Into the Blue: Best Waterfront Dining in New Zealand

A woman looking out towards the ocean on a sunny day.

Picture this … it’s a sunny day or warm evening, you’re by the water, eating or drinking something delicious and enjoying ocean views and the company of good friends. The ideal dining scenario, right?

Words by: Julia Rutherford

We are lucky to be surrounded by extensive wild and paradise-like coastlines in Aotearoa and the hospitality scene around the country has taken full advantage of this. There are some magical dining spots right by the waterfront, from the top of the North Island right down to Stewart Island. So whether you’re dining alfresco or keeping warm inside on a less-than-balmy day but still want to enjoy the views, here are our neatest picks for waterfront dining in New Zealand.

Ōtoromiro Hotel, Governors Bay

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52 Main Road, Governors Bay

Situated in Governors Bay, a mere 20-minute drive from the centre of Christchurch, but worlds away from the busy city, the Ōtoromiro Hotel feels like a slice of the Bay of Islands in the Banks Peninsula on a sunny day. This elevated pub is popular among locals and consistently attracts those who live further afield as well. With their beautiful deck and multiple outdoor seating options providing an amazing view across the bay, it’s not hard to see why. So if you’re in the area, make sure you park up, order some drinks and a meal, and take in these beautiful surroundings.

Takapuna Beach Cafe, Auckland

22 The Promenade, Takapuna, Auckland

Takapuna on Auckland’s North Shore is perhaps one of the most visited seaside suburbs in the city. With a vibrant restaurant, cafe and shopping scene, it is easy to see why. Among the many dining choices, there’s one that rises above the rest time and time again, Takapuna Beach Cafe. Their sun-drenched waterfront deck is the place to meet with friends on a sunny weekend for a catch-up over Allpress coffee, fresh juices and a delicious breakfast.

Maranui Café, Wellington

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Lvl1, 7A Lyall Parade, Lyall Bay, Wellington

Lyall Bay is known for its surf beach and excellent hospitality hotspots. Among these, it’s pretty hard to beat the beachside Maranui Café, with its retro vibes, million-dollar views and impeccable service. Not to mention a cracking menu with meals that will leave you feeling full and satisfied long after you leave. Once you’ve finished at Maranui, take a walk along the beach and watch the surfers do their thing, while basking in this seafront location.

The Pier Hotel, Kaikōura

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1 Avoca Street, Kaikōura

The Pier Hotel provides one of the best classic rural pub experiences in the country, add its waterfront location into the mix, and it’s a spot that simply is a must-visit. Situated at the edge of the Kaikōura Peninsula, this pub and restaurant inhabits an iconic 19th Century hotel building. There are plenty of seating options, but on a nice day, the pick of the bunch is a table along the water’s edge. It pays to book ahead, given the Pier Hotel’s popularity, and if you’re visiting from out of town, you might want to consider staying onsite in one of the nine hotel rooms. After all, it gives you more opportunity to soak in those peninsula views.

FISH Restaurant, Auckland

147 Quay Street, Auckland Central, Auckland

Panoramic views, world-class service and a dedication to showcasing sustainably-caught fish right here from New Zealand are the hallmarks of FISH Restaurant in Auckland. Located inside the Hilton Auckland at the end of Princes Wharf, dining here is a luxurious experience. The cuisine is an absolute knockout which is no surprise, given renowned Kiwi chef Des Harris is the culinary director at the Hilton, and there is an excellently curated wine list to match. This is waterfront dining at its very best and memorable.

Seashore Cabaret, Wellington

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160 The Esplanade, Petone, Lower Hutt

Wellington is often said to be the culinary capital of New Zealand, and they certainly aren’t short of eateries along the waterfront. It’s worth venturing to Petone to dine at Seashore Cabaret, found inside the Petone Rowing Club, where the aesthetic embraces the seaside location, as well as vintage touches honouring its past life as a dance hall. The breakfast menu is full of classic dishes done well, alongside a cabinet that’s brimming with tempting items. Soak in those sea views and everything Seashore Cabaret has to offer.

Del Mar, Ōamaru

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16 Waterfront Road, South Hill, Oamaru

Looking for a family-friendly restaurant in Ōamaru that just happens to be beachside with calm, chilled vibes to match? Then you’ve found it in Del Mar Eatery and Beach Bar, where the atmosphere is bright and breezy, and the dishes celebrate being so close to the sea. Stonebaked pizzas and seafood feature heavily on the menu, but make sure you save some room for dessert, their housemade gelato is almost impossible to say no to.

The Esplanade, Dunedin

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250 Forbury Road, Saint Clair, Dunedin

Dunedin’s seaside suburb of Saint Clair is a popular spot to visit year-round. In the summertime, there’s sun, sand and surf to enjoy, whilst in the winter, there’s nothing better than being in a cosy eatery watching a moody weather day on display outside. The Esplanade restaurant suits any season, with its beachfront location, Italian fare and welcoming atmosphere. Share some pizzas, enjoy some wines and make the most of the generous Italian hospitality.

Ki Māha, Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island is a piece of paradise and no matter where you go on the island, there’s a vista to marvel at. Taking full advantage of its stunning location on Onetangi Beach, Ki Māha is an inviting spot to enjoy a long leisurely lunch that stretches out all afternoon. Their menu celebrates the finest New Zealand produce, and the dishes are almost as pretty as the scenery in front of you. 

The Boat Shed, Nelson

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350 Wakefield Quay, Stepneyville, Nelson

The Boat Shed in Nelson is the very definition of waterfront dining, in fact, overwater dining might be the more accurate description, as the building is on stilts sitting above the sea. Knockout views are the result, looking out across Nelson Harbour and beyond. Quite fittingly, seafood features heavily on the menu, with plenty of other delicious options in the mix as well. Or you can throw caution to the wind and decide to do the ‘Trust the Chef’ option and leave your culinary experience up to the experts.