It’s a short way out of Christchurch, heading to the north. It’s one of New Zealand’s classic towns, in the rural cusp bordering the outskirts of the Christchurch city. And it’s one where the name draws you in… you know kai means food, and, as it turns out, kaiapoi translates to a place where food was gathered. It’s time to pull up and find out more.
A little bit of history, exploring those food connections
The story begins in the regions of Kaiapoi, home to the site of the large Ngāi Tahu pā, established in the 1700s. And it was truly large, then Ngāi Tahu’s most significant stronghold.
It enjoyed an ample supply of its own local resources, incremented by those traded with other tribes throughout the country - it was a gathering place after all. And in spite of its impregnable reputation, it was eventually the site of a drawn out siege, between Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Toa… It’s quite a story - yes, there is much New Zealand history here.
And in European history, you’re in a spot, too, that was a gathering place, an important trading centre in the mid 1800s. If you sit alongside Kaiapoi’s waterway, the tributary which feeds into the Waimakariri River (translation: “wintry cold water” - of course, it’s fed from the Southern Alps), you can imagine cutters, schooners and paddle steamers, working furiously to provide for pioneering settlements.
Time for gathering, all that history makes you hungry
Now, of course, you’re in Kaiapoi, so it’s time to gather some food. Head to the cafe nearby - delightfully, and rightfully, called a tea salon - in one of New Zealand’s Pouhere Taonga (Historic Places Trust Registered Building, one of our historical treasures).
Housed in the former Kaiapoi Railway Station, you’re sitting in a construction of elaborate arts and crafts style. You’re not on the original site - but do let yourself meander back in time, inspired by the busy details of the building design, to imagine the hustle and bustle of 1904, when it first opened.
Luckily today, you can enjoy that moment of contemplation of New Zealand times past with tea and cake, and more besides. Now that’s something you’ll remember, one of those delightfully simple kiwi food moments that stick.
You’re on the move, something to go
If picnicking, or food to go, is more your thing, the town’s also home to a classic kiwi bakery, serving up a swag of old favourites… boston buns, bacon and egg pie… And a traditional local butcher catches your eye. Who could drive past steak, cheese and onion rissoles!
With local reserves, riverside walks, neighbouring rural surrounds and nearby towns connected by roads and purpose-built cycleways, there’s a bounty of places to head to, to find more of the region’s food treasures, and to find a spot to roll out the picnic blanket.
So if you’re on the road in car or bike, do pitch up at this classic town, and celebrate (with tea and cake, and good food to go!) it’s place in New Zealand’s past and its future.
And spare a thought too. Kaiapoi’s recent past is marred by scenes of nature’s temper - it was a region that has not all that long ago suffered from substantial earthquake damage, and flooding. It inspires you all the more to make sure to reciprocate that local kiwi hospitality - eat up large, buy local!
And for more…
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