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Food and Wine
 


FOOD and WINE


If you have a desire to indulge your senses with spectacular food and gold medal wines during your visit, then this is the itinerary for you. Although the predominant theme is food and wine, there are plenty of other attractions en route. New Zealand has an ideal vine growing climate, which is reflected in the numerous internationally renowned gold medal winning wines. Many of the wineries also have top class restaurants as well as offering door sales and tastings. We have personally sampled and painstakingly sought out several hidden away gems set in magic locations to be able to present to you the best this country has to offer, hic.

If you would like a unique itinerary drafted to include some of your other interests as well, feel free to contact us - we will gladly assist you in planning that perfect vacation.

 


 
Self-Drive Holiday

Duration
: 10 nights/11 days. 
Activities include : Winery visits, walking, beaches and other attractions.
Notes : North Island only - see below for South Island itinerary sample.

100% Indulgence
100% Pure Wonder
100% Pure Exhilaration
100% Pure Escape
100% Pure Welcome
100% Pure Awe


A self-drive tour of New Zealand's North Island created specially for lovers of great food and fine wine. See below for the South Island tour. This itinerary allows time to visit New Zealand's top attractions, interspersed with some awesome eating experiences! Be sure to let me know your wine preferences, so that I can adjust the itinerary accordingly. Many of the hand-picked boutique accommodations include a gourmet 'home cooked meal' where you will get to savour some of New Zealand's unique fare that has resulted in our chefs being sought after world wide. Remeber this is just a sample.
                                                                           

North Island itinerary
 

Day 1 Auckland 

All passengers using Amazing New Zealand services are personally met at the airport by our friendly professional representative. You will receive at the airport a comprehensive Deluxe Travel Pack. The pack contains the prepaid service vouchers, maps, discount vouchers and brochures to local attractions, plus a detailed daily explanation of driving routes, including suggested stops en route.

The representative will then take you to your accommodation in Auckland, stopping en route on the extinct volcano Mount Eden to point out the city's many geographical features and attractions. Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, straddling two enormous harbours and dotted with 48 extinct volcanic cones. We recommend at least one day here to recover from your jet-lag. We recommend that you stay here at least 24 hours to enjoy this beautiful city and to recover from your jet-lag. The problem is the city has so much to offer you may have trouble making choices. Buy a day ticket on the hop-on hop-off bus which makes stops at most of Auckland's attractions - you can choose to get off and catch a later bus, or continue to the next stop.

Suggested activities :-  
  • The Waterfront has many of Auckland’s attractions and is bustling with restaurants and cafés.
  • It is also where you will find the extremely informative Maritime Museum - the displays are chronological, so you begin with the Maori migration across the seas, step back in time on board a European immigrant's ship, then appreciate New Zealand's proud yachting history including the Whitbread Round the World race and of course the America's Cup. After all, Auckland is known as the City of Sails.
  • Catch the ferry to Waiheke Island and hire a scooter. Head for Te Whau Vineyard Cafe for lunch then Stoneyridge Vineyard for dinner. Better still stay an extra day on the island and have a fantastic brunch at the 1920's style Rocky Bay Cafe followed by dinner at the Mudbrick Cafe on the Church Road Estate near Oneroa. In between you can walk off those calories through the bush and beaches of the Whakanewha Reserve. Or, enjoy fantastic coastal and vineyards views on horseback as you ride from Kataitia Bay through Church Road Estate.
  • The Coastal Track on Waiheke Island has the added bonus of vineyard cafes and beaches en route! From the wharf, walk along the beach and follow the green and yellow markers around the coast. The path takes you along the cliff-top past exclusive homes, vineyards and olive groves. About ½ an hour along there is a great picnic spot amongst the old Pohutakawa trees with views back to Auckland. At Te Miro Bay you will see a path marked Oneroa, via Nick Johnston Drive. This will bring you eventually to the white sand beach, shops and cafes at Oneroa. You can extend the walk by continuing along the coast past Church Bay, but the views and path and not as good.
  • Wander up to the Sky Tower - admire the panoramic view, climb the mast, bungee jump from the tower or just have dinner in the revolving restaurant.
  • The revamped old homes of Parnell have brick paved alleyways full of boutique clothes stores, art galleries and specialty shops.
  • Kelly Tarlton was the inventor of the undersea walkway where you can view the fish from below without getting wet - the Antarctic Encounter and Penguin Encounter are worth stopping here on their own.
  • Other stops if you have time include the Auckland Museum, Auckland Art Gallery or Victoria Park Market for the bargain hunters.
  • The bus will eventually bring you back to the Waterfront where you could head to the Ferry Building and take a ferry to Devonport. If you have 2-3 hours you could wander along the waterfront to the right and up the dormant volcanic cone North Head, then climb down to the popular Cheltenham Beach before wandering back to the ferry.
  • My recommendations for dinner are the seafood restaurant Harbourside in the Ferry Building or wander along to the Princes Wharf where you'll find many more waterside eateries.
Day 2 Auckland - Leigh 86kms

