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Monthly Archives: June 2022

Check-in on our New Zealand travel blog for latest news, events and updates - along with a splash of personality from the whole team at Bella Vista!  


Adventure lover’s guide to Invercargill and Stewart Island

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With a reputation as the vintage motoring capital of New Zealand, Invercargill has many other surprising attractions tucked up its deep Southern sleeves. From hunting to fishing and stunning hikes, we’ve rounded up the most epic things to do in Invercargill and Stewart Island.  


Find your inner excavator 

Channel your Bob the Builder or digger driver fantasy by visiting Dig This, New Zealand's first heavy equipment playground. It’s an experience that only the rugged folk of Southland could dream up! Choose between bulldozers, excavators, mini excavators and skid steers to push, scrape and lug gravel around a giant pit. Book the Dig and Destroy session to dig holes, move tyres, pick up basketballs off road cones and crush a car, from your mega-digger. Best of all, no experience or heavy-duty licence is required to get behind the levers and power the peddles. This is an experience for big boys and girls, so put this top of your Invercargill to do list. 


Discover the wild deep south 

Some of New Zealand’s best hiking, fishing and game hunting sits 15 minutes outside of Invercargill. A short flight over to Stewart Island provides a playground of deep-water fishing or back country hunting. There are 35 restricted hunting blocks on Rakiura/Stewart Island, only accessible with an approved hunting permit. So, apply for a permit to reserve your very own hunting tract for a day.  

On a fishing charter from Half Moon Bay, take in the spectacular surroundings of Foveaux Strait and Stewart Island, as you fish for blue cod and bluenose. Learn how to prepare, set and retrieve cod pots and how to fillet your catch once landed. A huge marine reserve in Paterson Inlet is a diver’s paradise, featuring clear waters, underwater forests of tall kelp and amazing marine life.  

One of the best things to do in Stewart Island, is hike a section of the Rakiura Great Walk by combining a flight, hike and water taxi package. You’ll experience amazing birdlife, stunning beaches and the rugged beauty which you’ll only find on New Zealand’s third largest island.  


Marvel over classic motors 

Discover a 50-year restoration journey at Bill Richardson Transport World, one of the top-rated Invercargill attractions. Car lovers will enthuse over 250 vintage vehicles including retro Kombi’s, Henry Ford Model T’s and V8’s, not to mention 150 vintage petrol bowsers. Welcome to the largest private collection in the world of classic cars along with a wearable arts collection, movie theatre and children’s play zones.  

Motorbike enthusiasts will be equally impressed by Classic Motorcycle Mecca, a world-class display of over 300 motorcycles and artworks, with a collection spanning 100 years, including solo, sidecar and three extremely rare New Zealand-made John Britten motorcycles. 

Meanwhile at E Hayes Motorworks, the one and only Bert Munroe is celebrated as the fastest man on two wheels. Kiwi Bert raced a 1920’s Indian Scout against the clock in 1967 to set an unbroken land speed record and was immortalised in the movie "The World's Fastest Indian", starring Anthony Hopkins. Today Bert’s bike is the centrepiece of the extensive vintage Motorworks Collection, proudly displayed alongside power tools, lawnmowers and camping equipment! You read that right as E Hayes is actually a fully-fledged hardware store (formerly owned by a late friend of Berts), rather than a museum, so visitor entry is free!   

Allow a good hour or two at each museum, as there are treasures at every turn. 

After an epic day out, head next door to Louies Cafe & Tapas Bar, one of the best places to eat in Invercargill. Inside the softly lit heritage building, you’ll discover a menu of local flavours and farm to table ingredients, belying the owner’s strong M?ori roots.   

As starters, try the highly rated salt & horopito pepper squid and the finger-licking tamarind ginger glazed chicken followed by a main of roasted lamb rump or freshly caught Stewart Island salmon with orange miso. The moist blue cod with capers, served with a crisp glass of Pinot Gris is a longstanding classic. Skip dessert in favour of an espresso martini, which the locals rave about. 

With so many things to do in Invercargill and great places to eat, ask the Bella Vista team for further recommendations.  Whatever you do, this Southern city of water and light is sure to leave a lasting impression. Bella Vista motels Invercargill are a fantastic, affordable place to stay 

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The best eateries in Hamilton for breakfast, lunch and dinner

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Breakfast / Brunch: THE KIRK CAFE. 6 Te Aroha Street, Hamilton

Take one quick look at the Instagram grid for The Kirk Café and you’ll be straight on the phone to make a booking! The Kirk is known for its impressive presentation, serving up creative and colourful dishes that look like they belong firmly in the pages of a food magazine. Described as the ‘best little gourmet café and brunch spot in Hamilton’, The Kirk Café is open from 8.00am until 2.30pm from Monday to Saturday and opens at a leisurely  9.30am  on  Sundays  to  cater  to  the  later  risers.  With  a  welcoming  interior  and  a  gorgeous  sunny outdoor area for warm and bright mornings, The Kirk café is one of the many nice places to eat in Hamilton within walking distance from our Hamilton motel, and a lovely spot to begin your day.

