Foodie wanderlusters take note, just an hour outside of Queenstown you’ll find Wanaka, a picturesque lakeside town boasting some of New Zealand’s best eats and drinks. We’re talking everything from juicy burgers to hoppy craft brews, unique local wines and breathtaking fine dining.
Lick your lips because here’s everything you need to eat and drink in Wanaka.
Devour These Delicious Eats
Coffee and a pastry, name a more iconic breakfast duo. Get your fix ten minutes from town at Pembroke Pâtisserie who serve up mouth-watering doughnuts, scrolls, tarts and croissants. Don’t go past their life-changing custard slice, starring layers of flaky pastry, gooey vanilla custard and topped with zesty icing.
Hidden down a laneway off Helwick Street you’ll find the Federal Diner, a local lunch spot away from the crowds featuring flavoursome bites, Wellington’s Emporio coffee and some epic cheese scones. On a chilly Southland day, the seafood chowder with prawns and crusty bread is calling your name. Still hungry? Their braised pork shoulder roti is the stuff of dreams—soft, flaky flatbread with tender pork, hoisin, kewpie mayo and pickled chilli. We’ll take two thanks.
Big Fig’s motto is ‘slow food, served fast’ and honey, we’re here for it. Dishing up a deli-style breakfast from 8am–11am, it’s easy to overindulge in the homely Lebanese-inspired fare. We’re talking Middle Eastern granola with stewed fruit and sweet labneh, the famed shakshuka or sweet treats like tahini chocolate brownie. They also offer lunch and dinner dining, offering a seasonal menu of slow-cooked meats and vibrant veggies.
Foodies on the go should not miss Burrito Craft’s food truck situated on Brownston Street. On a sunny day you can’t beat gorging on flavoursome Mexican fare washed down with your favourite Jarrito soda. Devour mammoth burritos with your choice of meat or vegetarian filling, or opt for a taco selection from the mushroom, fish, beef or pork tacos. They’re also open for breakfast from 8am—11am should you be craving a breakfast burrito before heading out on some adventures.
Red Star Burger
Burger lovers are well catered for at Wanaka’s Red Star Burger, who have been serving up mouth-watering eats for more than 13 years. Their sauces and patties are all made in-house and their ingredients are all sourced locally, so you know it’s going to be a flavour bomb in your mouth. Whether you’re into beef, chicken, lamb, venison, fish or veggies, there’s something for everyone here. We’re also partial to adding on a double chocolate thick shake and big old box of fries to our order because really, what’s a burger without fries?
Cardrona Valley Road
Make your way up Crown Range Road for some succulent pub grub at Cardrona Hotel, one of New Zealand’s oldest historic hotels and most photographed buildings. Nestle yourself into a cosy corner with a mulled wine and devour old favourites with a Central Otago twist—think ale battered blue cod with fries and smashed peas, or a drool-worthy venison and bacon burger with smoked cheese and beetroot relish. Once your savoury-tooth is satisfied, grab a smores kit from the bar and head outside to the fire for a gooey marshmallow moment.
When in Wanaka, make sure to treat yourself to Kika. The modern tapas-style restaurant, owned and operated by award-winning chef James Stapley, boasts an elegant, comfortable atmosphere that you just won't want to leave. Peruse the curated drinks menu for your poison of choice, including local craft beer, cocktails or spirits. Our top picks for sensational snacks go to the Cloudy Bay clams with salsa macha, the melt-in-your-mouth seared tuna with koji mayo and the butternut and white bean hummus with black garlic. Beef up your selection with some larger plates like the roasted pork belly with lentils and celeriac or a side of roasted cauliflower with whipped tahini, dates and dukkah. A word of warning though, save room for a sweet treat like The Argentinian Tom Selleck—a Magnum-shaped dessert with flavours of yerba mate and dulce de leche.
Francesca’s Italian Kitchen
If carbohydrates are your middle name, Francesca's Italian Kitchen is the place for you. This place is buzzing even on a weeknight, so make sure to book ahead. Kick off with crispy potato skins doused in truffle oil, porcini salt and pecorino, which are made from, you guessed it, the gnocchi cast-offs. Chase this up with the legendary house-made potato gnocchi with braised beef cheeks, and of course a traditional woodfired pizza. Fill your dessert stomach with a cannoli, tiramisu, affogato or all three—we’re not judging.