Head north over the Harbour Bridge and follow SH1 to pretty Orewa Beach on the tranquil east coast. You have time this morning to see more of Auckland, if the jet-lag got the better of you and you ran out of energy yesterday. You also have time on the morning of Day 4.

42kms - After passing over the bridge in Waiwera the road starts to rise again. 200m up this hill you will see a sign for Wenderholm Regional Park. Turn right into this park. The road will take you down to the beach, which is well worth the small detour. The park has a wonderful grove of Pohutakawa trees, a native with bright red flowers. The other name for these ancient trees is the New Zealand Christmas Tree as they usually begin to flower at Christmas time. The trees are full of native Tui and Piwakawaka (Fantail birds.) The Tui is a shiny blue/black medium sized bird with a white ball of feathers under its chin and has a beautiful song. The cute little Fantail flits around your head as you disturb the insects while walking. There is a huge picture frame on the northern end of the beach, which makes for some interesting photographs.

45kms - Continuing north you can turn off to the cute little village of Puhoi which is just one kilometer off the main highway. Most residents here are descendants from Bohemian immigrants. It may be a little early to stop at the historic pub (New Zealand slang for `drinking establishment`), but if you drive a further 3kms down this side road there is an excellent café at the cheese making factory called the Art of Cheese, where you can also see the cheese makers at work. The service and cheese platters are excellent here and there is a large selection of specialty cheeses for sale. Return to SH1 and turn left. 

69kms – Ransom Winery has a casual restaurant with excellent platters to accompany your wines on the lawn. They offer a flight of 5 of their wines for tasting, however it only equals approximately 1 glass of wine so you are fine for driving afterwards. Alternatively wait until you reach the famous wine growing region around Matakana.

71kms – At the second set of traffic lights in Warkworth turn right, direction Matakana where you can make several stops en route to Leigh, your destination for this evening. Your choices are:-

  • Omaha Blueberries sell export-quality blueberries, plus home made ice-creams and sorbets.
  • The Pop In Bakery in Matakana has a delicious selection of breads, winners of the Baker of the Year Award.
  • Turn right at Matakana and drive to Tawharanui Regional Park and walk the gorgeous beaches or take the track to the headland.
  • 12kms from Warkworth, the popular Morris and James Pottery and Café is worth a stop. All their pottery is handmade from the clay sourced from the Matakana River. Free weekday tours, plus the café serves yummy food and local wines in a relaxed setting.
  • Hyperion Winery is further along this side road, open weekends and holidays.
  • Visit some of New Zealand’s best wineries around Matakana, including Ascension Vineyard, Heron`s Flight Vineyard and Matakana Estate.
  • 13kms from Warkworth, on the turnoff to Takatu, there is the purpose built Art and Pottery Market with exhibitions displayed in a replica woolshed.
  • Spend the afternoon at any of the beaches – Pakiri, Goat Island Reserve, or little Matheson Bay, a spectacular little pohutakawa lined beach 1km from Leigh.
  • Just after Leigh, the excellent Sawmill Café is on the right, the Dive Shop is next door for organized dive tours. In Leigh take the road down to the wharf to see the spectacular little harbour and watch the dive boats coming in full of crayfish.
  • The turnoff for Goat Island is just after Leigh - a marine reserve popular for snorkeling and diving. Seafriends, just before you start the descent, has snorkel and dive hire, plus lots of lovely food. Toilets and parking are at the bottom where a glass bottom boat departs from the beach for a great view of this coastal aquarium, however the place gets rather crowded at weekends.
Day 3 Leigh - Auckland 188kms