On the menu are options for healthy and not-so-healthy dishes. They cater to keto diets, gluten free diets and diets that are yet to begin. The sticky fried chicken eggs benedict is a popular choice—but you’ll have to get there early to lock it in. Because it’s always in hot demand and when it’s gone, it’s gone! For something lighter, there’s a delicious superfood vegan granola or eggs with your choice of sides. No matter whether you’re after sweet or savoury, The Kirk Café has something delicious to offer. Make sure you take your phone too –Instagram awaits!


Lunch: GOTHERNBURG.17 Grantham Street, Hamilton

Looking  for lunch  restaurants  in  Hamilton for  a  special  occasion,  a  birthday  surprise  or  just because  you deserve a fantastic meal with impeccable service to boot? You won’t be disappointed with Gothenburg—it’s the highest rated Hamilton restaurant on Trip advisor and the reviews are what restaurateur dreams are made of.Located in central Hamilton, 10 minutes from our Hamilton Motel overlooking the Waikato River, Gothenburg has a beautiful dining room with floor  to  ceiling  windows.  Gothenburg  is  fabulous  for  dinner  too,  but  during  the  day  it  has  such  a  beautiful outlook that it’s a tier above other lunch restaurants in Hamilton.

Gothenburg  has  an  extensive  tapas  menu,  evenly  split  into  vegetable  tapas,  meat  and  poultry  tapas  and seafood tapas.There is a huge range and we can tell you now that you’re likely to have a tough time choosing! Some of the options include spicy Kim Chi and pork dumplings, a brioche crayfish roll and sundried tomato and mozzarella arancini. And if you’ve got room, the dessert and cheese menus will be the icing on the cake of your Gothenburg experience.


Dinner: PALATE.20 Alma Street, Hamilton

If you have an anniversary or a birthday coming up and you’re looking for Hamilton dinner places that offer something special, jump  on  the  Palate  website  and  make  your  booking  now.There’s  a  seven  course degustation menu with matching wines, and if you choose this experience you’ll get VIP where you can see the talented team at work.Otherwise, the a la carte menu offers two courses for $60 or three courses for $75—a very reasonable price for the outstanding quality of the dishes.

The Palate experience is all about top quality food and wine. All the staff are passionate about what they do and this becomes clear from the minute you step through the door. Palate has won multiple awards since it was established  in 2005 and  has become a bit  of a  Hamilton institution... Hamilton dinner places don’t come much better than this! Its an easy 10 minutes drive or taxi back to our Hamilton motel accommodation.

Best day trips Invercargill

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Planning a self-drive tour of the deep South?  Invercargill, the city of water and light, provides the perfect base from which to explore Stewart Island and the beautiful Catlins, Fiordland and Te Anau on the stunning Southern Scenic Route. There are unique experiences within easy reach of New Zealand’s most Southern city, where you can even hire an old-school Kombi van for a classic holiday adventure. Here’s a guide to the best side trips from your comfortable ‘home-away-from home’ at the Bella Vista Invercargill Motel.


Explore the Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail 

One of the best things to do in Invercargill is a drive to the Catlins, the remote jewel in the crown of the Southern Scenic Route, with its wild coastline, dense forests and cascading waterfalls. Head to the Fortrose Cliffs for its panoramic clifftop views, then venture on to the picturesque Waipapa Point Lighthouse. Several walking tracks lead from the lighthouse carpark to the beach, so look out for a sea lion or two. A wildlife encounter is on the cards as the Catlins region is also home to fur seals, yellow-eyed penguins, dolphins, and seabirds. The scenery is equally engaging with pounding surf, desolate beaches, dramatic rock formations and even a petrified forest of ancient trees. The crowds will be non-existent, and the skies will appear more expansive in this remarkable area.   

After a morning’s sightseeing, retreat to the Fortrose Café, which should be included on the best places to eat in Invercargill list, close to your motel accommodation in Invercargill.  Choose from a counter packed full of freshly baked goodies, or heartier options like the home-style seafood chowder or pasta with mushrooms, bacon, and spinach. Sit back, relax and take in the wide sea views over the brim of a piping hot cup of coffee.  

