Have a cup of coffee or tea in a cafe with character. There are 49 unusual cafes listed, we have included cafes that are unusual because of the way they are built, eg. Cafe Eutopia, Kaiwaka; they are themed eg. Mainline Station Cafe, Domett or they have interesting attractions additional to the cafe itself, eg. L'Arte, Taupo.
If you have any suggestions for cafes to add, feel free to email us. If you have a sweet tooth you may like to visit the Chocolate Directory or High Tea information.
(Updated: December 2016)
What's New? Paying it forward in Auckland - Merge Cafe
Madhatters Donna's Cafe, 17 Leigh Street
There's a neat little mother and daughters enterprise on the main street in Kaeo - Madhatters Donna's Cafe, DROFnROC clothing boutique and Hair on Earth Salon. Madhatters Cafe is bright blue and has pink and white umbrellas on the deck and a big rainbow coloured chair in front so you can't miss it. There are Alice in Wonderland touches inside including an Alice jig saw, a top hat made from ties and a small tea pot collection. Alice's open egg burger and Donna's truck and trailer (I'm guessing that's a big breakfast) are on the menu or there are pies and sweet treats in the cabinet. Call in to Kaeo for a cup of tea, 'it's always tea-time' according to the Mad Hatter.
Beautiful pottery is made at Morris & James using Matakana clay and signature glazes. Brick & Vines Cafe opened in October 2016 taking the place of what was The Pottery Cafe. There is still a lovely courtyard to sit in, and you can learn more about Morris & James by taking a free factory tour at 11.30am daily.
Puhoi Cottage Tearooms, 50 Ahuroa Road
Puhoi Cottage Tearooms is the oldest tearoom in New Zealand still serving Devonshire teas. I don't know how they bake their scones in Devon, but they bake them tall in Puhoi. I sliced the 'scone tower' into four pieces and had no room for anything else but a cup of Earl Grey tea. The Tearooms are situated in a leafy garden in the Puhoi Valley.
Espresso Coffee School, 15 Swanson Street
If you're intrigued by the idea of a Gift Economy, that's how Espresso Coffee School works. You order your coffee and pay what you want, or don't pay. I'm not recommending the don't pay option, for one thing the coffee is too good to be free. A small selection of food is sold the same way, there are old school desks to sit at, and copies of the NZ Herald to read. Open Monday- Friday, 7am until around 1pm.
Cakes n Ladders Board Game Cafe, 173 Symonds Street
Cakes n Ladders Board Game Cafe was partially crowd funded via Kickstarter, funds were used to fill the shelves with board games. The shelves are helpfully labelled as adults only, family games etc to help you choose what to play, and there's a list of games on the website. We chose a trivia game called Fact or Crap, who knew - Singer Bono of U2 took his name from a billboard advertisement for a hearing aid retailer; Ancient Greeks buried eggs with their dead; A mouse mile measures computer mouse activity.
It costs $2.50 per person per hour to play the games.
The cafe is light and bright, has wooden floors and colourful rugs, and plenty of seating for groups and families. There's a short menu that includes cup cakes, slices and cookies as well as a couple of hot savoury items. The cafe is open 5pm -10pm Wednesday - Friday, 10am - 10pm Saturday and Sunday. (If you're familiar with Gina's Italian Kitchen at 161 Symonds Street, Cakes n Ladders is in the same groups of shops).
The Cat Lounge, 173a Archers Road, Glenfield
New Zealand's first cat cafe opened on 7 November 2015, The Cat Lounge is half cafe and half cat friendly space. Cat and kitten visits of up to an hour cost $10 for adults and $8 for kids and seniors. I caught the bus from Britomart Transport Centre in the city to Glenfield to check it out - see The Cat Lounge via thecuriouskiwi/blog.
The Bethells Cafe, Te Henga/Bethells Beach (approximately 30kms north west of Auckland city)
If you are looking for some wild West Coast surf you will find it at Te Henga / Bethells Beach. Life guards were on duty the day we visited and it was just as well, the sea swells were mighty. There is an estuary that feeds into the surf that is safe for children to paddle around in. If you get hungry trek across the hot black sand to The Bethells Cafe that whips up fruit smoothies, puts together West Coast burgers and sells ice creams, cakes and beverages.
