A day out in the West Coast’s great outdoors is thirsty, hungry work. It’s always been like that here!
So, here’s where to fuel your outdoor adventures with good honest food and legendary West Coast hospitality. It’s not all beer and pies on the West Coast but there are definitely some fine examples of both on the regional menu.
While bars stay open, hungry travellers are advised to check in or book early for dinner service as many West Coast restaurants and pub kitchens close early. Besides, you’ll want to be up early again for your next adventure.
No visit to the West Coast would be truly complete without bevvies and a meal in a local pub. West Coast pubs have pretty much remained true to their traditions — don’t expect fancy menus here, just good classic Kiwi pub grub.
The Woodstock Hotel (estab. 1865) is a popular locals’ haunt in the countryside near Hokitika. A survivor with a colourful history, ‘the Woody’ has been rolled around the road on beer barrels (from one site to another), served as a meeting place, post office and a morgue (yup). It inspired a craft brewery, serves great pub food and hosts the Hokitika Music Club on Sundays (250 Woodstock-Rimu Road). It pays to book your table.
On the road from Hokitika to pretty Lake Kaniere and right on the Wilderness Trail, the Kaniere Hotel (289 Kaniere Road) is an unassuming little establishment that harks back to gold mining days. It offers a toasty fireplace for colder nights, hearty Kiwi fare (including Sunday roasts) and budget accommodation. On Thursday nights, there’s live music or an open mic.
Looking for a good ‘ol knees up? Head to the Historic Empire Hotel, in Ross on the last Friday of the month. The last of the bawdy establishments that once lined the streets of gold-rich Ross, The Empire (19 Aylmer Street, Ross) is a golden survivor. Enjoy the roaring fire, full dinner buffets, Sunday roasts and meeting friendly locals. It’s just across the road from the Ross Historic Goldfields & Heritage Centre.
Back in the 1860s when Hokitika was flush with gold fever, there were 80-plus pubs on the ‘crooked mile’. Most disappeared as the miners moved onto other fields of fortune, but The Pioneer (estab. 1866), is still serving up old-fashioned West Coast hospitality. On the river bank, beside the West Coast Wilderness Trail, The Pioneer offers a full bar, casual evening and weekend dining.
Right opposite the Clocktower (erected in 1907 by patriotic townspeople to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII) there’s no missing the Clocktower Cafe (41 Weld St). Fuel your day with a hearty breakfast, coffee and freshly made baking. Visit Waewae Pounamu on the opposite corner.
For the best fresh cut sandwiches to take away, the Hokitika Sandwich Company (83 Revell Street) makes to order with bread baked in town, free range meat, artisan cheese, local organic ingredients and home-made condiments. Open 10am - 2pm (get in early or call ahead before they sell out).
At the end (well almost) of the road north, Karamea’s legendary hospitality is worth going all the way for. A charming restored Victorian era establishment, the Karamea Village Hotel is a family affair that does award-winning cuisine (whitebait is a speciality), pub grub and seasonal fare. There’s also motel accommodation (141 Waverley St).
Quirky, arty, surrounded by nīkau palms and committed to doing things right for the environment, The Last Resort is a local icon with five accommodation styles, a licensed restaurant, café and a bar. The Last Resort café serves up coffee and café fare to eat in or take out; meet the locals at the bar or dine in at the licensed restaurant (71 Waverley St).
From a van into a yurt, then a café setting in the old cinema / dance hall at Market Cross, Vinnie’s Cafe has worked its way into Karamea’s local establishment. Owner Vinnie arrived 22 years ago for the weekend, and never left — hooked by this little town and its laidback lifestyle. Excellent coffee, amazing pies and toasted sandwiches!
Spot the cheery yellow exterior of Westport’s Denniston Dog restaurant, café and bar (18 Wakefield Street) and head inside for a light meal, stone grill or other honest Kiwi pub fare. This friendly little local does breakfast, lunch and dinners flavoured with photos and memorabilia telling intriguing tales of life on the Denniston coal fields.
Craft beer followers are excited about Shortjaw Brewing bar and taproom ( 10 Lyndhurst Street). New-in-town but fast growing a following, Shortjaw is an innovative craft beer and natural wine destination. Named for a species of tiny West Coast whitebait, Shortjaw has resurrected an old brewery to produce small batch brews based on local ingredients and flavours.
Drop into the Whanake Gallery & Espresso Bar in a beautifully restored heritage building on Westport’s main drag (173 Palmerston Street) and you won’t be disappointed. Find super yummy savouries and home baking to go with great coffee to take out, gorgeous artisan giftware and West Coast photography to admire or take home.
If it’s raining, you’ll enjoy the music on the tin roof at the West Coast Pie Company (258 Palmerston Street, Westport) while you refuel on an exceptional array of tasty handcrafted meat pies. Made exclusively from wild game, your big protein shot also protects biodiversity by utilising the pests — venison, goat, tahr, hare or wild pork — that threaten native habitats. Try one of several venison options or the ‘honey & manuka smoked wild pork’ pie.
Way back in 1868 — when men were men, life was hard, and pleasures were few — Greymouth had one brewery and 56 pubs, second only to Hokitika. Today Greymouth is still producing the goods with a couple of craft breweries and some fine establishments in town.
Greymouth is pretty much New Zealand’s original home of craft brewing, a story that began back in 1868 with an enterprising Stewart Monteith. Today you can visit the original Monteith’s brewery site (60 Herbert Street), take a tour to learn about the proud history, sample the wares, cosy up by the fire and dine in the café.
The Union Hotel (estab. 1889) is a classic old-style Kiwi pub. In the steady hands of the Toal family for the past 40 years, the Raceway Carvery is a popular local institution specialising in old-school, home-cooked dishes (free soup with mains). Get in early ahead of the regular queue at 20 Herbert Street.
Finally, two notable Greymouth establishments. For fine contemporary dining, don’t miss Sevenpenny (9 Tainui Street) inspired by an historic beer-drinking boycott when local publicans tried and failed to raise the price of a pint. Meanwhile, down on the waterfront in an historic building, Speight’s Ale House serves up another New Zealand classic brew. This beautifully refurbished red brick building is a smart gastro pub serving award-winning ales and modern pub fare.