On the return drive, drop into the Catlins village of Waikawa for a glimpse into times past, with its historic and charming main street. 


Steward Island side trip 

Just a 15-minute flight from Invercargill is largely untouched Rakiura Stewart Island.  A protected National Park covers much of the island, meaning it’s a great place for bird watchers, kiwi spotting and hiking. The charming village of Oban provides a slice of local life while a short water taxi to Ulva Island will reveal a predator-free island sanctuary bursting with bird song. You can also experience a short section of the Rakiura Great Walk by booking a fly-hike-water taxi package with Stewart Island Flights, so add this to your Invercargill things to do list. 


Rest day: Invercargill in a nutshell 

Spend the day exploring this Scottish-influenced city, nestled on the banks of the Waihopai River and shores of the New River Estuary. Invercargill’s wide streets are lined with veranda-slung heritage buildings offering great food and coffee, like Industry Café, one of the best brunch places to eat in Invercargill. Their lip-smacking chorizo and bacon cheese rolls are simply divine.   

With a reputation as New Zealand’s “Classic Motoring Capital,” drop into local hardware store, E Hayes Motorworks to view the fastest motorbike in the world. In 1967, Burt Munro's 'World's Fastest Indian' bike set the land speed record which still stands today. 

Take a 20-minute drive from the Bella Vista Invercargill motel out to Bluff’s Stirling point, where New Zealand’s State Highway 1 begins. Snap a picture under the infamous Bluff signpost then take a walk up Bluff Hill for marvellous ocean views. Enjoy lunching on the finest and freshest seafood from the Foveaux Strait, where tasty Bluff oysters may appear on the menu between March and August. These glossy, flavour-packed shellfish are highly sought after the world over. 

The ‘city of water and light’ refers to the long summer days and the spectacularly clear night skies, Invercargill locals enjoy. At twilight, follow the central Heritage Trail to learn more about the area’s history and take a stroll through elegant Queens Park, with its grand entrance gate, themed gardens, animal enclosures and Victorian band rotunda.  


Get a taste for Fiordland  

Discover the Fiordland frontier towns of Manapouri and Te Anau, two hours north of Invercargill. Take a cruise through Doubtful Sound or a scenic flight over Milford Sound to view the fiords. Or travel across Lake Te Anau in a water taxi and hike a short section of the Kepler Track, another New Zealand Great Walk. Milford Sound is naturally magnificent, while locals refer to the less known Doubtful Sound as 'the sound of silence', for its beautiful isolation. On the return drive, stop for photos at Te Anau Downs, for stunning views over Lake Te Anau.   

Give yourself time to explore stunning Southland including the best things to do in Invercargill. There’s so much to see, eat and do that you won’t regret it!  Our local staff are always on always on-hand with more local advice so when you are staying at our motels in Invercargill just ask. 

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Hamilton’s top restaurants for every occasion

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If you’re looking for great places to eat whilst staying at our Hamilton motel, there are plenty of options.But we know that trawling through website reviews can be tiresome. Maybe you’re looking for something for a specific budget, a special occasion or you’ve got a hankering for a delicious buffet! Whatever it is you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered.


For the special occasion

Do yourself a huge favour and pay a visit to Gothenburg or Palate. You’ll experience exquisite food, beautiful views and delightful service in these Hamilton restaurants. Best to book in advance too, they’re popular and can book out on the weekends!


For the best cheap eats in Hamilton

There are lots of good contenders for the best cheap eats in Hamilton,and your preference might just depend on your preferred cuisine. But Hamilton cheap eats, we don’t think you can go past Dumpling House, only 6 minutes from the Hamilton motel. It’s quick, delicious and won’t break the bank!


For the best Asian cuisine in Hamilton

If you’ve got a hankering for some Chinese food, try Sichuan Style on Collingwood Street. As with many Asian restaurants, the menu is extensive and caters well to vegetarians. Popular dishes include the pork Sichuan dumplings, steamed buns and the handmade noodles. Only 7 minutes away from our Hamilton motel accommodation


For the best burgers in Hamilton

Sometimes you just need a big, juicy, delicious burger to fill you up and a cold beer on the side. Burger Bro in the city is the only licensed burger joint in Hamilton and on Thursdays you’ll get both burger and a beer for just $20, offering Hamilton cheap eatsat great value for money. This little Victoria Street eatery is hard to miss—just look for the orange façade! Jump in the car and have a great feed only 6 minutes drive away from your motel accommodation in Hamilton.


