New Zealand isn’t a country famous for its local cuisine but nonetheless offers great food to be enjoyed, from fine dining restaurants to smalls cafes on the side of the road. Travelling over 3,000km around the North Island with my husband allowed me to find some precious gems that might go by unnoticed by many tourists. Since we were on a budget, we tried to mix it up and cook some of our meals or buy cheap takeaways. But we also indulged a little when possible. Here are some of the places we visited during the first part of our journey.

 

  • Day 2:

River Run Cafe, Mokau

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Mokau is a tiny town 90km north of New Plymouth. We stopped at the River Run Cafe for a quick bite on the second day of our trip, on our way to Raglan, in the Waikato. I ordered a savoury muffin and a mixed berries muffin, both delicious. Fresh and made at the cafe, they were a very pleasant surprise and a nice way to start off my day.

Where: 30 North Street, Mokau, New Plymouth
River Run Cafe on Zomato

 

The Shack, Raglan

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Later on that same day, we got lost on our way to Raglan but still arrived in time for a late lunch. Our friend Tanya took us to The Shack, a funky cafe in the heart of the town. I ordered a Sloppy Jose, a spicy pulled pork and beans sandwich full of flavour.

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My friend ordered a salad and Ivan had a burger. We were all really happy with our dishes. Coffee was good, service was very nice, we had a great time there.

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Where: 19 Bow St, Raglan, Waikato
www.theshackraglan.com

 

  • Day 3:

Mormors Cafe, Kaiwaka

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On the third day of our trip, we stopped at Mormors for a snack on our way to Otamure Bay, in Northland. This is the cafe with the creepy doll… There’s a lot to look at but we didn’t stay long. Ivan had a croissant with jam, I had a caramel slice. We ate, used the toilet and left.

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Where: 1954 State Highway 1, Kaiwaka, Northland
Mormors Cafe on Facebook

 

  • Day 4:

The Trainspotter Cafe, Kawakawa

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The Trainspotter was hands down our favourite, we stopped there twice! Not only the food was delicious and moderately priced, there was free wi-fi and many power plugs all over. So, even though the cafe was full and our meals took some time to be prepared, we had no reason to complain because it gave us time to charge our phones and check emails, Facebook, etc.

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Both days we had the Kawakawa Breaky and the eggs were the highlight, superbly cooked.

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The second time we ate there, I needed a sugar fix and shared a regular brownie and a fudge brownie with Ivan.

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Highly recommended!

Where: 39 Gillies Street, Kawakawa, Northland
www.trainspottercafe.co.nz

 

  • Day 5:

Matakana Village Pub, Matakana
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This was our most expensive meal but it was Christmas Eve and we felt like celebrating. Our stay in Matakana was a last minute change of plans but we had a wonderful time there. For entrees, we had sundried tomato and bacon arancinis with smoked paprika mayo. Simply perfect!

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And we also had chimichangas!

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The Matakana “Hand Cranked” Golden Larger, brewed especially for the pub, is a refreshing full malt drop with a clean, crisp finish. I prefer wine, but enjoyed every single drop of my pint with gusto.

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Mains were chicken and mushroom pot pie with roast corn and polenta chips. The best polenta chips I’ve had in New Zealand so far.

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The Christmas spirit was all around and we had a fantastic time!

Where: 11 Matakana Valley Road, Matakana, Auckland
www.matakana.co.nz

 

  • Day 7:

Italian Bakery & Espresso, Tirau

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After two days in Matakana, we headed south to Napier. We stopped in Tirau for a light lunch at this small bakery and had a great meal.

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Nice coffee and the best brownie of our trip! We also heard an American tourist asking the owners if they roasted and ground their coffee themselves, she left so disappointed when got a sound “no” in reply, but we were very satisfied. We even suggested that they should add tiramisu to the menu and call it “Tiraumisu”. 😉

Where: 35 Main Rd, Tirau, Waikato

Update: check out part 2!