Whittaker’s chocolate. The company’s founder, Macclesfield-born J.H. Whittaker, learned the art of chocolate-making during a stint at Cadbury. Soon after he emigrated to Christchurch in 1890, his modest hand cart became a factory, and today Whittaker’s remains one of the country’s market leaders in confectionery.

Whet your palette

Don’t wait until you reach New Zealand to sample its food. Inspired by manaakitanga (traditional Māori hospitality), Air New Zealand’s on-board culinary offering gives you a literal and innovative taste of the country. All passengers are presented with a menu that showcases seasonal, authentic Kiwi produce. Upgrade to premium economy or business class to tuck into garlic flatbread or kūmara and kawakawa sourdough loaf accompanied by Hawke’s Bay extra-virgin olive oil. Follow with dishes such as succulent New Zealand lamb served with Swiss chard and roasted parsnips. Prefer fish to meat? Opt for hāpuka, perhaps, with smoked mussels and garlic salt crushed potatoes. Round off your in-flight meal with delicious desserts and local cheeses.

Domestic travellers should book Air New Zealand’s Kora Hour services for the widest range of drinks and in-flight bites. And regardless of your destination, they’re proud to serve a selection of New Zealand wines throughout every cabins. Across all its flights and lounges, Air New Zealand serves up roughly 62,000 litres of Sauvignon Blanc, 53,000 Litres of Chardonnay and 59,000 litres of Pinot Noir of wine each year – all of which is New Zealand grown and made.

For more information, visit the official Air New Zealand website.

Elevate your flight experience with Air New Zealand

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Elevate your flight experience with Air New Zealand

New Zealand is a land celebrated for its hospitality, rich culture, spectacular landscapes, and opportunity for adventure – and its national airline Air New Zealand brings each of these elements to the sky with its premier onboard experience. Seamless and flexible international connections allow passengers to make the most of long-haul trips, and the in-flight experience is constantly pushing boundaries to elevate the experience across all classes. And, it wouldn’t be Air New Zealand without a healthy dose of Kiwi hospitality.

The routes

Even though there are few routes longer than London to New Zealand, with Air New Zealand it certainly doesn’t feel like it. They’ve transformed long-haul travel into an experience to look forward to. While there are no direct flights between the two countries, Air New Zealand’s extensive route map means that travellers flying from London or Manchester can design their own trip – including stopovers in the likes of the USA, Canada, Asia or the Cook Islands – or choose a route with seamless connections to reduce travel time. When you arrive in New Zealand, the country’s national airline is on hand to ensure smooth onward travel to the rest of the country, giving you the freedom to fully explore Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud.

The premium cabins

Travel in a premium cabin extends the holiday feeling, making sure you’re fully relaxed before you even arrive at your destination. Air New Zealand has perfected the art of in-flight luxury with their Premium Economy and Business PremierTM cabins. Economy passengers don’t miss out either, with the introduction of the airline’s Economy SkycouchTM

Economy SkycouchTM

Imagine being able to spread out, take a nap, and relax on your own private couch in Economy class. This is the concept behind Air New Zealand’s revolutionary Economy SkycouchTM. The Economy class seats feature a special footrest, which can be fully extended to create a large couch space that can be shared by up to three people. It’s perfect for couples, families with small children, or solo passengers who enjoy their own space – and if you book an Economy SkycouchTM, the entire row is reserved for you.

Premium Economy

If you want a bit more space to relax, catch up on work, or enjoy the inflight entertainment, Premium Economy is the way to go. Air New Zealand’s Premium Economy cabins have been designed down to the last detail to make your journey more comfortable. The sumptuous, ink-coloured leather seats feature plenty of legroom, oversized armrests, an extendable foot support, and 50% more recline than in Economy, offering the perfect home base for your trip. Select flights elevate the experience even further with an amenity kit featuring Aotea’s therapeutic Harakeke Seed Oil & Mānuka Water Hand & Body Cream, which is made using native New Zealand flora grown sustainably on Great Barrier Island, and inspired by traditional Māori herbal practices. Premium Economy isn’t just about on-board comfort. Passengers also benefit from being able to bring two carry-on bags, check in two bags, free seat selection, and a higher Airpoints Dollars and Status Points earn rate.

Business PremierTM

Air New Zealand’s Business PremierTM seats are the ultimate in on-board comfort, evoking a sense of luxury more often associated with five-star hotels. The journey begins with premium check-in, courtesy lounge access and priority baggage, and the inflight experience is elevated with an unparalleled food and wine offering and Aotea wellness products, including the brand’s coveted Kawakawa Balm, which combines just three ingredients – Mānuka oil, Kawakawa, and Beeswax – to create a luxurious multi-purpose balm. 

The soft leather Business PremierTM seat transforms seamlessly into a lie-flat bed with a memory foam mattress, two full-size pillows, and a duvet. Not only is it one of the most comfortable beds in the sky, it’s also one of the longest – the Business PremierTM seat on board Air New Zealand’s 777-300ER planes converts into a two-metre-long bed, so even the tallest of passengers will travel in comfort. And, if you’re travelling with friends or family, there’s an ottoman footrest that doubles as guest seating.