It is worth rising early to watch the sunrise in Leigh or from the Tawharanui Regional Park. Continue north on the loop road following the signs for Wellsford and Whangerei. The road regularly alternates from being sealed to unsealed, plus it is quite narrow in places. In New Zealand the uphill traffic usually has the right of way – so take it slowly. If you didn’t have time yesterday to visit the beach, then  Pakiri Beach is well worth the diversion. Turn right and drive past the Holiday Park where you will find parking, toilets and changing rooms. The path leads to a lovely white beach, plus a lagoon for children to swim in. Return to the turnoff and turn right.

(Alternatively, drive a few more kilometers further along the road towards Wellsford and turn right to drive 3.2kms to Pakiri Beach Horse rides, one of the best places to try this in the country.)

35kms – In Wellsford turn left onto SH1 then right towards Helensville, following the Twin Coast Discovery route. You are now on the west coast!

93kms – Helensville, lies on the southern reaches of the Kaipara Harbour, which is one of the biggest natural harbours in the world. The late 1800’s saw a hive of activity with the logging, sawing and exporting of kauris. Just 30kms due east of here is Orewa on the east coast, that you passed through yesterday. Follow SH16 direction Auckland until Waimauku.

111kms – Turn right to Muriwai Beach - a solitary kind of place, but well worth the diversion to view the entertaining 2500 gannets in action, even if it is not breeding season. As you descend towards the beach take the `Gannet Colony` turnoff left - It is an easy 2 minute stroll along flax and pohutakawa lined paths to view the nesting gannets (spring and summer months only). The first path left leads to the best lookout, looking directly down onto the nest sites and cute little chicks, plus you can admire the flying skills as these huge birds come into land with their two-metre wing spans, almost within touching distance. The stunning views along Muriwai Beach are a bonus.

Return to SH16 and go right.  Beesonline is 1.2 kilometres on the right - a honey centre, restaurant and excellent coffee stop. A pot of pohutakawa honey makes a unique gift for those at home. Alternatively, Matua Valley winery in Waimauku, Cooper`s Creek (3kms left down side road in Huapai), Nobilos or Babich wineries in Kumeu could be visited. You could always have lunch at the Beesonline – try the West Coast Platter with smoked snapper, herb-fried cod, squid in coriander and chilli, olives, sundried tomatoes and dipping sauces.

Continue on the Twin Coast Discovery Route which follows the Scenic Drive south along the Waitakere Ranges ridge. At 162 kilometres there is an excellent lookout on the left rewarding you with wonderful views over Auckland. You can even see Coromandel Peninsula and Great Barrier Island in the distance on a clear day. 

166kms – On your right you will see the turnoff to Piha and Karekare Beach. This large rainforest is a protected zone, with hundreds of waterfalls to choose from and stretches all the way to the beaches along the rugged West Coast. The deserted beaches provided the perfect location for the filming of `Piano`. After your walk (if any)  continue along the Scenic Drive towards Titirangi - there is another lookout on the right offering great views over Manakau HarbourAuckland`s second harbour. Just after the lookout, there is the Arataki Visitor Centre, if you’d like to learn more about the bush and Waitakere Regional Park. There is another giant frame here to frame your postcard perfect picture.