Kauri Gum Store Cafe, 22 School Road, Riverhead
In the 1860's Kauri Gum Store Cafe was a trading post for the local gum digging community. These days it's choc full of memorabilia from times gone by, and home to a macabre gum digging display under a glass floor (I'll let you discover that for yourself). (Note: Kauri Gum Store came under new ownership in June 2017 and the interior may be changed, see Trip Advisor for updates).
Bugger Cafe, 1492 State Highway 25, Pipiroa
We were towing the caravan when I asked Mike to do a u-turn so we could go to Bugger Cafe, I've got to say he said a bit more than bugger :). We'd just had breakfast so I only got a flat white to go but the food looked scrumptious. The owners of Bugger Cafe want everyone to laugh more, it's easy to do when looking at the photos of 'bugger moments' in the cafe, they share some on Facebook too. It's a good cafe stop to make if you're travelling between Auckland and Coromandel, definitely worth the u-turn. Open 7 days, 8am - 5pm.
The Secret Garden, 17 Wilson Road, Waihi Beach
It's not often I open a door and find myself transported into another world but that's what happened when I opened the door to The Secret Garden. We relaxed in a Balinese style hut but you can also pull up a cushion at a low table on the lawn. Tropical flowers and plants blend in with garden ornaments and it's a peaceful escape in a town that's already blessed with a great beach on its door step. The menu isn't large at The Secret Garden but dishes include filled croissants with side salad, slices and a range of hot and cold drinks.
Katikati Bird Gardens, 263 Walker Road East (7kms south of Katikati)
The Katikati Bird Gardens are a pleasant place to break your journey for morning or afternoon tea. We were lucky enough to see a peacock proudly display its plumage. You can sit on the verandah and look out over the gardens and/or pay an entrance fee to walk through the gardens. You can stay onsite in the Bird Gardens Cottage.
Something unusual we discovered about Katikati - it has a Haiku Pathway. The haiku above: whitebait season ... fishermen fritter away the day. (For more haiku see thecuriouskiwi/blog - Take a walk with words).
Avgas Cafe & Bar, 9 Jean Batten Drive, Mount Maunganui
Avgas Cafe & Bar is an aviation themed cafe located next to the Aviation Museum. Model vintage planes hang from the ceiling, archival aviation and classic aircraft footage is on screen inside, and there's a plane for the kids to pilot in the outdoor play area. The cafe is open 7 days from 7am - 4pm.
If you'd like to go up in the air, book a flight in one of the biplanes, soar through the sky in a glider. or take a scenic flight in a DC3. If you'd prefer to keep your feet on the ground you can buy a model plane from The Bunker gift shop.
Zealong Tea Estate, 495 Gordonton Road (formerly listed as Camellia Tea House)
Zealong Tea Estate is home to New Zealand's only tea plantation. The onsite restaurant serves lunch and high tea as well as five flavours of Zealong tea. If you're keen to learn more about the tea and the history of Zealong guided tours are an option. It's especially nice to sit outside overlooking the rows of tea plants, we also recommend high tea - High Tea at Zealong Tea Estate via thecuriouskiwi/blog. Open Tuesday - Sunday, 10am - 5pm. Closed public holidays.
Jukebox Diner, 11 Railside Place, Dinsdale
Flashback to the 50's at the American themed Jukebox Diner with its bright red booths and Chevrolet condiment counter. We stopped in for burgers and a browse through the NZ Hot Rod magazines. If you like classic cars and automobilia you can visit the adjoining Classics Museum, we wrote about some of the more unusual vehicles on display. You could also time your visit with the Petrolhead Breakfast on the first Sunday of the month.
Te Uku Roast Office, 3438 State Highway 23
The old Te Uku Post Office has been turned into Te Uku Roast Office, it's open from 6am to serve coffee to commuters doing the Raglan to Hamilton run. There is a small selection of food, but it's essentially a coffee stop with a small art gallery attached. The gallery is a fitting tribute to Ernest Moon, a former Te Uku Post Office Post Master and artist who didn't have the use of his hands so learned to paint with his feet.
We like the art work that is Raglan Roast's Raglan centric logo - a coat of arms featuring a Maori warrior with a surf board, and a coffee cup. The logo didn't go down well with some people and complaints were made because of the logo's similarities to New Zealand's coat of arms, it was decided no action would be taken. Raglan Roast also brews coffee in Raglan, Wellington and Nelson.
