A dessert lover’s guide to New Zealand

Author & Photo credits: Beth Pollock


How far would you travel to enjoy the best desserts of your life? If you said, “No limit – I’m packing my bags right now,” have I got the destination for you.

I’m not suggesting you travel all the way to New Zealand solely to eat dessert. (Although if you do, no judgment from me.) But if you find yourself in New Zealand anyway, save time in its capital city, Auckland, to enjoy some of the most exquisite sweets you’ll ever encounter. I’ve never seen more cafes and stores specifically dedicated to desserts in one place.

There’s plenty to do in Auckland, from climbing a volcano to leaping off downtown’s Sky Tower. But be sure to make room for a dessert – or two – throughout the day. Whatever sweets you’re craving, you’ll find them, along with some you never thought to ask for.


Here are some of my personal favourites:


  1. Best elegant tea and dessert offering – Dessert bars don’t come more elegant than Milse. I loved the pumpkin pie, bourbon and maple dessert, which tasted like autumn, if autumn was smooth as satin and served on a plate. My daughter vouched for the vanilla bean and brownie gelato stick, for which Milse is famous. Want to take the elegance to new heights? Opt for Milse’s three-course dessert tasting menu, with or without wine matchings.
Dessert at Milse.


  1. Best post-show dessert – For a small city, Auckland has some glorious events venues. Auckland Town Hall is a splendid setting for live music performances, and the Auckland Civic Theatre shows films in a venue designed to resemble an outdoor auditorium at night. OKO Dessert Kitchen is halfway between them, and is a perfect spot for a post-show treat. You’ll be tempted by everything you see, but you won’t go wrong by ordering the seasonal Tropical. This superlative dessert features mango mousse, coconut bavarois, passionfruit jelly, coconut dacquoise sponge and a white chocolate glaze. Or if campfires are more your thing, dig into one of their OKO-style S’mores.
OKO Dessert Kitchen.


  1. Best respite from shopping – Make sure you allow yourself time to shop while you’re in the city. Pauanesia offers lovely accessories, jewelry, Christmas tree ornaments and more; everything is made by local artists. Visit Unity Books, to pick up a book (or two) for that long flight home. And drop in at the Queen Street flagship location of Smith & Caughey’s department store, where you can sample handmade New Zealand chocolate made by local legends, Bennetts. Bennetts is a family-owned operation in Mangawhai village, just north of Auckland, that uses local ingredients and labour to make their candy. Try the feijoa (a native fruit) and vodka chocolate for unique local flavour, or the salted caramel for a perfect post-shopping pick-me-up.


Bennetts Chocolates.


  1. Best dessert in the shape of a Colossal Squid: Okay, I didn’t actually eat the Colossal Squid ice cream cone, but I saw one while waiting in line at Giapo, and it was spectacular. But if you’re looking for a sweet that’s a little less evocative of Medusa, try the Hokey Pokey, which consists of chocolate-covered honeycomb candies, cut up in vanilla ice cream, covered with milk chocolate sauce, and topped with more cut-up honeycomb. This toffee crunch extravaganza will be more than you can reasonably eat, but you will eat it anyhow and not feel a bit of remorse. (Other than the possible remorse of not having ordered the Colossal Squid.)


Giapo’s Colossal Squid.


How did I do so much serious food research in a destination so far away? My daughter spent a semester studying in Auckland, and I flew down for a couple of weeks to help her get settled in. Which explains the winner of my final category:


  1. Best long-distance dessert: My daughter celebrated her 20th birthday in Auckland after I returned to Canada. So naturally, I sent her dessert via UberEATS. Miann offers a 3-pack of petits gateaux that are perfect for sharing with one’s university friends – and which can also be enjoyed in-store if you’re there in person. (She particularly loved the Lemon Meringue Sable Tart.) At a distance of nearly 13,900 kilometres from Toronto to Auckland, long-distance deliveries don’t get much longer, or much sweeter.


Dessert Display at Miann.