For the best pub meal in Hamilton

We’re lucky enough to have a Speights Ale House just ten minutes walk from our Hamilton motel, and we often send hungry guests there when they’re looking for a hearty meal and a relaxed vibe. It’s just by Waikato Stadium too, so ideal if you’re attending an event! A great choice if you want something to eat in Hamilton where you know there will be all your favourites on the menu.


For the best high tea in Hamilton

Zealong Tea Estate is in Gordonton, just outside of Hamilton and only 16 minutes from our Hamilton motel, and is renowned for its high tea experiences. Gather a group together and venture out for selection of tasty treats served among out on the patio overlooking the gardens. And if you’re a tea fan, you can even take a tea tour while you’re out there.


For the best takeaways in Hamilton

If you’re looking for the fastest and best cheap eats in Hamilton that you can take away to enjoy, look no further than Oxford Takeaways.The fresh is fish, the chips crisp and salty and the meal packs are great value if you have a family to feed. Only 5 minutes from our Hamilton Motel.

Hamilton’s top four hikes

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Hiking is incredibly popular here in New Zealand, and we often have visitors staying at our Hamilton motel who make it their mission to complete at least one hike in every city or town they visit. While our city is relatively flat, we’ve got plenty of great hikes to try out in the hills and countryside that surrounds. Here, we’ve rounded up the top five best hikes near Hamilton based on popularity, accessibility and reviews from our guests.

Hakarimata Summit Track

This hike kicks off in the outskirts of Ngaruawahia, about 25 minutes away from our Hamilton motel. While the Department of Conservation calls it an ‘easy’ track, it’s worth keeping in mind that the summit is 335 metres high and there are 1349 steps to climb. But if you’ve got a moderate level of fitness and are keen to try out hikes around Hamilton, please don’t let the steps put you off! Rumour has it that some people even run the track for fun. When you reach the top after about one and a half to two hours, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views across the Waikato Basin and all the way down to Mt Ruapehu on a clear day.The Hakarimata Summit Track is a must if you’ve got a few hours spare and are after cheap things to do in Hamilton.


Nikau Walk, Kaniwhaniwha

The Nikau walk can be found near the small township of Pirongia. From our Hamilton motel, you’ll drive for half an hour on State Highway 3 and then Te Pahi Road until you reach the Pirongia Forest Park / Kaniwhaniwha Reserve. The Nikau Track is a three-hour return walk and there are lots of highlights to enjoy. It’s a great choice for hikes around Hamilton that come with a side of adventure—the Kaniwhaniwha Caves are located near the start of the Bell Track, 5 minutes from the junction with the Nikau Walk, so take a torch and explore them while you’re here. On your seven-kilometre walk, you’ll follow a trickling stream around a loop surrounded by lush green with nikau palms, ferns and plenty of bird life.


Wairere Falls, Okauia

It’s a bit of a drive out to Okauia—just under an hour to be exact—but it’s worth the trip if you love a good waterfall! Wairere Falls is actually thehighest waterfall in the North Island, sitting at 153 metres high. The walk to the viewing platform at the base of the falls take around an hour and a half, but it’s a lovely walk through the cool bush and over little wooden bridges. If you’ve still got energy when you arrive at the base, you can spend another 30-45 minutes climbing to the top of the falls which will give you epic views over the valley and the Waikato Plains.


Hamilton Lake Domain

Ok, so it doesn’t strictly fall under the best hikes near Hamilton, but Hamilton Lake Domain is still a great place for a long, leisurely walk in the fresh air. It’s perfect if you have kids, a pram or require a smooth and flat surface for wheelchair access. The path around Hamilton Lake Domain is almost four kilometers long and you’ll enjoy watching the bird life in the area including ducks, Pukeko and geese. If you’re there are the right time, you might even be lucky enough to see little ducklings or goslings on the lake.Cheap things to do in Hamilton don’t come much better than this and only a couple of minutes drive away from your Hamilton accommodation.

Epic Hokitika Walks and Wonders

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Hokitika crams so much of New Zealand’s best into one cute little town. Stunning ocean sunsets, greenstone artistry, great tasting seafood, and Franz Josef Glacier, just 40 minutes down the road. And what better way to experience the best Hokitika attractions, then on foot or bike! We’ve rounded up the best cycle trails and short walks in Hokitika for avid hikers, bikers and nature lovers. 

Hokitika Gorge (1-hour loop track) 

Just 30 minutes east of our Hokitika motel, is the gorgeous Hokitika Gorge, one of the most stunning walks near Hokitika. This gentle and popular track packs in not one, but two suspension bridges, allowing expansive views of the gorge and the glacier-fed turquoise waters that flow through it. (Don’t jump in, however, as the Hokitika River is swift, cold, and dangerous all year round!)  