Bugger Cafe, 29 Main Road, Tirau
The second Bugger Cafe opened in Tirau in April 2015 and it's become a regular stop when we drive from Rotorua to Auckland. The cafe is spacious and has plenty of windows so it's light and bright, there's also seating on the deck for sunny days. We like the stylish fit out, the friendly staff and ofcourse the 'bugger moments' around the cafe. Big bugger and little bugger sausage rolls, carrot cake and coffee are popular choices for our quick lunch stops.
Abracadabra Cafe & Bar, 1263 Amohia Street
Abracadabra is more rustic in style now, rather than Mexican and Moroccan themed, but there is still the spacious bar out the back, and the three colourful rooms ideal for small groups. We especially recommend the churros on the dessert menu, and the happy hour drinks and tapas Tuesday - Sunday from 5-7pm. Open 6 days, closed Monday.
L'Arte, 255 Mapara Road, Acacia Bay
Visit L'Arte for breakfast, lunch or a glass of wine and an antipasto platter. We chose lunch from the cabinet but you can order breakfast and lunch from the menu. If you like mosaic art you will love L'Arte's outdoor mosaic living room.
Follow the mosaic path to the small onsite gallery selling art work created by New Zealand artists. L'Arte is about 20 minutes drive from Taupo town centre, we think it's well worth the detour for the excellent food and inspiring art work.
Storehouse, 14 Runanga Street, Taupo Central
A few things have changed since I wrote a blog post about Storehouse - due to the cafe's popularity the florist has relocated and the homeware area hasn't expanded. Craft beer, cocktails and live music have been added to the menu and you can now dine and drink until 10pm Wednesday - Saturday. Blueberry waffles, and sliders are our regular choices from the menu and are recommended. If you like a reuse and recycle vibe with your coffee and are looking for somewhere a bit different to dine Storehouse is worth finding.
The Federal Store - Cafe & Deli, 440 Devon Street East
My first visit to The Federal Store was during the WOMAD Festival and it was packed to bursting. Returning to New Plymouth a few months later, we found it just as popular on a sunny Sunday afternoon when we called in for coffee and cake. There are touches of the 50's throughout like the vintage style aprons and head scarves worn by some of the staff, and sweet 50's style dress bunting. There are mint green splashes of colour, and booths and tables made from recycled wood. Foxton Fizz and thick shakes are on the drinks menu and there's a cabinet full of tempting cakes. It's a little out of the action on Devon Street East but worth the drive.
Airspresso, Airport Drive, Bell Block, New Plymouth Airport
Airspresso has a captive audience given it's the only cafe at New Plymouth Airport, but it won Taranaki Cafe of the Year in 2009 and I doubt many, if any, airport cafes pick up awards. The cafe pays tribute to Taranaki's flying pioneers including Jim Hickey, Spitfire Pilot and father of the cafe owner, and popular TV personality Jim Hickey. A Spitfire cockpit canopy and Mustang fighter canopy are on display in the cockpit lounge as well as personal items like a WW2 pilot's jacket.
There's a high flying lunch menu, snacks and slices, and whopper lamingtons - big enough for two. Airport parking is free for the first 60 minutes, then $1 an hour. Airspresso has spread its wings to Queenstown Airport. (Aviation enthusiasts may also like to visit Avgas Cafe & Bar in Mount Maunganui).
Mr Badger's Cafe, Tawhiti Museum, 401 Ohangai Road
Mr Badger's Cafe is at the Tawhiti Museum in Hawera. The cafe is named after 'The Wind in the Willows' character, and Mr Badger himself reclines by the fireplace in the cafe. Small scale models of scenes from the book are just inside the cafe door, and figgy nut slice might be in the cafe cabinet. It's well worth visiting Tawhiti Museum to see the visual history of the Taranaki area.
Kristy's Cafe, 151A London Street
Kristy's Cafe is home to the 'famous Raetihi pies'. The photo below shows how good the pies look, I chose a classic mince pie ($5), it was packed with tender meat and encased in a generous and golden pastry parcel. YUM! If you like Kiwiana combos, there were super sized colourful lamingtons in the cabinet.