176kms – You are now arriving in Titirangi, a lovely little village full of cafés and art galleries, so a possibility for dinner. Continue to follow the Twin Coast Discovery Route back to Auckland city.

Day 4 Auckland - Hahei 270kms 

Head south (direction Hamilton) on SH1.

56kms - After the Bombay Hills, turn left onto SH2 direction Coromandel and at 88kms change again to SH25 at the new roundabout.

110kms – Just after the long Kopu Bridge, turn left towards Thames – the gateway to Coromandel Peninsula. In the late 1880s this was a thriving gold mining and kauri logging centre. (NB if you prefer a shorter drive today then turn right at the roundabout after the bridge and follow SH25A up and over the Coromandel Ranges instead of going left to Thames). This is also where you should stop and buy groceries if you intend preparing your own meals for the next 2 nights as there is not a lot of choice at Hahei!

Continue north direction Coromandel Town. You are now skirting the Firth of Thames, the road follows the dramatic and winding coast, so please take it easy. But most importantly, please remember that the locals are not on vacation and are quite often in a hurry to get somewhere. So if someone is pressuring you from behind, just pull over and allow them to pass. You will enjoy the driving much much more and the locals will in turn be much much more friendlier when you do eventually cruise to your destination at your own pace! There are places to pull over and take photos all along of this dramatic coastline.

165kms – Here you could turn right onto the 309 Road.

  • 4.8kms up this road is the Waiau Waterways Garden and café, where whimsical wonders are worked by water - there are plenty of whacky contraptions to entertain the young and young at heart.
  • 7.9kms - Continue inland to the Kauri Grove parking. This stop is excellent, giving you a real taste for the New Zealand bush without much effort. The bush walk is an easy 10 minute stroll on a level path to 600 year old kauri trees. These trees are magnificent, with native bush wonderfully lush and cool and peaceful. Continue past the first lookout for a lovely circuit past the Siamese Kauri and to the Kauri Grove. The Kauris are endemic to the northern part of New Zealand’s North Island and can live for 4000 years and grow to twice the height of these ones! They are the largest trees in the world if calculating volume of usable timber. No wonder they call them the giants of the forest and were almost wiped out by the colonials for their timber. The cutting down of a Kauri is now banned as they are protected, so thankfully now we are seeing a comeback of these giants to our forests.

Return to SH25 and turn right to visit Coromandel Town, another 5kms north.

188kms - The main street in Coromandel Town is an old world delight, full of cafés and craft shops. After your visit, drive south (go back) 400m and turn left towards Whitianga – at the top of the hill there is a lookout point with views all the way back to Auckland.

224kms – Wharekaho Beach has a fine stand of Pohutukawa trees. One of these is a gnarled old specimen that exactly fits a description in the journal of explorer Captain Cook written in 1769.

228kms – You are now arriving in Whitianga, a safe harbour full of holiday homes favoured by Aucklanders. Continue south, following signs for Tairua and SH25.

260kms - Turn left and drive 10 kilometres to Hahei Beach

If you feel like a walk, then the Coastal Track starts at the northern end of Hahei Beach….enjoy commanding views over Hahei and to the islands beyond and north along the dramatic coast. You can walk as far as you like before turning back, or you can even walk all the way to Cathedral Cove.

Day 5 Hahei

TThis morning you could visit Hot Water Beach. It is a lovely beach, but more importantly hot water rises to the surface here from a geothermal reservoir under the seabed. Check the tides, as you need to dig a hole below the high water mark, 2 hours either side of the low tide is your time limit. I recommend it after low tide, so you may then get to use an abandoned hole instead of having to dig one for yourself! You can dig a hole on the northern end of the beach, then sit back and soak in your very own private spa. Look for the sulphur bubbling to the surface of the sand.

