The Kiwi Dairy

You find these corner-shops across the country, from small towns to the middle of absolute no where. Remember, these are icons of kiwiana history & folklore



A new style light box ‘Dairy’ sign stands proud next to the main road drawing many weary travellers in for an ice cream.

The humble kiwi corner dairy. An iconic slice of kiwiana throughout the ages. A place where many kids have met on a Saturday afternoon, got a 20c pack of lollies & some tattoo bubble gum, played some spacie’s (street fighter…what else!?) while slurping on a Zap!.


The classic dairy store frontage. Note the milk branded signage, mass amount of advertising plastered anywhere possible and newsstand boards bearing yesterdays headlines. All standard dairy kit.


Known as corner shops, milk bars or tuck shops in Australia & the UK, New Zealand has taken to these beacon’s of convenience since their early introduction when New Zealand was being populated. Mostly dotted haphazardly over our rural township landscape and in city suburbs, most ‘old’ style dairy’s served the function as being a full on convenience store & post office back in the day. Most dairy’s still retain their ‘dairy’ heritage by being plastered with ice cream or milk company signage as they are still seen as the place where most people ‘nip down to get some milk & bread’.


A fine example of a rural dairy just outside of Huntly. Once again signage has been in place since around 1985 and wherever possible, logos and sign-writing has been applied to please the brands that be. Old flickering flurorescent lights add to the ‘ambience’.


This cute dairy is in Coatesville. How do I know? It says on the sign. This one is typical of rural New Zealand. Set on a corner in the ‘centre’ of town on the ‘main drag’ this has been the cornerstone of the village for years. Still selling massive ice creams. Must stop if on the Coatesville/Riverhead Highway (which was put through for a potential King’s visit…but that story for another time.)


Now days with the competition of the larger supermarket chains, the life of many a dairy has met a sad end, but still there are plenty more all over NZ that survive intact with their old school 1970’s/80’s charm today. They have even been the focus for many a New Zealand television advert in days past, such is their status in the kiwi psyche. You are still able in many to get a few scoops of ice cream from the Tip Top chiller or get another kiwi classic, a Longest Drink in Town milkshake…a lime one if you please!


A dairy as seen outside the town of Ngaruawahia about an hours or so drive south of Auckland. Note the home style paint job and signage and the bonus high scoring factor that it incorporates BOTH a dairy AND a takeaways under the one roof. Mega kiwiana points here guys, this is the jackpot. Also, the name…Riverview. The fact the river is quite some way away does not matter. You can still see some of it. So it lives up to the ‘naming’ criteria.




Probably the best example of a 21’st century dairy which still retains its old world charm. The Rangitoto Suprette (fancy name…still a day though) is on Takapuna’s Lake Road and features some newly tricked out re branded Tip Top signage with brand new installed Tip Top ice-cream dairy set up inside. Choice! Hokey Pokey double scoop and a lime milkshake to go thanks.




Outside we see some definitive new ice cream signage with no tagging or ‘graffiti’ which is rather rare but then again…this is Auckland’s North Shore. Also seen is a sign for Mrs Mac’s pies. Pies also were and still are a main drawcard at dairy’s across the country.

These stores are iconic and are a unique part of New Zealand culture, and something which goes largely unnoticed for most kiwi’s. I for one have fond memory’s of my local dairy I used to frequent when staying at my grandparents in Gloria Ave in West Auckland. We used to walk up there, buy 20c worth of lollies (which years ago meant you got like a bag for that price) and then with some change after we had ordered some fish & chips at the chinese takeaways next door, drop some “20’s” as they were called into the street fighter 2 spacies machine by the front door, while standing on a old milk tray so we could see the CRT screen trying not to spill our Zap! chocolate drinks (another kiwism).


Hilltop Dairy in Orewa. Good position, right beside a road. Get some extra points being positioned beside a takeaways, like most old dairy’s were. Therefore you could order your fish & chips, hop next door and get some drinks and a can of Watties tomato sauce, perhaps some Mountain Dew for the kids and a couple Trumpets for later, and after dropping some 20’s in the spacies out front, your dinner would be ready for pick up next door…who needs a PA when you could time this stuff with almost pinpoint accuracy? 

From the old ice cream signage to the the newsstand placards screaming the days headlines at you in bold font. The bank of lolly bins inside to the iconic signature trim on the exterior. All of these features have remained relatively unchanged for the last 30 years. Sadly most have lost their spacies machines thanks to the popularity of the new Sega Master System II … I mean PS3/Xbox (get with the times I must) and the cost of lollies has increased to a shocking level of thievery (20c now days would buy you something like 1…lolly) but most retain their rustic charm with pride. Whether that is from sheer owner laziness in not updating their sign-writing or possibly born out of acute awareness to preserve what is truly iconic, I am yet to discern.

The names of some of these dairy’s is quite amusing. Some are pretty obvious. “*state name of town here* Dairy”. Some elude to features of the area such as Riverview or Hilltop. Some are just downright weird and you must wonder what they were thinking when they came up with the names. I wont spoil it, you will have to go searching them out for yourself but I must tell you its not too hard.



Some features of the dairy. Seats of course. For sitting outside while your ice cream melts all over your hand in the hot summer sun. Advertising, magazine covers, headline newsstand boards. All for your viewing pleasure.


A old Tip Top logo light box stands proud under the awning of the Coatesville Dairy. A welcome relief to many would be travelers in summer time.

What I do know is these places, along side its counterpart in the kiwi vernacular, the Kiwi Takeaway, are to be most assuredly cherished. Next time you are rolling through a small town, look out for its little iconic dairy and go pick up a hokey pokey ice cream or a trumpet (see ad video) and sit outside and soak up the ambiance, knowing that several generations of kiwi’s have done exactly what you have done in the same spot. These pillars of society, although they might seem common enough are part of the landscape that makes New Zealand a truly unique place and will enhance your trip all the more.

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