Kristy's Cafe is in a rustic barn like building and it's filled with all sorts of bits and pieces like
old Kiwiana souvenirs, farm implements, retro pottery containers and other odds and ends. If you're a second hand shop fossicker you'll enjoy looking around at Kristy's. The cafe is alongside 151 On London Motel and its location at the bottom of St Johns Hill makes it a convenient pit stop if you're travelling to/from New Plymouth. Open 7 days, 7am - 5.30pm.
Mothered Goose, Cafe, Deli, Vino! (Delect-a-Bull), 119 Bridge Street
Situated in Bulls - "The Unforget-a-Bull town like no udder" is Mothered Goose, roosted on the corner of State Highways 1 and 3. The building was originally the Bank of New Zealand and is the site of New Zealand's first armed bank robbery. These days robbers would be making away with the giftware and Pallat-a-bull sauces in the old bank vault. We had delect-a-bull counter food but if you're looking for breakfast or lunch Mothered Goose is a light and stylish venue.
Boat Cafe, Freyberg Lagoon, Oriental Parade, city
Boat Cafe floats in Freyberg Lagoon. I spent a cold March morning drinking coffee and eating a muffin while watching and waiting for the weather to clear. They had a pile of FishHead magazines to keep me company, and a fire to keep me warm. I'm always a fan of cafes that provide something to read with my coffee, even better when what I'm reading tells me about what's happening in their city. Open 7 days.
Stories Espresso Bar, 40A Cuba Street, city
Stories Espresso Bar was set up by Zeal Education Trust to provide employment and work experience for young baristas. Coffee and sweet treats are sold from the converted shipping container on lower Cuba Street. (For more information see thecuriouskiwi/blog - Drinking for good in Wellington).
Maranui Cafe, The Parade, Lyall Bay
The Maranui Cafe shares a building with the Maranui Surf Life Saving Club. In 2009 the building was gutted by fire and faced permanent closure, however community support helped get the cafe and the SLSC up and running again. The cafe theme is a colourful mix of retro and sea to match the character of the building, we liked the oar banisters and the paddle divider.
The cafe is upstairs and looks over the water to Wellington airport, we saw five planes land in the time it took us to drink two bottles of Foxton Fizz. Open 7 days, 7am - 5pm. (Note: As the cafe is upstairs and in a character building there is no easy access for wheel chairs).
Lambretta's Cafe - Bar, 204 Hardy Street
Lambretta's is a tribute to the Italian made Lambretta motor scooter. On the food front, a lean machine breakfast is $15.90 and I can recommend the muffins. The barista is kept busy pumping out coffee to the many customers who sit outside in the sun or inside at one of the many tables. You can jump start your day at home with Lambretta's own blend - Ignition coffee.
Jester House Cafe, 320 Aporo Road (within 10km of Mapua)
Jester House Cafe has something to keep all the family entertained, there's a giant chess set, hungry (and friendly) eels in the stream (September - May) and sculptures in the garden. We had a platter for two, other options include venison burgers and three cheese souffle.
The cafe focuses more on meals than snacks however you could call in for a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. The cafe is licensed and locally brewed beer and wine is served, I liked the Mussel Inn Ginger Bear. If you have ever wondered how a composting toilet works you can find out at Jester House.
Riverside Cafe (part of Riverside Community), Inland Moutere Highway, (5 minutes south of Motueka)
If you're interested in learning about co-operative and sustainable community living, visiting Riverside Cafe is a good place to start. The Community make many of the items on the cafe menu and use their own as well as local ingredients. Jams, pickles, plants and homespun wool are also sold. Fair trade coffee and Riverside juice is served, and vegans, vegetarians and those requiring gluten free dishes are catered for.
Work by local artists is on display and you can dine in the lovely garden or inside. If you would like to extend your stay at Riverside there is accommodation onsite and Wwoofing may be an option. Visit Facebook to check hours, the cafe may close for a time over winter.
Pirate Espresso, Port Tarakohe (10 minutes drive from Takaka)
See thecuriouskiwi/blog - Pirate Espresso.
The Naked Possum - Cafe/Possum Shop
Wild game pies are on the menu at The Naked Possum, don't expect possum pies though. The cafe is licensed and serves local beer brewed by The Mussel Inn. Previous owners were on a mission to save the local rata forest and they recycled one major pest - the possum, by making possum leather light shades and cushions. Note: It's been some time since we've been to The Naked Possum but recent reviews note that possum products are still sold.