The onboard experience

Flying in Air New Zealand’s Premium Economy or Business PremierTM cabins elevates the travel experience to the next level, with food, wine, and entertainment that will make time fly. With award-winning comfort and service that epitomises Kiwi hospitality, it’s the best way to start, or finish, a trip.

Kiwi hospitality

Stepping on board an Air New Zealand flight, the first thing you’re likely to hear is a friendly “Kia ora” – a traditional Māori greeting that extends a warm welcome. This sets the scene for the friendly hospitality to come throughout your flight, with staff always happy to make time for a chat and going above and beyond to make every journey a great experience. With this approach at the heart of every Air New Zealand interaction, it’s no surprise that the airline has won numerous awards, including wins in TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards.

Food and wine

In New Zealand, the ​​Māori tradition of hospitality is known as manaakitanga, and this welcoming approach is behind every meal and drink served on board Air New Zealand flights. In every class, the food is a celebration of the ingredients and culture of Aotearoa, the ​​Māori-language name for the country.

In Premium Economy and Business PremierTM cabins the experience is elevated even further. Each dish is thoughtfully crafted from fresh ingredients and complemented by premium New Zealand wines. The wine list is particularly impressive, selected by dedicated sommeliers and featuring some of the country’s award-winning makers.

In Business PremierTM, passengers have the opportunity to try native New Zealand ingredients, giving them a hint of the culinary delights that await them. Particularly interesting ingredients include Kawakawa, a native plant with heart-shaped leaves used in traditional Māori cuisine that can be brewed into tea or dried for a peppery accent, and Horopito, a plant with red leaves and antiseptic properties used as a natural preservative in food products.

In-flight entertainment

The adventure starts as soon as you step foot on board an Air New Zealand flight, with access to exciting inflight entertainment that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The airline boasts more than 1,700 hours of content, from the latest blockbusters and must-see TV box sets, to video games and a dedicated kids’ section. Live TV also allows you to keep up to date with breaking news on board select international flights. If you want to browse your own content, simply plug into the USB and iPod connections on the personal, widescreen touch screen.

If you’ve ever missed the end of a film as you come into land, you’ll appreciate Air New Zealand’s gate-to-gate entertainment, which means you can start using the entertainment system as soon as you board right up to the moment you touch down.

The future of Air New Zealand’s innovative flight experiences

Air New Zealand continues to push the boundaries of possibility for the inflight experience – and revolutionary offerings such as the Economy SkycouchTM are only the beginning. Looking ahead, the airline promises to elevate the long-haul inflight experience even further. In 2024, the Business PremierTM Luxe suites will debut on direct flights to New York and Chicago and the airline will also debut the Economy Class Skynest sleeping bunks. As always, the cabin design celebrates a sense of place, taking inspiration from Aotearoa, its landscape and traditions. The result? A travel experience that begins the moment you step foot on the plane and more choice than ever before, whether you choose to fly Economy or a premium class.

Feeling inspired?

For more information, visit the official Air New Zealand website.

7 ways to unravel New Zealand’s Māori heritage

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7 ways to unravel New Zealand’s Māori heritage

Māori history in New Zealand dates back more than 700 years, when the first settlers journeyed across the Pacific to make a new life here. Today, their descendants make up around 17% of the population. Experiencing Māori culture first-hand will deliver incredible travel memories and give you a true insight into this fascinating country.

1. Head out on a Waka trip in Abel Tasman National Park

An oft-quoted Māori proverb goes like this: “Manaaki moana, manaaki tangata, haere whakamua.” Roughly translated, it means “Care for the sea, care for the people, move forward as one.” It’s also the mantra of Waka Abel Tasman, a company that offers tours of this extraordinarily scenic part of the New Zealand coastline in a waka, a traditional Māori canoe. Its most popular journey is a two hour out and back paddle to Tokangawhā/Split Apple Rock. This 120 million year old lump of faulted granite sits surrounded by shallow water just offshore and resembles a beached Pac-Man. Geologists explain it as a casualty of ice-wedging, but according to Māori legend, two feuding gods tore it apart – Tokangawhā means “burst open rock”. Waka Abel Tasman also offers the option of customisable trips for groups; sunrise is especially popular. Regardless, this is a family-friendly activity that even young children can tackle.

2. Visit a traditional Māori village

If you’re keen to get an overview of Māori customs, ceremonies and crafts, then consider visiting a Māori village. Near Rotorua, get acquainted with the Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao people at Whakarewarewa – The Living Māori Village. They welcome visitors to their marae, a Māori meeting house which is also used for weddings and funerals. Experience the haka, a ceremonial war dance that involves foot stomping, body slaps and famously, poking out long tongues. Showcasing their traditions is second nature as they sing, dance with short sticks and spin poi balls. Nearby, learn about traditional methods of weaving and carving at the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute at Te Puia. Other Māori cultural experiences in the Rotorua area include Te Pā Tū and Mitai Māori Village. On South Island, stay overnight at the Ōnuku Marae; your hosts will demonstrate aspects of their Māori heritage such as history, art and food.

