A Drink & Dine Experience for Every Season in South Canterbury

A flatlay of plates of food on a table at Mint Folk in Twizel.

From the hopeful splashes of spring colour to the thick of a white winter, no matter the outside air temperature, memorable dining experiences abound throughout South Canterbury.

Words by Izzie Thompson

Home to historic country pubs, corner store cafés and bespoke gelato parlours, set in the rolling hinterland, beside sandy beaches or with views of snow-capped mountains beyond incredibly blue lakes, this region is full of natural riches and innovative producers.

From primary produce to grains, a diverse range of essential food is farmed and grown in South Canterbury, the food bowl of Aotearoa New Zealand. Thus, you’ll find fresh, local produce on the menu at many an eatery. Fine local vittles with remarkable views to match, and longevity through the seasons – it doesn’t get much better, or more reliably diverse, than that.

Café Verde

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45c Talbot Street, Geraldine

With a huge garden and courtyard, perfect for outdoor dining in the warmer months, Café Verde in Geraldine is a favourite spot for locals and passers-by alike. Quietly set back from the main road, their luscious garden can be glimpsed positively exploding with colourful blooms and greenery, a white picket fence neatly tucked in the corners. Park up amongst the roses on the veranda or between the tidy hedges out back and enjoy perusing the current menu for your selection – choices that change with the seasons.

Mint Folk & Co

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4 Market Place, Twizel

As the name implies, a mint green palette and nice folk await you inside this establishment in the centre of Twizel. The interior is light-filled and dotted with hanging and potted plants, while the courtyard is perfect for basking in the summer sun. Relax and recharge with a made-to-order cold-pressed juice or deliciously brewed coffee in one of the many different seating areas, accommodating the solo patron or larger group.

The courtyard connects with the neighbouring Ministry of Works, a modern pub and free house. With a selection of craft beers on tap that frequently rotates, comprehensive wine and spirit lists, and an appetising food menu that caters to all dietary requirements, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. While away a warm night out in the beer garden gazing up at the pristine, starry sky of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve.

Geraldine Cheese Co. and Barker’s Foodstore and Eatery

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76 and 71 Talbot Street, Geraldine

Geraldine lies at the beginning of the Starlight Highway, the gateway to Mackenzie’s famous blue lakes and International Dark Sky Reserve, and numerous forested trails. In the centre of town are Geraldine Cheese Co. and Barker’s Foodstore and Eatery, two spots worth paying a visit to stock up on locally-made supplies for a scenic walk (or more elaborate seated platter). At the petite cheese factory watch cheesemakers handcraft small batches through the large windows in the shop, then have some tasters to help with – or complicate - the decision-making. The Cheese Co. also stocks a range of deli products made in the region. Across the road at Barker’s you’ll find more essentials to fill your bags; their preserves, sauces, spreads and syrups are a common sight in pantries nationwide. Alternatively, leave the assembling to the professionals and grab some cabinet food to go, to be polished off from a nearby nature setting – Peel Forest is an easy 20 minutes up the road.

Fairlie Bakehouse

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74 Main Street, Fairlie

Warm your mitts on a world-famous-in-New-Zealand pie from Fairlie Bakehouse. Made on-site daily, the light and fluffy handmade pastry of their pies is carefully hand-filled with fresh, quality (and local where possible) ingredients so that no bite, nor cross-section examination, ever disappoints.

Renowned for their innovative flavours, the pies are as gourmet as they sound: there’s bacon and salmon, pork belly with apple sauce and crackling, and silverside with mustard and potato, to name but a few. If you have a hankering for something not so savoury, the bakehouse has you covered with delicious baked goods of the sweet variety. From cream-filled donuts to flaky bee stings and tangy cheesecake, there’s much to choose from to accompany the hot coffee warming your other hand.

Silverstream Hotel

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762 State Highway 8, Kimbell

A skip, hop and jump from Mt Dobson ski field, Silverstream Hotel beckons as a destination to rest weary legs and replenish the tank after a day up the mountain. Sink into a cosy leather armchair and warm your bones by the cranking log burner. Ornately patterned carpet, colourfully reminiscent of a grandparents’ living room, moves from the floor up to a timber dado, embracing the dining area in a warm hug. The comfortable ambience is further elevated with regular live music from local and visiting musicians. With a decent selection of New Zealand craft beers and good pub grub for various dietary needs, Silverstream Hotel proves itself time and time again as a favourite and welcoming watering hole for locals, ski bunnies and passers-by.