Kaituna Track is next door to the cafe and there are short walks ranging from 20 minutes to 2 hours. The Sleepy Possum is a short walk away if you'd like to stay the night. (The Naked Possum is located 14km inland from Collingwood, visit the website for directions).
Flossie's, Aylmer Street (look out for the sign opposite the i-SITE. Note: I went to Flossie's in 2013, it may no longer be operating).
I'm not sure what it means to do something in West Coast style but I suspect Flossie's may be a good example. Want a cafe in your backyard? Easy as - put a sign out on the road, cobble together a collection of seats, and go into the kitchen and bake a tart or two. Welcome visitors into your abundant garden with its decaying piece of Kiwiana, put the jug on, and you're set.
Unfortunately possum pies are off the menu permanently at the Bushmans Centre, see the update via Curious Kai - Pete's Possum Pies.
Mainline Station Cafe, corner Main Road & Old Main Road (SH1 between Christchurch and Kaikoura)
In 1982 Domett Railway Station was tendered for removal, it spent the next 14 or so years as a farm storage shed. A six month restoration enabled it to open as Mainline Station Cafe in 1996. NZ Railways memorabilia decorates the cafe, including menus from the days when a Great Railway Pie with potato and salad would set you back $6, and a cup of tea $1.10. If you're a Kiwi old enough to remember your mother collecting souvenir teaspoons you might recognise some of the NZ Railways inspired collection.
In the past we might have been served our tea in the practically unbreakable NZ Railways cups and saucers, however they're collectors' items these days. There are a few cafes in the area so you won't go hungry however the owners of Mainline Station Cafe are chefs so it's a tasty pit stop to make. We always eat here when we travel from Christchurch to Kaikoura and have never been disappointed, there's morning/afternoon tea treats as well as more substantial meals on the menu (rave reviews).
The Artist's Palate cafe, 68 Rue Balguerie
The Artist's Palate cafe is at The Giant's House B&B in Akaroa and is open during summer only. A sensational attraction at The Giant's House is the landscaped garden that incorporates life size and larger mosaic creations and sculptures. The mosaic project began when owner of the property, artist Josie Martin, started digging a garden. Josie dug up buried china and saved it as part of the history of the property, she decided to start mosaicing the front step, then the floor of the conservatory ... until the work of art it is today. The garden can be visited year round.
Astro Cafe, Godley Peaks Road
During the day you can drive up the road to Astro Cafe, the cafe sits on the summit of Mount John, 300 metres above Lake Tekapo and Mackenzie Basin. The cafe has a glass roof and walls to make the most of the view day and night, at night Observatory Tours are offered. It's also possible to walk to the summit - see thecuriouskiwi/blog - A short, steep climb to Astro Cafe, Lake Tekapo.
The Shearers' Quarters, 932 Seadown Road
The owners of The Shearers' Quarters had the idea to turn their little used farm buildings into a cafe and gift shop. Judging by the number of cars and visitors that were at The Shearers' Quarters when we visited their idea has turned into a great success. The cafe and gift shop are housed in a former grain solo, woolshed and shearers' quarters. The sheep yards and paddocks have been converted into homes for pigs, goats and alpacas. You can also tee off (gently) on the mini golf course.
There are plenty of seating areas for diners and it's also a unique setting for weddings and events. The Shearers' Quarters is a great family friendly cafe located ten minutes north of Timaru. If you are travelling south from Temuka, turn off around 2km down SH1 into Arowhenua Station Road and then turn into Seadown Road.
The Musterer's Hut, 20 Ruataniwha Road
The Musterer's Hut sell a popular South Island creation - the cheese roll. The cafe has some unique Kiwi country and retro touches - corrugated iron counters, old wool presses for tables, a Kiwi "Baa", and crochet rugs on retro chairs. My favourite retro pieces are the old glass milk bottles in crates for those who want water at their table. The Musterer's Hut is a casual, family friendly cafe with an outdoor mini golf course, playground and gift shop. The gift shop has a collection of books written by local authors. WiFi is free with purchase.