The trail reveals a surprise at every turn, jam-packed full of natural beauty and manmade marvels from impressive native trees, expansive views, a swing bridge to bounce across and curving boardwalks. A large rocky outcrop provides a perfect spot to snap photos with the aqua-tinted river and gorge walls, as your backdrop. Photos pop best on a clear sunny day when the water sparkles with a backlit effect. You’ll enjoy spectacular views from the 90-metre suspension bridge of the upper Hokitika Valley and the Southern Alps before entering a forest canopy of towering Miro, Rimu and Kamahi trees. This accessible two-kilometre track is one of the best things to do in Hokitika and a visitor highlight.  

Dorothy Falls Track (2-minutes – that’s right!) 

For waterfall fans, combine the Hokitika Gorge walk with a detour to the impressive Dorothy Falls for a refreshing dip in its natural plunge pool. Don’t let the winding gravel entrance road put you off as it’s likely you’ll have this natural treasure all to yourself. And best of all, it’s only a short two-minute trek to the Falls from the carpark. Afterwards, head to a picturesque picnic spot on nearby Lake Kaniere, one of New Zealand’s most beautiful lakes and a popular spot for both water sports and birdwatching.  


The Treetop Walk 

Head 15 minutes south from our Hokitika motel and you might spot a tall metallic nest peeking above the dense forest canopy. Turn off the highway and you’ll realise it’s not a disused air traffic control tower, but the highest vantage point of the Hokitika Tree Top Walk. This Meccano-like series of interconnecting steel bridges and forest viewing platforms, is one of the top things to do in Hokitika and a West Coast must-do.  

The nearly half-kilometre walkway starts with a gentle ascent into a canopy of Rimu and Kamahi trees bursting with native birdlife. Along the way, informative panels provide insight on the rainforest and West coast ecosystem, a natural habitat for many endangered species. The cherry on the top is the aforementioned ‘Hokitika Tower’, a spiral 100-step staircase up to a 40-metre viewing platform. Here you’ll enjoy expansive views of nearby Lake Mahinapua, the ocean and snow-tinged Southern Alps.  

The next stop is the Mahinapua Springboard, a cantilevered viewing platform, to view the black swans, mallard ducks and white herons, peacefully gliding on the lagoon below. Look out for parakeets and tui too, in the surrounding forest. 

This enjoyable 45-minute canopy walk is one of the best walks near Hokitika, revealing timeless native trees from on high and a slice of New Zealand’s under-threat rainforest. While future generations may miss out, you don’t have too so add this unique attraction to your ‘Hokitika to do’ list. 


West Coast Wilderness Trail 

Hokitika is the main gateway to The West Coast Wilderness Trail, so hire a bike, grab a gourmet sandwich from the Hokitika Sandwich Shop and hit the track for a day ride from our Hokitika Motel. The Trail is part of the national Great Rides network and can be bitten off in short chunks or ridden over four days. You’ll cycle east from Hokitika into the surrounding hills on a smooth, well graded trail towards Greymouth and enjoy views of wild landscapes, the rugged coastline and Southern Alps.  


We can help book daily shuttles to different sections of the 132-kilometre trail and assist with your bike hire too. After a full day’s cycling, you can return to the comforts of the Bella Vista Motel Hokitika and a well-deserved good night’s sleep.

Hungry in Hokitika: Top Places to Eat and Drink

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The West Coast is famous for its stunning scenery, glaciers, Tree Top Walk Hokitika, gorgeous greenstone, and fertile rainforest. But at the Coast’s beating heart, are its local growers, boutique brewers and talented chefs who have transformed the region into a food mecca. Here’s the Bella Vista’s guide to the best places to eat in Hokitika, so you’ll leave inspired, well fed and hungry to return.  


Winner of New Zealand’s Best Sandwich  

The hip folk at the top rated Hokitika Sandwich Shop take their New York-style sandwich making seriously. Made to order, chunky slices of freshly baked ciabatta bread loaded with your choice of free-range meat, organic vegetables, South Island cheeses and condiments, like tangy sauerkraut. No wonder this gourmet sandwich joint has a cult following, especially when the milkshakes are made with Lewis Road Creamery ice cream and the coffee is Fair Trade. So, it came as no surprise to the locals, when the humble Hokitika Sandwich Shop was awarded New Zealand’s 'best toastie'. For a picnic with punch and a quick healthy bite, this is one of Hokitika’s best places to eat lunch and only two minutes from our Hokitika motel.


