Glorious places to dine al fresco in Rotorua

Few things feel as luxurious as enjoying a flavourful meal while lounging outdoors.

An all-around sensory experience, dining al fresco offers authentic (and literal) atmosphere to pair with your food.  With an average of 2127.8 sunshine hours per year and a warm, temperate climate, Rotorua offers some of the best outdoor dining options in New Zealand, year-round.

Not every locale is equipped to combine your food with the great outdoors, however, so we’ve shouldered the laborious undertaking of finding out Rotorua’s fresh-air foodie favourites - all you need to go is get out there and enjoy the sunshine.

1) Atticus Finch – Walk down Eat Street and you will find outdoor dining heaven.  Equipped with retractable awnings and radiant underground geothermal heating, you can comfortably dine outside on Eat Street in the dead of winter.  Atticus Finch is Eat Street’s newest darling, offering charming small plates and family-style platters.  The inventive cocktail is also not to be missed. With its quirky styling and cheeky literary references, these masters of bespoke service lack nothing in personality.  For the most intimate setting, grab a table out the backdoor micro-patio.

2) Abracadabra Garden Bar- A bemusing mix of Mexican, American health nut and North African flavours, Abracadabra puts a bit of everything in a bottle and mixes it up just right.  Not the kind of place that’s above serving drinks in a mason jar, there’s plenty of character to go around between the intimate indoor sections and lush outdoor garden.  Combining the feeling of a neighbour’s backyard BBQ with immaculate flavours from all over the shop, Abracadabra is the perfect place to sit back, relax and let the breeze wash over you.

3) Rotorua Night Market – Street food is a celebrated thing the world over.  There’s a bit of adventure involved when it comes to picking your dinner based on whatever fancy catches your eye (not to mention the challenge of eating while walking).  The Rotorua Night Market happens every Thursday 5-8pm (9pm in summer) and brings out the quirk in Rotorua.  Browse local arts and crafts and enjoy the cheesy buskers while you hunt down your dinner.  Two laps min. recommended.

4) The Okere Falls Store & Beer Garden- Well worth the haul out to Okere Falls, no matter the size of the crowd, The Store at Okere Falls will always feel like your local secret.  Offering up a simple but gorgeous food menu, browse the specialty snacks and enjoy a microbrew from the impressively enlightened drinks menu while you try not drool over the chili-dog you just ordered, then take your food out back to savour in the meandering garden setting.  These guys get bonus points for their composting treehouse toilets and friendly store cat.

5) BREW | Craft Beer Pub – Another meander down the all-season Eat Street will land you at Rotorua’s own Craft Beer Pub.  Featuring all sorts of inventions from Rotorua’s own Croucher Brewing Co., BREW pairs its award-winning lagers, stouts and ales with a trendy and dynamic menu that’s full of flavour.  They also offer plenty of wine, cider and cocktail options to serve alongside their regular live music performances - try Tuesday’s open night mic if you’re brave.  BREW is the best place in town to sit outside with local brew in hand and watch the lazy bustle of Rotorua.

6) Redwoods/Blue Lake/Lake Tarawera/Rainbow Mountain/Kuirau Park – Not to be outdone is Mother Nature herself.  Rotorua is loaded with opportunity to take your al fresco dining to the next rugged level.  Pack up those snacks from the Okere Falls or engineer a mobile antipasto from a specialty market like Vetro and enjoy your next meal under the backdrop of Rotorua’s natural beauty.

After you have enjoyed your meal at one of Rotorua’s finest restaurants, come burn it off at the #1 ranked activity in the North Island on TripAdvisor Rotorua Canopy Tours. Rotorua Canopy Tours is a guided 3 hour eco adventure through the evergreen native forests of the Mamaku Plateau only minutes from Rotorua.

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