Ashburton is the New Black - A New Look Guide to this Mid Canterbury Town

Plates of food and cocktails on a table.

Just over an hour south of Ōtautahi Christchurch sits the rural township of Hakatere Ashburton. Servicing a greater area of Mid Canterbury, this is where the coast, the mountains, the rivers and the rural landscape meet. For many Cantabrians, this is a town you pass through along journeys north or south, but scratch the surface, and you’ll find much more to Ashburton than you see along the highway.

Words by: Petra Nyman

Photos by: Nancy Zhou and Jerome Warburton

A new innovative development just east of the main road invites people to discover Ashburton’s fresh and unseen face. To make your rediscovery of this Ashburton Precinct easier, we’ve guided you in the right direction, and on top of The Triangle, we’ve added a few more new and notable establishments to hit while in town.

A man wearing black standing in front of the camera.

The Triangle Precinct is a historic collection of shops that was once a vibrant and inviting town centre. Over the years, as Ashburton expanded, it fell forgotten until local developer Justin Skilling decided to tackle the tidying up task – one by one, the buildings began to take on a new lease in life with a lick of black paint, curated tenants and stylish fit-outs.Now, The Triangle Precinct is a destination filled with quality eateries, butchers, cafes and hairdressers and Justin’s signwriting and design business, Juice Signs + Design. The area is easy to spot – just watch for the cluster of black exteriors, and you’ve come to the right place.

Smoke Restaurant, Ashburton

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231 Cameron Street, Ashburton

A slice of USA in the heart of Ashburton, Smoke Restaurant & Butchery is all about low & slow barbeque. A cornerstone of the restaurant scene of The Triangle Precinct, the restored barn-turned-restaurant with a steampunk-inspired bar is sure to transport you to the roots of the style of cooking heroed here. Smoke’s expansive outdoor courtyard is positioned perfectly for afternoon and early evening sun, ideal for a pint and a bite to eat on a summer’s day. Walk through the restaurant to its onsite butchery to appreciate the craft and grab a piece of meat for later.

The Rabbit, Ashburton

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110 Victoria Street, Ashburton

The Rabbit sits neatly on the corner of Victoria and Cass Streets, offering a playfully luxurious spot for daytime coffee and ready-to-grab sushi or nighttime cocktails and dessert, bringing a new after-dark experience to town. This spot caters to various occasions and is filled with little details to discover, cosy nooks and large tables fit for big groups. Whether you need a lunch-on-the-run or a quiet spot for out-of-the-office-work during the daylight hours or somewhere special to enjoy a drink or two after dark, the Rabbit should be your destination.

Triangle Espresso, Ashburton

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Corner Cass & 114 Victoria Street, Ashburton

Drop into Triangle Espresso for quality coffee crafted from Allpress beans and an impressive variety of cafe food. A friendly local coffee shop, this is the heart of The Triangle Precinct and where you’ll see locals catching up on a daily basis. Fill up on gorgeous food, made on site of course, which caters to most dietary needs. There’s plenty of indoor and outdoor seating to suit your needs, and on hot summer days, the windows open right up, and customers spill out on the footpath, creating a vibe fitting for a bigger town.

Te Whare Whakatere

221 Baring Square East, Ashburton

Ashburton Civic Building & Library Te Whare Whakatere is just a stone’s throw away from The Triangle Precinct and well worth discovering. The brand-new, purpose-built building and grounds are a massive asset to the town, offering locals and visitors alike an experience with plenty to discover within the state-of-the-art library facility. A ground-floor cafe keeps visitors caffeinated, and the green spaces around the building work as wonderful spots to wind down for a moment and take in the newfound enhancement of Ashburton town centre. 

The Cakelady, Ashburton

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2/75 Harrison Street, Allenton, Ashburton

A cake shop wonderland, The Cakelady is your one-stop-shop for cake making products and some of the most amazing handmade cakes you ever did see. Owner-operator baker extraordinaire Tharina Nel can turn just about anything into a cake, and we mean anything. Whether you’d like an edible version of your cat or your partner’s work boots, she can make it happen. The Cakelady’s creations are renowned across New Zealand and get shipped across the motu. Pop in here, and you can taste a piece to find out what the fuss is all about.


Tables and chairs at Somerset Grocer.

Somerset Grocer

161 Burnett Street, Ashburton

A block south of Te Whare Whakatere, you’ll find Somerset Grocer, a gourmet grocer and cafe filled with local and international produce. This is where you’ll discover specialty pantry fillers, exotic sweets, quality kitchenware, deli items, plus great coffee and kai. Settle down for a coffee and lunch, or wander through and take in all this special store offers. A locally loved spot, there’s often a hive of activity within the store, and it’s hard to walk out its doors without picking up a little something special to take home with you.


The Fine Lion

Level 1/152 Burnett Street, Ashburton

Across the road and up the stairs from the Somerset Grocer, you’ll find The Fine Lion. A culinary oasis, this is a destination for experiencing a taste of Ashburton. Stunning interiors set the bar high, and expectations matched with amicable service and high-quality dishes. Find a space on the balcony and watch the world go by with your drink of choice in hand, or settle into a private nook for a romantic dinner over a glass of wine and delicious food. Whether you’re after a full meal or a few drinks amongst friends, Fine Lion will look after you.

Krung Thep Thai Street Food

96 Harrison Street, Allenton, Ashburton

Named after Thailand’s capital city as the locals know it, Krung Thep serves authentic Thai street food to the lucky locals of Hakatere. Serving the country’s most famous on-the-go dishes filled with flavour and fresh ingredients, a visit to Krung Thep will satisfy a craving for quality Thai food. The colourful interiors and quality dishes whipped up in the busy kitchen make a visit to this restaurant a cheerful one every time – bring along a BYO bottle and make it an extra cheerful occasion.

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