Best Hokitika Seafood and Pizza 

This seaside town is serious about its seafood so head to the riverside spot of Dulcies, for Hokitika’s favourite fish and chips. Choose from crumbed hoki, gurnard and blue cod with a generous side of salty, fluffy hot chips for under $12 a serve. Go the fully Monty and sneak a decadent chocolate explosion donut into your order. Then grab your paper-wrapped takeaways and stroll to nearby Sunset Point for an al fresco dinner overlooking the sun-striped ocean. (If the mouth-watering fare makes it that far!) Its only 17 minutes walk from our Hokitika accommodation. 

What makes Fat Pipi Pizza unique? Let’s just say their pescatarian-topped pizzas and beach front location are both West Coast winners. Yes, the classic Margherita is on the menu, but where else can you enjoy smoked salmon or 140 grams of whitebait layered with capers and lemon on a garlicky, buttery, doughy base? For vegetarians, there’s the mighty Punk pizza, piled high with caramelised pumpkin, feta, cashews and coriander pesto. Be sure to pair your meal with a glass of the Fat Pipi’s Far Canal wine (or in the local lingo, ‘Fa-kin-hell’), a cheeky Otago red. Whatever your language, the Fat Pipi is West Coast-style pizza perfection, with a well-deserved spot on the best ‘Hokitika Places to Eat’ list.  


Best Hokitika Vegan Café 

In a region where hunting and fishing is a popular pastime, it’s perhaps surprising that one of the best restaurants in Hokitika only serves plant-based food.  But the Gatherer Wholefoods café turns the notion that vegan food is boring, straight on its roasted cauliflower head. And the only hunting this owner chef does, is foraging for the best local field mushrooms. 

With a Mexican-inspired menu big on fresh flavours, tuck into mushroom ceviche or the kumara tacos topped with overnight-marinated cashew cheese. Best of all the taco tortillas are pressed daily and the seasonal menu changes often, so the locals return time and again. This place will turn die-hard meat eaters into legume lovers at first bite. The cafe is only 2 minutes drive from our Hokitika accommodation. 


Best restaurant in Hokitika (to mingle with the locals)  

If you fancy pub-style fare, book the lively Stumpers Bar and Café for dinner, just a five-minute walk from the Hokitika motel. They serve up tasty homestyle food like seafood chowder, lamb shanks, local venison, and wedges of old-fashioned cheesecake (just like Mum used to make) with generous portions to boot. For a friendly slice of Hokitika life (and a game of pool), this popular gastropub is a great place to kick back, after a day’s sightseeing. 


Most innovative Hokitika food 

Fancy grilled huhu grub with a round of colostrum shots? Followed by a dessert platter of larvae ice cream and Chocolate worm truffles? No local food guide would be worth its salt without highlighting the famous Hokitika Wildfoods Festival in March. This unique feasting experience is designed to push your culinary comfort zone, serving up dishes at once odd, yet strangely enticing. The Feral Fashion competition is also a visual feast, where the locals strut their wild side and play furry dress ups, vying for the most Feral of Them All. While you may end up flossing insect legs from your teeth, you’ll love the foody flair which courses through this vibrant West Coast festival. 

While we’ve hopefully whetted your appetite on places to eat in Hokitika, please ask the Bella Vista Motel team in Hokitika for up-to-date information as restaurant opening hours and menus can change between summer, winter and Covid alert levels. We can also tailor suggestions around what you love to eat (or drink)! 

Hidden Hokitika Tree Top Walk

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Hokitika’s cool town cachet is well deserved with its artsy vibe, annual Wild Food Festival and rugged West Coast scenery. But the town’s most popular attraction is poised peacefully above your head in a native forest canopy, just south of the Hokitika Motel.  

Guest blogger, Liz Lyons, shares her family’s experience on the West Coast Tree Top Walk, one of the best things to do in Hokitika. 

Entertaining two teenage boys on a South Island road trip can be a challenging task. The distances are long, the fast-food chains are few, and the Wi-Fi dead zones are parental purgatory. Announce that you’re taking them on a ‘Hokitika tree top walk,’ and the backseat groans are deep and long.  But once my two Neanderthals had sprinted up a 100-step spindly tower to breathlessly take in one of the best views on the West Coast, my reputation as ‘fear factor Mum’ was restored. And best of all: they had no idea this aerial canopy walk even existed. 

It was a rare blue-sky day, when we stepped on the West Coast Treetop Walk, an aerial Meccano-like series of interconnecting steel bridges and viewing platforms, just 15 minutes south of the Hokitika motel. The walkway’s design came from the same team behind four popular canopy walks in Australia, and is now regarded as one of the top things to do in Hokitika, drawing visitors from all over.  