Whitestone Cheese, Corner Torridge & Humber Streets
We gobbled up a tasting plate of six Whitestone cheeses at the factory shop, cheese is also sold from the little Whitestone Cheese caravan at the Oamaru Famers Market on Sundays. Those interested in the cheesemaking process can watch cheesemakers at work in the viewing corridor. See the FAQ section to find the answers to lots of cheese related questions.
Grain & Seed Cafe, Cromwell Heritage Precinct
The original Cromwell town centre, homes, farms and orchards were intentionally flooded to make way for Clyde Dam. Fortunately, many historic buildings from the town centre were disassembled and put back together on the site that is now Cromwell Heritage Precinct (formerly Old Cromwell Town). It's worth stopping in Cromwell to walk around the area, artists sell their work from some of the old buildings and Grain and Seed Cafe in the old grain store is a good place to stop for refreshments. (For more information about Cromwell Heritage Precinct see thecuriouskiwi/blog - The town that drowned).
Arnold's Diner, 32 Rees Street
Walk up the stairs to Arnold's Diner and step back to the 1950's. The Wurlitzer spins the tunes and you can tap your toes to Blue Suede Shoes. I went to Arnold's Diner for breakfast - poached eggs, toast, a side of bacon, and filter coffee refills, it was a good start to the day.
Dunedin Chinese Garden, corner of Rattray & Cumberland Streets (next to Otago Settlers Museum)
The Dunedin Chinese Garden opened in 2008, it was built to acknowledge the contribution that Chinese settlers have made to Dunedin and Otago. 'Lan Yuan' is the Chinese name for the garden and it was designed and built in the style of a Scholar's Garden. No nails were used to build the wooden structures, instead the method of mortise and tenon joints was used, this method has been used in China since the fourth century BC. All of the wooden structures were built in Shanghai and shipped to Dunedin, workmen and support staff came from Shanghai to help with the Garden's construction.
The Garden is a peaceful setting to enjoy a cup of tea and a Chinese board game. If I was a resident I would buy a 12 month pass. The tea shop menu isn't large but items include traditional Chinese buns and fortune cookies. Admission to the garden is $9 adults, children under 13 free. Audio tours - free. Open 7 days. The Garden hosts a Moon Festival each September, visit Facebook for more information. (A blog post about Dunedin Chinese Garden).
Otoko Espresso, Herbert Street (moved from Haast to Invercargill)
Look out for an eye catching orange Land Rover with the Otoko Espresso tin hut in tow on Herbert Street in Invercargill. Otoko Espresso is a tribute from a daughter to her father, a passionate hunter who passed away in 2008. Ron (also known as the Bear) spent many years hunting, Otoko was one of his favourite hunting areas, hence the name. The hut is a replica of the type he would have stayed in. Ron certainly wouldn't have brewed coffee the same way as his daughter Robyn, and I don't know what he thought of flat whites and lattes, but I'm sure the aged venison burgers on the menu would've got the thumbs up.
We were a couple of months too early for a venison burger, and a few minutes too late for a latte, but right on time for a whitebait pattie. And what better place to try a pattie than at Otoko Espresso in Haast - the whitebait capital of NZ (or is that the world? I think the locals are keen for either to catch on). The pattie was big, tastefully fishy and packed full of the delicacy that Robyn said usually fetches an average of $40-$50 a kilogram. Swap Robyn $10 for a whitebait pattie.
The Grille Cafe, Bill Richardson Transport World, 491 Tay Street
The Grille Cafe at Transport World has lots of vehicle themed touches - number plates are used as light fittings and table numbers, a 44 gallon drum is a water dispenser, and old grills hang above the bar. There's a front end of a Mack truck behind closed doors for children to play in, and fans of the 1950's can sit inside a pastel coloured kitchen complete with appliances.
There were more than 20 breakfast and lunch dishes to choose from when we visited as well as sweet treats in the cabinet. It's not often I'd recommend people visit the toilets, but both guys and girls will be pleasantly surprised at what they'll find. Open 7 days. (Blog post about our visit to Bill Richardson Transport World).
Comments to date: 4. Page 1 of 1.
Thanks Mark, will do, it looks like there are lots of interesting things to see inside.
Next time you are down south Rachael, check out my friend, Maryr's , Cafe Primo in Methven.
Thanks Dennis, amended accordingly.
Climbing wall is going again at Hep Set Mooch