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The Best Chinatowns in Australia and New Zealand

If you’re a dumpling devotee or just mad for markets, you might want to check out some of these ANZ hideouts.

Chinese immigration to Australia and New Zealand dates back to the early 1820s, and since then Chinese communities have grown and intertwined with Aussie and Kiwi folk alike. The biggest influxes have been from Honkers and Canton, however in more recent years Chinatown’s have sprawled to include both Korean and Thai communes. We think there are three essential components for a good Chinatown – bustling night markets, a cracking New Year’s Festival, and of course – yum cha. If you’re a dumpling devotee or just mad for markets, you might want to check out some of these ANZ hideouts.

1. Sydney: The Tastiest Chinatown

The earliest documentation of Chinese immigration to Australia dates back to 1818, when Mak Sai Ying moved into Parramatta. Nowadays, Sydney’s Chinese community is based in Haymarket, perhaps known better for Paddy’s Markets. These markets are usually open Wednesday to Saturday, and if you use your elbows, you’ll be able to get down to the bottom floor – only to emerge with vast quantities of vegetables. If you prefer your dinner prepped, plated, and maybe inside a dumpling, head to the Marigold for a yum cha feast. For food without the fuss, head to the night markets for street food and friendly vendors. This is why Sydney’s the tastiest Chinatown.

2. Melbourne: The Oldest Chinatown

Not only is this the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the Western World, but it’s one of the oldest Chinatowns in the Southern Hemisphere. Melbourne’s Chinatown stretches from Little Bourke St to Lonsdale St, and inside the stretch you’ll be able to find an abundance of bars, cafes and restaurants – it’s also home to Section 8. Admittedly, this is a bar inside a shipping container, but the wooden pallet furniture and the ambient glow of the lanterns seem to draw the hipsters in in their hordes. If you’d prefer to soak up a bit of culture, head over to the Chinese Museum for some lessons in Australian Chinese history.

3. Adelaide: The one with the Markets

Adelaide has a Chinatown? Yes, yes it does. It’s on Moonta Street, within Adelaide’s Central Markets District. After Victoria enforced its immigration restrictions, many Chinese migrants fled to South Australia. Adelaide’s Chinatown really began to boom in the 70s and 80s when many Vietnamese citizens migrated. This community has blended well into the country, with their influence coming through in the many different cuisines you’ll find on Gouger Street, and in the Central Markets. You’ll be able to seek out more of China’s festival culture at OzAsia Fest in September 2014.

4. Cairns: The one with the History

The Chinatown in Cairns also developed as a result of the gold rush – the Chinese miners formed a community after failing to find gold at Palmer River. They went onto develop Grafton Street, formerly known as Sachs Street, building business in importing, merchandise and boardings houses. The Chinese actually began the sugar and banana trades in Cairns, and you can still see families working on these plantations in Innisfail and Aloomba. Although their culture isn’t as pronounced as it once was Cairns still hosts a very colourful Chinese New Year Festival in Spring, celebrating with fireworks, the Lion Dance and Chinese banquets.

5. The “is it, isn’t it?” Chinatown… Auckland, New Zealand

Much like Victoria, New Zealand received its first influx of Chinese migrants in the 1850s goldrush era. However, Auckland’s Chinatown is one of the smaller enclaves on our list – at only 7,000m2, it’s a baby in comparison to the other Chinatowns. Ti Rakau Drive represents the Chinese minority on the North Island, and provides an insight into this culture you’re unable to find elsewhere in New Zealand. If you’ve got a hankering for sushi, laksa or pork buns, this is where to head. Locals actually debate whether this should be called a ‘Chinatown’ or not, but you’ll have to visit to find out for yourself!

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