New Zealand is not a bad place to visit if you're into your sea food. Being an Island nation New Zealand is a perfect place to try some delicious fresh seafood and because the most inland place in the country is still only 119km from the coast it won't have traveled far to get to your plate.
New Zealand has some 14'000km of coastline making it the 10th longest in the world which really is huge for a country so small. The country borders the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean and the incorporates white and golden sandy beaches, rocky cliffs, dramatic fiords (glacier carved valleys) and sounds (river carved valleys) which leads to a unique and diverse range of marine life.
There are some awesome animals out there in the waters around New Zealand and some really great fishing spots. In this article we've narrowed it down to five special, local delicacy's that we think you should try when you come to New Zealand.
The mighty Crayfish is a great New Zealand delicacy, it's expensive in store or at a restaurant but with a mates boat and a wet suit it's definitely possible to head out and fish for your own either by diving or dropping a craypot. You may know crayfish as Lobster, Crawdads, Mudbugs or Yabbies they are similar to Lobster but without the big front pincers but equally delicious!
The best place to try Crayfish is Kaikoura on the South Island's East coast. The name actually translates to 'A meal of Crayfish' Kai - Food, Koura - Crayfish. Unfortunately the road to Kaikoura is currently closed due to an major earthquake back in November 2016 however when the road re opens we are very much looking forward to taking our passengers back through. During our visit to Kaikoura you have an option to jump on a local fishing trip and perhaps you'll be lucky enough to catch a few and bring them back for the crew to try!
The Green-Lipped Mussel is also known as simply the New Zealand Mussel as it is endemic to the country. Unlike Mussels you may have had before they are easily identified by the striking green colour along the edge of the shell it is also one of the largest mussel species. The mussels have a sweeter more tender taste than other species and also have more meat inside the shell than other species. New Zealand mussels have also recently been heralded as a nutritional supplement that eases arthritis, although research is ongoing.
These delicious sea creatures are available in supermarkets country wide almost all year around and are relatively cheap but it is possible to collect your own from certain rocky beaches around the country. Most of the farmed Mussels come from the Marlborough region in the North of the South Island as it has perfect conditions within the Marlborough Sounds. These river carved valleys have since been flooded out by the ocean and now have an intricate system of tidal bays and inlets that are perfect breeding conditions for Green Lipped Mussels.
During our tour we travel through the Marlborough Region and catch the interislander ferry which travels through the sounds where it is possible to see some Mussel farms. If you want to try Green Lipped Mussels look out for them country wide in Cafes or ask you guide to grab some to try, if they're cheap we may have a few out for tasting during one of our great meals on tour!
Photo Credit: Adrian Midgley
Paua is a Maori word that refers to a large species of sea snail or molluscs that you may know as Avalone or Ormer Shells. These creatures live in shallow rocky waters and cling to the rocks using a large muscular tongue. Many locals enjoy diving for Paua and it is harvested commercially however there are strict limits on how much you can take and also the size of the shells.
Paua are considered Toanga or treasured to the Maori who would have eaten Paua meat but also used the colourful shells in art and traditional craft. If you look at the eyes of Maori carvings you'll see they are often made from fragments of Paua shells. Throughout New Zealand Paua is both a delicacy to eat and an iconic symbol of the country as many shells are sold as gifts or souvenirs.
Paua is found along many different coastlines throughout New Zealand and there are farms based as far north as Whangarei and as far south as Stewart Island. Finding Paua meat on tour will be a little more tricky but if you find a place then let your guide know because they'll probably want to join you!
The Tuatua is type of clam that is found all around New Zealand in fine, clean sandy beaches. At low tide it is possible to head out to the beach and collect your own although there are strict catch rates as much of New Zealand's sea life has protected status. The Tuatua are also relatively small and have a meat to shell ratio of about 33% so you'll have to catch quite a few to make it worth your while.
The Tuatua is most commonly boiled and serve in the shell or is mixed with egg and made into a pattie. The Maori prized these small clams and they are regarded as something of a delicacy with a mild flavour and creamy texture.
We'll be travelling past a few beaches where it is possible to collect these little treats and your guide should be able to point you in the right direction but best to be aware of the catch limits.
Every year the coastal rivers around New Zealand are descended upon by groups off people in search of the highly prized juvenile fish known as whitebait. It's something of a gold rush every year as the fishing season only last for a couple of months and there are strict regulations on where, when and how you can fish.
The West Coast of the South Island generally gets the largest amount of whitebait but also has the highest number of people keen to get out there and fish so the season is slightly shorter. The season begins on the 15th of August except the West Coast where you can set your nets on the 1st of September, the season ends on the 30th of November and on the 14th November on the West Coast.
There are strict guidelines about the size of nets and the type of net you use, which river you can and cannot catch whitebait on and even the time of day but although there are many strict rules enforced to help some whitebait make it upstream to breed the practice of white baiting is still a bit of a free for all. Anyone can give white baiting a go and it's one of the only fish species in the country you're allowed to sell and because a kilo of this local delicacy can fetch up to $120 it's no wonder heaps of people get out there each year.
If you do head out to the rivers these tiny fish are quite hard to catch and it's quite possible you'll either get none or only enough to cook yourself lunch but you never know when you'll get lucky and get 2 or 3 kilos in an hours work. That's the draw card for many people who spend their spring chilling out by the river with a couple of beers waiting for their next pay check to swim into their net.
The West Coast is the best place to try whitebait and during the season quite a lot of cafes will have a small supply of whitebait which is usually sold as a pattie. Whitebait is mixed with egg and fried and then served up between a couple of pieces of bread, yum! During the tour we'll be spending a few days on the West Coast giving you a chance to grab yourself a delicious whitebait patty. Your guides also known a couple of secret spots where you can learn a little bit about the culture behind the whitebait gold rush and the best place to try it for yourself.