With winter chills on the horizon, Easter often feels like that last glimpse of summer. It’s four days where we can escape the city to the beaches, take a holiday with our nearest and dearest and indulge in delicious food along the way. The holiday looks different for us all — especially if you have children — but an Easter escape is one that we look forward to every year, and this year, there’s so much further afield to discover.
Sage Restaurant at Paroa Bay Winery
When the weather ebbs between hot and cold, we flock north. Paroa Bay Winery — owned by the visionary team behind The Lindis Group — is perched on the hills above the Bay of Islands, with luxury villas that take you into the clouds. And while the wine is an easy libation, the real treasure is the restaurant. Nominated as one of the Best Out Of Town Eateries in Denizen’s 2022 Hospo Heroes, this dining experience is one you’ll always remember. The menu is crafted with the idea of offering New Zealand’s best delicacies on a plate, and the wine pairings are a welcome addition. With three individual residences, it makes for the perfect family escape, or a romantic getaway if you’re inspired.
The Shack, Raglan
If you want to escape to the renowned break this long weekend, refuel here post-surf with a menu that is just the right amount of unique, boasting a roasted broccoli toastie, chilli egg bun, waffles and more. In true Raglan fashion, it’s a little Byron-esque, with an inspired, wholesome brunch menu that could run up against the big leagues.
You’d be forgiven for looking past Sugo, as it doesn’t sit on the shores of Tauranga’s famous beaches, but Sugo is no less worthy of an Easter weekend visit. While the locally-sourced menu is fresh and inspired, the bottomless brunch is the eatery’s main attraction. And when on an extended weekend escape, is there a better way to spend it?
Central Fire Station Bistro, Hawkes Bay
If you’re looking for something different from the usual winery-based dining in Hawkes Bay, Central Fire Station Bistro in Napier is serving up a crowd-pleasing menu. In one of the art deco buildings that make the city so quaint, and like all good eateries, there’s a strong focus on local, seasonal produce, a fitting choice as the region is abundant with its offerings. We recommend the spiced lamb rump, just as the weather begins to cool off.
Tucked away in the capital’s Newtown, the suburb that emits an effortless aura of cool, is Mason. It prides itself as a restaurant masquerading as a bar and offers a Middle Eastern inspired approach to food. The menu is ever-changing but be sure to try the current crudo on offer — one of the best in the city. While you’re in Wellington, there’s never been a better time to explore New Zealand Portrait Gallery Te Pūkenga Whakaata’s latest exhibition, curated by Brian Wood — Raymond McIntyre: Portraits.
Hopgoods & Co, Nelson
Nelson’s city is an eclectic mix of arts, travellers and early retirees, and when you come to embrace it, you can appreciate the city for all of its divine offerings (not just as a gateway to the great outdoors). Hopgoods & Co is a Nelson institution, with the bistro taking up residence in the heart of the city, serving seasonally based bistro-style food with the best of the region’s artisan produce.
The Store, Kekerengu
Found on the coastline between the Marlborough Sounds and the expanse of Christchurch is Kekerengu’s The Store. Some 60km north of Kaikoura, the rugged coastline makes for a beautiful holiday drive, and The Store is the perfect pitstop. It’s been a mainstay for 28 years, serving much of the same locally sourced fresh fish. The breathtaking views of the beaches beyond are just a welcome addition you can expect to find around these parts.
Bessie marks a new stage in Christchurch’s dining journey. Traditionally ruled by a few key players, the scene in Christchurch is evolving and this excellent spot offers a unique taste of the South Island that needs to be on your radar. Bessie specialises in dry-aged cuts, so vegans need not apply, and trust us, they’re not exaggerating when they claim to be ‘Canterbury’s best’. With a complimentary wine menu that promises to keep you perfectly libated, Bessie is a Christchurch favourite.
Fairlie Bakehouse, Fairlie
While pies aren’t always our road trip snack of choice, these delights are a contender for the country’s most famous. These pies are the perfect marriage of buttery, flakey crusts, with locally-sourced tender beef steak, Aoraki salmon, creamy hearty vegetable, and of course a classic mince and cheese. Nothing less than a southern essential, these pies could dethrone Ferg Burger, and if you’re passing by — or in the vicinity — they’re a must-eat on any road trip.
Del Mar, Oamaru
Oamaru’s Del Mar looks past the traditional steampunk approach of the town and offers up a refreshingly cool waterfront venue that specialises in superb seafood. The crispy squid is arguably one of the best takes on inspired seafood in the country, and the view across the harbour is simply delightful. If you’re in for dinner service, time it around the little blue penguin arrivals that take place just around the corner, a truly once-in-a-lifetime viewing experience.
An impeccable Italian restaurant at Saint Clair Beach, Esplanade serves up a slice of the good life. With interiors by Cheshire Architects, it’s cosy even when the waves are crashing. Here, you can finally take in a different side of the city, away from the bedlam of student life, and watch as surfers don their thickest wetsuits and brace the southern waters, while you enjoy Italian so good it warms you from the inside.