Astro Café

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Godley Peaks Road, Lake Tekapo

At the top of Ōtīhewai Mt John is Astro Café, an idyllic spot for birds-eye views of the turquoise Lake Tekapo waters and vast plains that stretch out to the foot of mountains cloaked in snow. More than just a hilltop coffee shop, getting to Astro Café is an experience in and of itself. There’s a walking track that starts from the lake and loops up and around – choose the steep ascent to warm the body and be rewarded with sweeping views of the lake on the way down the other path - or you can wind your way up the road in a car. Enclosed on three sides (four, if you count the roof) by full-height glazing, comfortably take in the views from the warmth of the café interior. Or brave the crisp wintry air out on the paved deck – on clear days, the peak of Aoraki Mt Cook can be spied.

Farm Barn Café

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4 Mount Michael Road, R D 17, Fairlie

On the other side of the Two Thumbs Range from Astro Café, there’s another hilltop stop to make. Perched near the top of Mt Michael is Farm Barn Café, a halfway winter warmer spot between Ōtautahi Christchurch and Tahuna Queenstown. As the name implies, there are a number of friendly farm animals that call this place home. Send the kids down past the gate to hand feed or pat the cute farm squad while you enjoy a well-earned hot beverage. To eat, there are homemade scones, muffins, beautiful cakes, homely menu items, and even Fairlie Bakehouse pies from the good folk just down the road. Curl up in a cosy nook and enjoy the snug rural feel of the weathered wooden floorboards, colourful cushions and exposed timber trusses as the log burner crackles away in the corner.

The Greedy Cow Café

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16 Rapuwai Lane, Lake Tekapo

As the land thaws and months tick over to late spring, lupins first poke their pastel pink and purple heads around Tekapo. If you’re on a specific journey to see the blooms or happen to be passing through Mackenzie Basin at this time, make a pit stop at The Greedy Cow in the heart of the Tekapo township. Big windows intersperse rustic stone walls around this sunny corner café. The in-house pastry chef bakes macarons the size of your hand, stunning little tarts and filled eclairs on the daily. Another cabinet is stocked with savoury morsels: croissants, bagels, wraps and sandwiches made with Fairlie Bakehouse bread. Refuel with a smooth coffee or iced drink and your choice of beautifully presented menu food or delectable cabinet fare.

A hand scooping into ice cream.

Ice Ice Baby

328 Stafford Street, Timaru

Ice Ice Baby in Timaru is the first parlour in Te Wai Pounamu by bespoke gelato company Little ‘Lato. Creators of deliciously unique gelato, sorbet and vegan gelato, the imaginative fusion of real ingredients is at the heart of their flavour philosophy. The changing seasons is one of Little ‘Lato’s favourite excuses for the acquaintance of the finest, freshest ingredients. Recipes are developed from scratch – the list of flavours exceeds 200 and is constantly growing. Every single small batch of creative flavours is made by hand and churned to velvety perfection. Whether you’re after a familiar flavour or curious twist, all dietary requirements can be indulged at Ice Ice Baby.

Neat South Canterbury Places

Ministry of Works

Interior view of table at Ministry of Works, Twizel.
Place South Canterbury Twizel
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Ministry of Works is the social go-to for both Twizel residents and visitors alike.

Dark Sky Diner

Waitress serving a table at Dark Sky Diner, Tekapo.
Place South Canterbury Lake Tekapo
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Lakefront location, intimate interiors and compelling cuisine make Dark Sky Diner the ultimate Lake Tekapo dining destination.

77 Art + Living

Art on display on a brick wall and a colourful chair on a wooden floor at 77 Art + Living in Fairlie.
Place South Canterbury Fairlie

Fairlie might not be the first town that comes to mind when thinking of wonderful independent galleries across the motu, but 77 Art + Living is here to change that.

The Yellow Door Café

The Yellow Door exterior in Timaru.
Place South Canterbury Timaru
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One of the latest additions to Timaru’s café scene, The Yellow Door at the high end of Stafford Street is hard to miss.