Top 10 Coastal Cafes in the North Island

A cafe offering ocean views in Petone, Wellington

The North Island knows a thing or two about great cafes – and there’s no shortage of lively lunch and brunch spots that are big on atmosphere and dish out noteworthy food and drink.

Words by: Nicola Amy Himan

Photos by: Anna Briggs

Dotted along the coastline you’ll find quirky little spots with epic waterfront views and neighbourhood institutions that treat you to a taste of that laidback coastal life. Here are a few of our favourites...

The Cove Cafe

910 Cove Road, Waipu

If you happen to be a fan of long lingering brunches with epic ocean views (and let’s be real, who isn’t?) then The Cove will be one of those places you’ll never want to leave. Sitting opposite one of Northland’s most iconic beaches, you couldn’t possibly choose a better location for your next dining experience. The menu is chockful of solid menu classics with a unique Cove twist, and with ‘support local’ being a key part of the ethos here - everything on your plate is as fresh as it gets. 

Seashore Cabaret

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160 The Esplanade, Petone, Lower Hutt, Wellington

Seashore Cabaret in Petone is Wellington's cheeky nod to seaside dining with a twist. Situated in the old Rowing Club, this café is a whirl of colours and quirky vibes. It's where vintage meets beachfront – and yes, there are pinball machines. The menu is a hearty mix of breakfast favourites and lunchtime staples, with a solid inclusion of local seafood. Whether you're here for the killer harbour views or the bustling, lively atmosphere, Seashore Cabaret makes waiting for a table part of the adventure. Just kick back, enjoy the scene, and maybe, just maybe, beat the high score on one of those pinball machines while you're at it.

The Citadel

14 Rangiora Street, Castlecliff, Whanganui

The Citadel in Whanganui's Castlecliff really hits the spot with its standout burgers and famous loaded fries. It's a casual, buzzing place where the warm friendly service is second to none and the beach is barely a stroll away. The community vibe here is strong, the kind of place where everyone knows your name and your coffee order is ‘just the usual thanks’. Whether you’re soaking up some rays in their beautiful courtyard or bringing the family in for a feast, The Citadel has nailed the recipe for a great local hangout.

ULO's Kitchen

6 Wallis Street, Raglan

There’s nowhere else quite like ULO’s Kitchen in Raglan. The decor is an eclectic fusion of beachside bach, Mexican cantina, and your Grandma’s living room from the 1970s. Somehow that unusual combo works incredibly well and sets the stage for a knockout menu of Japanese fusion dishes that will wow your socks off. Everything about the place says ‘attention to detail’, from the hand-drawn menus and illustrated cocktail list, to edible flowers that adorn every dish and drink. With regular live bands, and DJs spinning actual vinyl, ULO’s is one of those spots that has good vibes by the bucketful. 

The Lockup

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52b Marine Parade, Paraparaumu Beach, Kāpiti Coast

Hidden away down the end of a driveway you’ll find The Lockup - a quirky little eatery with amazing food and friendly local vibes. Just a stone's throw from the beach, this Kāpiti Coast hideaway is a hit with its garage-turned-café setup. It's all about kicking back in their builder's yard-style outdoor seating, enjoying the locally roasted Dark Horse Coffee, and munching on some homemade goodness. Whether you’re lounging outdoors on a bean bag or chilling inside, The Lockup is a delightfully unpolished gem where the food is hearty, the coffee strong, and the vibe is unmistakably Kāpiti.

Hone's Garden

10 York St, Russell

If an idyllic hidden garden setting plus amazing woodfired pizza and craft beer sounds like your ideal combo then a road trip to the Bay of Islands is in order. The vibe at Hone’s is quintessentially Northland - relaxed dining and warm friendly service, surrounded by lush native greenery and some sweet Kiwi beats to round out the scene. Their menu boasts a range of mouth-watering woodfired pizzas, alongside a fresh selection of seafood dishes and tasty sides. Just a short walk from the waterfront, this hidden gem is the perfect end to a day of exploring the gorgeous Bay of Islands.

Takapuna Beach Cafe

22 The Promenade, Takapuna, Auckland

Nestled right on the edge of Takapuna Beach, this cafe is a local favourite for its laid-back vibe, incredible food, and stunning ocean views. Regulars swear by their Allpress coffee and freshly baked pastries, perfect for those leisurely mornings by the sea. The menu, a reflection of the seasons, features everything from hearty breakfast options to lighter bites and market fresh fish. All of which should be followed by a generous scoop of their housemade gelato. Whether you're lounging on the sunny deck or grabbing a takeaway for a beach stroll, this spot is all about enjoying life’s simple pleasures.

Akitō Eatery

153 Ocean View Road, Oneroa, Waiheke Island

Waiheke’s plant-focused Akitō Eatery is a serene haven that could easily be at home in the likes of Byron Bay. It embodies a laid-back, 'slow food' philosophy, where each dish is crafted with care and a pinch of patience. With its eco-conscious approach, minimising waste and championing local produce, Akitō isn't just about good food; it's also about good practices. The menu is a vibrant ode to plants, but don't worry, there's something for the bacon-and-eggs crowd too. Akitō is that perfect spot to grab a seat, unwind, and enjoy a slice of island life with a side of conscious dining.

Maranui Café

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Lvl1, 7A Lyall Parade, Lyall Bay, Wellington

Perched above the Surf Life Saving club, Maranui Cafe has battled both flames and time to serve up hearty, satisfying fare with a view that's hard to beat. Its heritage roots show in the retro decor, vintage booths, and surf memorabilia that give the place a cosy, familiar vibe. Locals queue up not just for the food, which is plentiful and crafted to please, but for the sweeping views of Lyall Bay, where surfers dot the horizon. Grab a window seat or lounge on the deck, and let their 'beach breakfast' and house-made crumpets revive you.

Dulcie

33 King Edward Parade, Devonport, Auckland

This elegant Devonport eatery, set in a charming 1920s building just steps from the sand, offers infinitely more than just a picturesque waterfront view. Owner Scott Kennedy, inspired by Melbourne's vibrant brunch culture, has infused Dulcie with a sense of refined culinary artistry. The menu is a creative twist on classic brunch staples, featuring delights like Eggs Benedict on cacio pepe hash brown and Brioche French Toast with lemon custard and elderflower. The thoughtfully designed space is an absolute pleasure to unwind in. With its sophisticated aesthetic and serene sea views, Dulcie is a tribute to elevated, leisurely dining by the ocean.