The nearly half-kilometre walkway starts with a gentle ascent into the canopy of Jurassic-looking Rimu and Kamahi trees. Along the way, are informative panels on the rainforest eco system, Hokitika history and the native birdlife. 

The big boy magnet is the ‘Hokitika Tower’, a long spiral staircase leading up to a 40-metre viewing platform, which can sway in the high West Coast winds. 

Luckily the day we visited, the weather played ball and we enjoyed expansive views from a motionless Hokitika Tower, of nearby Lake Mahinapua, the wild Tasman Sea and the snow-capped Southern Alps. The boys even consented to a family photo without pulling faces; a miracle in itself.  

Back on the lower level, the next intrepid stop is the Mahinapua Springboard, a cantilevered viewing platform, which the boys joyfully stomped across, quickly clearing the deck of anxious visitors. The black swans and white herons, gliding peacefully across the serene lake below, ignored the shrieks from the deck above. The boys’ Dad, no less. 

Afterwards, over cheese toasties and C4 coffee at the adjacent Tree Tops café, one of the best outdoor places to eat in Hokitika, my lads boasted about conquering the highest manmade tree walk in New Zealand. While the highlight for their Mum, was getting up close to giant trees and viewing these timeless treasures from the ‘top down.’ Who knows if future generations will get to hover above beautiful rainforest like this? All the more reason to add the Hokitika Tree Top Walk to your ‘Hokitika to Do List’, as this was a memorable experience we’d repeat in a heartbeat.  

More information:  

  • The Hokitika Tree Top walk is a leisurely 45-minute canopy walk along a high steel viewing platform, over 450 metres long.  
  • Pricing: Adults $32, children $16, or $77 for a family of four.  
  • Opening hours: Summer Hours: 9am – 5pm, Winter Hours: 9am – 3:00pm  
  • Fully accessible apart from the narrow tower stairs. A special motorised wheelchair is available on request.  
  • Open rain and shine - umbrella hire and ponchos for sale. 
  • Visit treetopsnz.com 

Getting there: A 15-minute drive south of Hokitika  

Best places to eat Hanmer Springs

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As a popular family and short break destination, the thermal spa town of Hanmer Springs boasts an impressive range of eateries to relax and refuel at, after a day on the slopes, quad biking, rafting or hiking. We’ve done the hard yards and rustled up the best places to eat in Hanmer Springs, whether you’re seeking fine dining, a wine tasting or a hearty meal and brew.  

Best all-day cafés in Hanmer Springs 

And the award goes to the Roasted Bean! Start your day with one of the best lattes or steaming white chocolates in town, because this spot roast their own beans on-site from Colombia, Brazil and Papa New Guinea.  Look out for the specialty banana waffles drenched in maple syrup and the bubbling-cheese doorstopper sandwich, both hugely popular with visitors and locals. If you’re peckish after a soak at the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools or need to feed scratchy kids early, the pizza oven fires up from 5pm. Order a starter of an 8-inch crispy pizza bread with garlic spread, mozzarella and olive oil. Then choose a fully loaded pizza or two, from Moroccan Lamb, Smoked Chicken or the veggie-friendly Pear and Blue Cheese, with caramelized walnuts. With real bases made from scratch and keto-friendly options, everyone will leave full to the brim.   


The Powerhouse Café, set in a repurposed hydroelectric power station building is another a great place for breakfast and lunch offering an array of homestyle food which caters to vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free and gluten-free. 

Best Hanmer Springs vineyard  

You’re spoilt for choice on the 2-hour drive north from Christchurch with a few wineries to choose from. The Waipara wine region is awash with cellar doors and some of the highest altitude vineyards in the country, so add a wine trail to your ‘things to do in Hanmer Springs’ list. With its expert wine makers, drop into the Waiau River Estate over summer, to sample their Hells Gate Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. They grow a range of varietals including Riesling too. If you’re more of a red drinker, indulge in a tasting of their small-vintage Pinot Noir. You won’t be disappointed as you savour top class wine and take in stunning views up the Waiau Gorge towards Hanmer Springs and the Southern Alps foothills.  


Best sweet treats 

If you’re a big kid with a sweet tooth, or want to delight the little kids, one of the best Hanmer Springs attractions are its boutique sweet makers. From mouth-watering squares of creamy fudge at The Fudge Shop to big gob-smackers, New Zealand made brittle, and other childhood favourites at The Lolly Pot, these sweet spots are one of the best things to do in Hanmer Springs with kids. 