3. Discover the importance of Ta Moko in Rotorua

To Māori people, the inking process is a way of expressing their identity and embracing their cultural heritage. The manawa (heart lines) and korus (unfurling ferns) used in Ta Moko depict aspects of their personal ancestry and family history. In the past, designs painfully and laboriously etched into the skin would have indicated a person’s social rank, knowledge, skill set and marital status. Men bore full face tattoos, while women would have had moko kauae (chin tattoos). Once outlawed, Ta Moko has experienced a recent resurgence in popularity and a renewed acceptance by society. Visitors keen to get an inking should opt for Kirituhi, suitable for those of non-Māori heritage. It encompasses elements of family (whanau), genealogy (whakapapa), community (iwi), and significant milestones in a person’s life. Call in to the Toiariki studio in Rotorua, where indigenous skin artist Richard Francis can discuss your ideas and come up with a personalised design.

4. Meet master pounamu carvers in Hokitika

Pounamu is the collective noun that Māori use for the types of greenstone used for carving. Nephrite jade is only found in New Zealand. Collecting the stone found at the mouth of the Arahura River is off limits as it’s a sacred site for the Māori. Learn more about the stone’s cultural significance on a guided tour led by Kati Waewae tribe guardians of the Arahura River. The stone is also abundant beside the Hokitika River, making this little town on South Island’s West Coast one of the best places in the country for fossicking. To see master carvers at work call in at Westland Greenstone, where daily demonstrations take place in its workshop. Shop for authentic pounamu jewellery at Waewae Pounamu, a small, hapū-owned business where the stones’ provenance is recorded via traceability codes. Alternatively, create your own unique piece under the tutelage of Brett Phillips at Jade Art Carvings.

5. Stay in a marae on the Whanganui Journey

The Whanganui Journey is a five-day canoe trip through native forests along the Whanganui River. It’s the only one of New Zealand’s spectacular Great Walks to require a paddle rather than a pair of hiking boots. A highlight of the journey is the opportunity to stay in a fully-functioning marae which doubles up as an official Great Walk hut from October to April. Tieke Kainga Hut is overseen by Te Whānau o Tīeke in conjunction with the Department of Conservation. Carvings on posts called pou are of the Māori who lived here in the past. If current whānau (members of the extended Māori family) are present, they may stage a traditional pōwhiri welcome. It features formal speeches, blessings and rounds off with the hongi, where noses and foreheads are pushed together in greeting. Consider it appropriate to offer koha, where visitors gift money for the upkeep of the wharenui (communal house).

6. Unravel the myths and legends behind the Tāne Mahuta kauri tree

One of the largest stands of kauri trees is located in Waipoua Forest on the north western coast of North Island. There, you’ll encounter Tāne Mahuta, which is New Zealand’s largest living kauri tree with a girth of 18.8 metres. As well as its impressive size, it is pivotal to the Māori belief system. The tree shares its name with the Lord of the Forest, who was the mythological son of Ranginui, the sky father, and Papa-tū-ā-nuku, the earth mother. Tāne Mahuta is the god of forests and birds, but also created the first man from the soil – without him, we wouldn’t exist. Tired of living in darkness, Tāne’s siblings tried and failed to prise their parents apart from their close embrace. Tāne was the one that succeeded and in doing so, created Te Ao Mārama – the world of light. Today, trees hold the heavens aloft, keeping darkness at bay.

7. Soak up Māori magic at Ngawha Springs

Geothermal water feeds the Ngawha Springs at Te Tai Tokerau, Northland. According to Māori lore, the hot water springs that exist here are the result of Rūaumoko, the unborn child of earth mother Papa-tū-ā-nuku, fidgeting in her womb. Māori tradition once dictated that new mothers took a restorative soak here after giving birth; battle-fatigued warriors might also have bathed here. You don’t have to be either to enjoy the health-enhancing properties of the mineral-rich water, which some believe improves skin conditions and helps with respiratory ailments. To this day, Māori people come here to nurture their wairua (spirit) and to alleviate pain. In all, the complex boasts two dozen pools – some private, others public – with varying temperatures and mineral content. Whether you’ve come for a specific purpose or simply plan a dip to relax and unwind, inject a little Māori magic into your trip with a visit to Ngawha Springs. 

Māori culture is closer than you think

Experiencing Māori heritage is straightforward thanks to flights from London and Manchester with Air New Zealand. Economy fares to Auckland start at £1,270 return per person. Popular routes include travelling via Singapore eastbound and Los Angeles westbound. It’s just as simple to add on a domestic flight: Air New Zealand serves destinations such as Rotorua, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Nelson, Hokitika and Queenstown, and Air New Zealand’s domestic connectivity and seamless transits make it easy to get around the country. Immersing yourself in Māori culture, no matter where you choose to explore, is only ever a flight or two away.

For more information, visit the official Air New Zealand website.