Hahei's main attraction is Cathedral Cove, a gorgeous beach nearby hidden within a dramatic coastline. There are 4 ways of reaching it :-

  • Walk the coastal track which starts on the northern end of Hahei Beach. The views are excellent and it will take you about 1 hour to reach the cove itself.
  • Drive up to the car-park via Grange Road, then walk 45 minutes to the cove.
  • Take the Hahei sight seeing boat, departing 10am (no time at the beach).
  • Or my recommendation is to join the sea kayaking tour departing at 9am. A 3 hour truly kiwi experience, includes top quality kayaks and gear, tuition and even a coffee brewed for you on the beach while you take a swim. You can order which ever style – Cappuccino, Mochachino, even an L Baccino (long black). Sea kayaking is a "must do" in New Zealand, and this is one of the most beautiful places to try it.
Day 6 Hahei - Rotorua 294kms

Today there is a long drive to Rotorua. Actual driving time is 4 hours without suggested stops. One mistake visitors to New Zealand make is under estimating how long it takes to drive – 300kms in New Zealand is not the same as driving 300kms on motorways in Europe! Our roads are not straight, as you have probably already noticed. It is OK to do the excellent 9am kayak tour before hitting the road.

Depart from Hahei Beach car-park, returning to SH25 and go left towards Tairua. Immediately on your left you will notice some vines, they are kiwifruit. You will see many orchards and vineyards today as you travel through what is known as the fruit-bowl of New Zealand.

21kms – Great lookout spot for a photo of the Alderman Islands. An even better photo op is from the Paku Hill, turn left as you enter Tairua towards Ocean Beach. Follow the road to the marina, go up Paku Drive and follow signs to Paku Summit. A short walk will take you the rest of the way, for awesome views over Tairua Harbour and Pauanui Beach. Return to Tairua and continue south, direction Waihi.

100kms – Waihi once had 1200 mines producing half of the country’s gold. There is only one mine left now, the massive Martha’s Mine – a huge open cut mine right in the middle of town. On the SH2 intersection, turn right to Town Centre, then at the roundabout go straight onto Moresby Ave, the Waihi Gold Mine lookout is on the right 300m along. The lookout is truly impressive and the Golden Legacy Centre is worth a visit to learn more about the mine. Return to town and follow signs to Tauranga.

159kms – Bethlehem is home to the Mills Reef Winery and up-market restaurant, the turnoff is to the right just as you come into town. This option is for those that left Hahei early this morning. Otherwise continue straight at the roundabout, direction Mount Maunganui.

165kms - On the expressway, keep following SH2 and the signs for Mt Maunganui. `The Mount` was once an island with a Maori pa (fortified village), but it is now joined to the mainland and marks the entrance to the Tauranga Harbour. In Maori Tauranga means `sheltered anchorage`, the harbour has become a huge port catering for massive cruise liners and container ships filled with lamb, kiwifruit and timber heading for Japan and Europe. The Mount is now a congested suburb of Tauranga, with the beach becoming a popular holiday destination for the wealthy and the not so wealthy surfing crowd alike with plenty of cafes to choose from. You can also hike around the base or to the summit of the hill. Leaving the Mount, follow the signs for SH2 and Te Puke.

176kms - Te Puke is the original kiwifruit growing region, watch out for the giant kiwifruit in Maketu, another 17 kilometres from here. If you’d like to know more about the fruit (and have time) stop for a tour, or just visit their café and souvenir shop.
Afterwards keep following the SH33, direction Rotorua.