For Wanaka’s most unique dining experience, head straight to the White House. Situated in an original 1930s art deco style holiday home, which is also the owner Pedro’s residence, the establishment is more reminiscent of a quirky living room than a restaurant. The curated blackboard menu changes seasonally with Mediterranean-inspired Kiwi fare, including a delicious selection of vegetarian options. Start with their famous bruschetta, followed by smoked kahawai fish cakes and a cheesy mozzarella baked eggplant.
Golf Course Road
This elegant yet humble outpost unexpectedly boasts some of the most delicious eats in Wanaka. Bistro Gentil takes traditional French food and flavours to a new level, serving modern fare carefully crafted by Head Chef Mario Rodrigues. Dig into sensational bites like French onion soup with gruyere croutons, confit duck with Dijon sauce or a Fromage board with imported cheese from France. Alternatively, opt for a five-course tasting menu or ‘trust the chef’—a choice which offers varying menus each evening.
Ode is a slightly out-of-the-box dining experience lead by executive chef Lucas Parkinson. His food philosophy shapes the restaurant which places a focus on ‘conscious dining,’ meaning the food is meant to surprise and delight guests, honour the integrity of local ingredients and tell a story. Choose from a three-course ‘trust the chef’ menu, an eight-course ‘Ode experience’ or truly understand the mind of Parkinson by dining at the chef's table. For a true taste of Wanaka, you’ll want to tick off Ode.
Sip On A South Island Tipple
Wanaka-Mount Aspiring Road
Wanaka and wine—it’s a perfect pairing really. Head to Rippon for a tasting session, which boasts stellar views and sensational vino. You can drop by their Cellar Door for some sips from 11am–5pm daily, but we recommend going the extra step and arranging a private tasting with the cellar door manager, Leslie. You’ll be set up in the grand Rippon Hall overlooking Lake Wanaka as Leslie walks you through the enticing stories behind each delicious drop.
Maude Wines Tasting Room
Golf Course Road
Enter Maude Wines Tasting Room and you’ll be greeted with a cosy atmosphere, friendly hosts and even the winemakers dog if you’re lucky. Nab a seat next to the fireplace and select your samples—we highly recommend the Chardonnay. Your tasting is delivered in a quaint beaker set, and we suggest ordering the fromage board starring imported french cheeses and handmade crackers.
For a late-night tipple head straight to Cork Bar who offer everything you need from a cosy atmosphere to outdoor heating and an extensive local beer, wine and drinks list. Scout out the dedicated gin and tonic menu for your fave—we’re into the ‘Respect Your Elders’ with elderflower tonic and rhubarb.
Cardrona Alpine Resort
For a sip with an epic view, your best choice is Vista Bar which sits pretty atop Mount Cardrona and is part of Cardrona Alpine Resort. Ditch the skis and grab the gondola up to the outdoor bar, slouch down on a bean bag and opt for a sneaky sip of Mumm Champagne or our personal favourite, boozy Baileys hot chocolate, overlooking the stunning mountain scenery and enthusiastic skiers below.
Ground Up Brewing and Rhyme and Reason
Kiwis are crazy about craft beer, so why not sample some of Wanaka’s finest after a day of adventures. Head to Ground Up Brewing’s Cellar Door for a selection of seasonal brews, small batch and experimental beers. Alternatively (or also) check out Rhyme and Reason who offer tasting paddles, cheese boards and a hoppy hour.
Cardrona Valley Road
You’ll likely have tasted their artisan spirits in town, so why not explore the inner workings of Cardrona Distillery. Situated in Cardrona Valley among picturesque rose gardens and expansive hills, this is the world's most southern whisky distillery. The 90-minute tour will school you on everything it takes to make handcrafted spirits—from milling to fermentation and distillation. The best part? It concludes with a tasting of their liquors, vodkas, gins and whiskies—count us in.
Wanting to devour the neighboring region of Queenstown? Get started with our guide to the best restaurants in the adventure capital.
Image credit: Pembroke Pâtisserie, Red Star Burger, Kika, Bistro Gentil, Cardrona Distillery, Jess Willemse