Best family-friendly dining 

With an on-site playground, a spacious indoor area and alfresco seating, the Fire & Ice Cafe Restaurant and Bar offers a great spot for families to relax or couples to find a quiet corner. Its bistro-style menu will suit the pickiest or fussiest little diner. Enjoy a seafood or antipasto platter while the kids chow down on junior servings of fish and chips, pasta carbonara or a chicken salad wrap. The ‘Farm on a Plate,’ a virtual meat grazers fantasy of pork, steak, chicken, ham, and sausage, topped with fried egg, and a side of fries might just beat the heartiest of appetites. 


Best fine dining experience  

With a swag of New Zealand beef and lamb awards, and an award-winning head chef, No.31 Restaurant is a great dining destination for gourmet meat-lovers. Experience premium New Zealand eye fillet and other local specialities like Fiordland wild venison or duck, in a lovely cottage courtyard in summer or besides a cosy open fire with a candle-lit table in winter. Save room for their warm sticky liquorice pudding, served with salted caramel sauce, candied walnuts and vanilla bean ice cream. With an extensive wine list, treat yourself to an evening of memorable food and warm yet deferential hospitality, befitting an eatery of this standard. This spot is a deserving contender for ‘Best Restaurant Hanmer Springs.’  


Best cheap eats Hanmer Springs 

From highbrow to high five burgers, check out the menu at PJ’s for great takeout. With a range of tasty burgers and fish and chips to go, visitors consistently rate PJ’s as one of the best burger places to eat in Hanmer Springs. 

Guests often ask the Bella Vista team about the best places to eat in Hanmer Springs. We’ll not only recommend popular Hanmer Springs attractions but where best to whet your appetite. 


Close to the hot pools and ample great eats Bella Vista is a great choice in Hamner Springs motel accommodation. Book now and start your holiday off right!

Hanmer Springs best hikes

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The picturesque spa hamlet of Hanmer Springs, with its natural thermal springs and crisp alpine air, has long attracted visitors since the 19th century. It’s a great base for keen hikers with stunning day walks in Hanmer Springs and the surrounding Hurunui district. We’ve rounded up the best short Hanmer walks.  

Best orientation walk (1-hour return) 

Arrived early? No worries, drop your bags at the Bella Vista check-in and head up Conical Hill for the best views of the village and Hurunui countryside. The gentle zig-zag trail winds up through a protected pine forest of Japanese cypress, giant fir and Atlantic cedar, brimming with birdlife. You’ll emerge at a lookout approximately 200m above the village. Perch at the top and enjoy a patchwork vista of Hanmer Springs and North Canterbury laid out before you. This Hanmer forest walk is one of the more popular things to do in Hanmer Springs.  


Top 3-in-1 circuit walk (2-hours return) 

This is one of the more diverse walks in Hanmer linking three well-groomed tracks into one full loop. The Upper Dog Stream Track, Jolliffe Saddle Track and Timberlands Trail Circuit are yours for the taking, in under two hours.   

The gentle Upper Dog Stream Track heads upstream through shady forest revealing excellent views of Mt Isobel at the picnic area. Beyond the Dog Stream footbridge, the zig-zag track becomes rougher as it climbs through native beech forest to intersect with the Jolliffe Saddle Track. A small clearing on the pass summit comes with a picnic table and splendid views of upper Dog Stream and Mount Isobel. Venturing over the saddle, the track passes through dense, sunlight-dappled exotic pine, before it crosses Jolliffe Road and joins the final sector, the easy, downhill Timberlands Trail. At the base, you’ll encounter a large grove of impressive Californian Redwood as you return back to Jollies Pass Rd, just a 7-minute drive from the Bella Vista Hanmer Springs. 


Best waterfall walk Hanmer Springs (half day) 

Once again, head for Jollies Pass Road to reach this trail. This fairy grotto-like track includes stairs, narrow cliff faces and watershed crossings so best suited to experienced hikers or families with teenagers. Once you reach the main waterfall, enjoy picture-perfect views of cascading water, the surrounding fern glade and green-tinged rocks lined with moss.  

Rather than returning the same way, hop on the clearly marked Spur Track, beside a smaller set of cascading falls.  This trail initially climbs up away from the stream, traversing an open meadow above the bush line, providing epic views of the Waiau Valley far below. You’ll then descend through native forest to reach the Mt Isobel Road and the Nature/Fir Trails, a direct shortcut back to the Waterfall Track carpark.  

The Bella Vista team will happily provide recommendations on the best walks in Hanmer Springs. Otherwise, pop into the Hanmer Springs i-SITE Visitor Centre for detailed trail maps on Hanmer walks.  

Start enjoying all the best bits of the South Island with your stay at one of the best Hanmer Springs motels. Our team are here to help you relax and enjoy your stay.