You’ll be able to cruise to your favourite wineries in your hire car – as well as discovering some brilliant restaurants and boutique vineyards that you might not have heard of. On Waiheke Island, for example, are the renowned Stonyridge and Mudbrick wineries, both with great restaurants.
Rotorua offers fine dining, Maori culture and thermal hot springs. Napier, Martinborough and Wellington are surrounded by revered wine regions, whilst Marlborough, over on South Island, continues the theme. Christchurch, Lake Tekapo and Wanaka, meanwhile, each provide a feast for the eyes.
Travel to and arrive in Auckland.
Set off from Auckland airport towards Waiheke where you’ll start your Food and Wine Odyssey on the other side of the world.
You’ll probably appreciate the chance to chill out and acclimatise after your long haul flight, and Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf is the perfect spot for unwinding. The perfect spot for uncorking too – Stonyridge and Mudbrick are both wineries of some repute, and both have restaurants serving excellent food to complement their vintages. Your hotel can arrange car hire so you can explore the island.
Stay: Two nights in the Boatshed.
Catch the Waiheke Island ferry back to Auckland to collect your hire car and head off along the emotively named Thermal Explorer Highway towards Rotorua. The drive is an interesting one, lasting about three hours – which gives you ample time to try the cauldrons and geo-thermal hot springs for which the town is famous, and also immerse yourself in Maori culture at the local centre.
Stay: One night in Koura Lodge.
Today the Thermal Explorer Highway takes you to Hawke’s Bay in the heart of the country’s largest wine region. Your lodge is in the picturesque Omarunui Valley, within easy reach of the Art Deco town of Napier – an absolute must if you’re keen on stylish period architecture – and a great base for touring the area’s vineyards. A full private tour, judiciously entitled the Food and Wine Lovers’ Delight will usher you around the Esk Valley, Te Mata, Clearview, Craggy Range and Trinity Hall estates. The Twilight Odyssey tour features a three course dinner staged at three top wineries. Or you may prefer to take a cycling trip to see local olive groves, ostrich farms, orchards and vineyards.
Stay: Two nights in Breckenridge Lodge.
Motor on to Martinborough and you’ll find yourself surrounded by no less than two dozen different wineries, most within walking distance of your hotel. The village itself, clustered around a charming square is worth a stroll around too, whilst slightly further afield you’ll find a dramatic coastline punctuated by the extraordinary Puruatanga Pinnacles that starred in the Lords of the Rings trilogy. From Middle Earth to Flat Earth, which is a tasting tour of the local boutique wineries like Murdoch James, Tirohana, Palliser and Te Kairanga including sampling some of their award-winning products.
Stay: Two nights in Parehua Country Estate.
You’re never far away from good wine and great food in New Zealand, but Wellington has other attractions beside its excellent restaurants. In between meals you can visit Te Papa, the legendary museum that is the perfect introduction to the country’s history and events that shaped its modern lifestyle. A half day Zest walking tour will showcase specialist food stores, European-style cafés and give you the chance to sample dishes at an award-winning restaurant.
Stay: One night in a classic suite at the Bolton Hotel.
After Wellington you should drop off your car and catch the Interislander ferry across the famous Cook Strait to Marlborough on the South Island. Incredibly, viticulture here is barely more than 30 years old, yet the region now produces some of the country’s most renowned wines. Pick up another car at the pretty town of Picton and drive off to your hotel. You can take a private, gourmet food and drink tour, as well as the unmissable Marlborough Sounds cruise through the Inner Pelorus and Kenepuru Sounds, where local mussel farms offer palate-pleasing tastings.
Stay: Two nights in the Hotel D’Urville.
Drive south, keeping the scenic port on your left and the majestic mountains on your right and you’ll be heading towards Christchurch. But it’s worth stopping for a bite of lunch in one of Waipara District’s vineyards – Pegasus bay is a great choice – before going whale watching or swimming with dolphins at Kaikoura. Christchurch itself offers award-wining gardens and a neo-Gothic arts centre as well as interesting tram rides between the city and the International Antarctic Centre.
Stay: One night at the George.
Your ultimate destination is Wanaka, but you simply have to stop at Lake Tekapo near Mount Cook and take a scenic flight along the alpine peaks and over the summit of the great mountain. The scenery is nothing short of spectacular.
Stay: One night at Peppers Bluewater Resort.
The theme of astounding scenery continues at Wanaka – especially if you opt to take a jet boat trip along the fast-flowing Matukituki River past any number of Lord of the Rings locations, Avalanche Glacier and the aptly-named Mount Aspiring. A helicopter will whirr you over the mountains surrounding astonishing Rob Roy Glacier. Or you could take a scenic flight to gain a different perspective of Mount Aspiring’s alpine lakes, Fjordland National Parks and the mighty Milford Sound, which you can also explore by boat. Or you may simply decide that a wine tour is more to your taste.
Stay: Two nights at Wanaka Haven.
Drive back to Queenstown Airport where you can return your car and catch your flight home. Unless you decide to extend your stay to journey along the west coast, south to Fjordlands or across to Dunedin for the wildlife.