As you come into Rotorua, follow the city centre signs around the lake. You may smell Rotorua before seeing it, as the area is still very active with sulphur escaping from the earth’s crust (think rotten eggs). Don’t worry, you will get used to the smell. Rotorua lies on a beautiful lake, actually a flooded volcanic crater - the surrounding hills are the remains of the rim of the giant volcano. The city has become New Zealand’s second largest tourist centre – so there are no shortages of establishments willing to take some cash away from you but if you’d like to make the most of what Rotorua has to offer and all that is thermal, then here are some of my suggestions:- 

  • Kuirau Park has the largest display of steam and mud pools. An eruption took place here as recently as January 26th 2001 when mud, steam and debris were thrown 200m into the air. Springs regularly just appear, resulting in families being forced to move and the land having to be given back to nature.
  • Wander around the original Maori settlement at Ohinemutu. The church is worth a look at, as is the Marae (Maori meeting house) across the courtyard. Wander the tiny streets where everyone has their own private hot-water bore to fill their bath in the out-shed….just follow the steam and stay on the paths!
  • If you have time, soak in the reputedly therapeutic thermal pools at the Polynesian Spa, a beautiful but busy public pool. If you wait until tomorrow morning the spa is less crowded. It is a delightful way to start the day - relaxing with wonderful views across the lake.
  • This evening don’t miss the excellent Tamaki Brothers cultural show followed by a traditional Hangi (earthen cooked meal). Pickups from your accommodation in a waka (war canoe) cleverly disguised as a bus, followed by a fun evening superbly hosted and entertained by local Maori
  • The excitement junkies can take the Gondola up Mount Nongataha for awesome views, interspersed with hair raising rides on a luge (3 levels available, so suitable for children).
Tonight for dinner, I recommend walking down Tutanekai Street or also known as 'Eat Street' and enjoy one of Rotorua's coolest hot spots where you will enjoy quality retaurants, bars & cafe's. Make sure you try the famous Lady Jane's ice cream parlour for dessert! 
 

Day 7 Rotorua - Taupo - Napier 222kms

Just before Lake Taupo there are many more thermal attractions! Before you depart you could soak in the reputedly therapeutic thermal pools at the Polynesian Spa, a delightful but busy public pool. In the morning the spa is less crowded and it is a wonderful way to start the day - relaxing with serene views across the lake.

29kms - Turn left at the Wai-o-tapu Tavern and 400m further left again onto the Loop Road and take a look at the thermal Mud Pools (free). Don’t forget to lock your car and keep valuables out of sight - the bubbling mud can keep you mesmerized for hours!

The Lady Knox Geyser (between the Mud Pools and Waiotapu) blows her top at 10:15am - it attracts tourists by the bus-load but worth timing your visit to see this as it is spectacular none the less!

Follow the Loop Road to the main attraction Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland, the best thermal reserve in the area. It really is a wonderland of orange, green, yellow, blue, white and black pools, the highlights being the exquisitely coloured Champagne Pool, Oyster Pool and the Devil’s Bath - you’ll be amazed how nature can conjure up such colours. The track is uneven at times so you need walking shoes. Continue on the Loop Road to SH5 and turn left.

72kms – At the large roundabout where SH5 meets SH1, go straight and continue south past the Wairakei International Golf Course.

78kms – Turn left for the mighty Huka Falls, Volcanic Activity Centre, and Prawn Park.

  • If you first go left, you will come to the freshwater Prawn Park, apparently the world’s only geothermal prawn farm. The informative tour leaves every 30 minutes, after which you are encouraged to munch out in the Riverside Restaurant.
  • Next door is the Huka Falls Jet where you could take a 30 minute thrilling jet-boat ride (another NZ invention) along the Waikato River (NZ’s longest) and right up to the Huka Falls themselves.  From the unique vantage point on the jet boat you have the best water level view of the falls.
  • The Huka Falls are not very high, but are certainly spectacular (free). Here the sedate Waikato River is forced between a 15m gap before roaring over a 7 metre drop. There is a lookout just past the Helistar Helicopters, but the falls are much more impressive from below, where there is a walkway across the river.

Follow the river from the falls upriver and this will bring you back to the main road – just before the turnoff there is an excellent lookout over Lake Taupo. Turn left and head down into the centre of Taupo.

Lake Taupo is actually the world’s largest volcanic crater, created in one giant explosion. The ash cloud floated all over the world - ice samples from as far apart as Antarctica and Alaska have determined the explosion to have occurred in 186AD. The effects of the ash were even recorded in China and Rome. You can gather your own free volcanic souvenir from the shoreline in the form of very light pumice stones (great for cleaning off rough skin) which were spewed out in that eruption. Just about everywhere you look in the Lake Taupo region, you will see a volcano.

Continue to the lake front of Taupo and drive south for approximately 2kms then turn left onto SH5 to Napier. The next part of your trip has ever changing scenery – rugged hills, beautiful valleys, vineyard covered plains and huge vistas as we approach the Hawke's Bay region - the North Island’s top wine producing region. A sunny climate, combined with excellent growing conditions has led to many of the wineries earning gold medals at international competitions.

Soon after Opepe you will be on the Kaingaroa Plains. This was formed from the ash from the great Taupo eruption of 186AD. Watch out for the Waipunga Falls Lookout sign, they are next to the road and well worthwhile the stop.

Napier was almost totally destroyed in the 1931 earthquake, causing a massive rebuilding program throughout the 30’s, resulting in a vibrant city known as the Art Deco capital of the world. Most of the buildings you will see were built between 1920 and 1940, the building style became known following the great Exposition des Arts Modernes Decocratifs et Industriels, held in Paris in 1925 and from which the name Art Deco was ultimately derived.

Day 8 Napier

The Hawke's Bay region is the North Island’s top wine producing region. A sunny climate, combined with excellent growing conditions has led to many of the wineries earning gold medals at international competitions. So how about brunch under the vines at one of the vineyard cafes! Drive south along Marine Parade and follow the coast. Just after Clive village, turn left direction Cape Kidnappers and Te Awanga.

Please note that tastings at wineries are usually free and although not compulsory - purchasing is expected to help offset the costs of paying the knowledgeable and helpful staff. Some wineries do charge a little, which is then deducted from any purchases. Purchases can usually be sent overseas. The best way to sample is accompanied with a great meal at a table under the vines!

23kms – Clifton Beach has some wonderful views of the Cape Kidnappers Cliffs. Return 3 kilometers to Clearview Estate Winery, one of Hawkes Bay’s best wineries with an excellent restaurant to match. Open from 10am for coffee, wine or brunch under the vines. Or Elephant Hill opens 11am, they offer delicious food, stunning wines and fabulous views over the vineyard to the Pacific Ocean!

If you are a lover of exquisite chocolate, you could also visit the Silky Oak Chocolate factory, museum and café on Links Road (SH50) near the Napier Golf Club and Hastings.

Other possibilities in Napier today are:-

  • A favourite of mine is the Wine Centre at #1 Shakespeare Road near the Tourist office – be sure to try the Big Picture (extra charge). Included in the entrance price is an Aroma Room plus a simulated helicopter flight that takes you on a guided tour of six of our most famous wineries. En route you “stop” to tour each winery where the resident wine maker will talk you through their favourite wines, all this while you smell and taste the wines in front of you!
  • If you are Art Deco fans then you may like to join the walking tour which departs from The Art Deco Shop on Tennyson Street.
  • The Earthquake walk also departs from the tourist office on Marine Parade. The entertaining tour concludes with a fascinating look at photos and memorabilia at the Earthquake gallery.
  • Alternatively, wander the streets yourself and visit the excellent Hawkes Bay Museum at the beginning of Marine Parade, where special attention is of course given to the 1931 earthquake with a video of survivor’s stories, as well as an area dedicated to the first dinosaur discovery in New Zealand and another to local Maori art.
  • Or hire a bike a make your own way around some of the vineyards….Church Road Winery is one of my favourites!
  • Marine Parade has several other attractions, including the National Aquarium of New Zealand for viewing of all things fishy; Ocean Spa for hot-pools and massage therapy by the sea. My favourite is the Opossum World for a fascinating display of gorgeous soft and warm garments made from that introduced pest that all New Zealanders hate. An estimated 70,000,000 possums eat 21,000 tons of foliage each night – an ecological nightmare to our unique and fragile bush! Please do not feel guilty if you happen to run over a few during your travels, we will be eternally grateful!

·         Or, explore Napier’s wineries by bike with Takaroa Trails…. the 6 hour Leisurely Gimblett Gravels trail takes you 16 kilometres and past 9 wineries ($75pp). Costs include bike, helmet hire, riding instructions with map, water bottle, breakdown support and transport and transfers when required (for example if you can no longer cycle any further!) Please note some wineries charge for tastings and opening hours vary. Telephone 06 835 9030 to book.

Later, you should join the Twilight Odyssey - the world's only progressive winery dinner with interactive wine tasting of 10-12 wines. Enjoy a scenic drive through some of New Zealand’s prettiest vineyard covered scenery and a sumptuous three course meal spread across 3 of New Zealand's top winery restaurants.

 

First up, there is a full interactive wine tasting alongside gourmet platters at Vidal.  Then take in the breathtaking views from Te Mata Peak while enjoying a glass of bubbles as the sun sets. The next stop is at Craggy Range or Elephant Hill for the main course accompanied by a glass of wine. You then finish the evening at the country's oldest and grandest winery the Mission Estate for dessert and a glass of dessert wine. 

Day 9 Napier - Martinborough 282kms

Continue south along Marine Parade and then onto SH2, direction Hastings and Masterton.

108kms - Norsewood is home of Norsewear for natural woolen clothing popular with trampers and farmers alike from all over the world. The factory shop is open 7 days a week. Many Scandinavians immigrated to the area, the Norwegians to Norsewood, the Danish to Dannevirke.

155kms – In Woodville SH2 turns left onto McLean Street, opposite the red Masonic Hotel, direction Masterton. On the banks of the Mangatainoka River 13 kms later you can’t miss the Tui Brewery. Tui is fast becoming a New Zealand icon, with adverts claiming the beer to be brewed by women….gorgeous women! Yeah right. Beer enthusiasts may want to visit the Promo Shop for a sample or souvenir.

204kms – Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre is New Zealand’s best for viewing Kiwis, Kakas, Kokakos, etc. The DOC (Department of Conservation) is successfully breeding endangered species here - there is something special about sitting on the deck of the café sipping coffee and looking at some prehistoric Takehe or Tuatara.  

  • 1.30pm feeding of the huge 80 year old wild eels, who instinctively seem to know the time.
  • 3pm Kaka feeding, a cheeky and raucous native bush parrot, cousin to the more noious Kea that lives in the mountains.
  • There is also a beautiful walk through ancient forest of Rimu, Rata and Kamahi, a living reminder of what existed before the colonization by man.

235kms – At the first roundabout in Masterton, turn right direction Wellington and continue to follow the signs through town. Next you come to Carterton, home of the Paua Shell Factory. Paua is unique to New Zealand, the informative display explains how they are caught from deep waters with snorkels and how the inner shell casing is ground down to reveal the beautifully patterned colours. OK agreed, some of the items on sale are painfully kitsch, but somebody must buy them otherwise they wouldn’t continue to make them. However many other items are unique and useful, not to mention stunningly beautiful, so will make a perfect souvenir from New Zealand.

260kms – Greytown is a pretty village full of Victorian buildings and quaint antique shops. Just after the village turn left to Martinborough, a unique wine village and your destination for this evening. There are 26 boutique wineries specializing in Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc wines, many within staggering distance of the Village Square, which is laid out in the shape of the Union Jack. 

Day 10 Martinborough - Wellington 205kms

Today I’m taking you to the very edges of earth to the wild southern coast of the North Island, visiting Cape Palliser’s candy striped lighthouse, the sea-lion colony, the baby bulldozers at Ngawi and the Putangirua Pinnacles. There are no shops or restaurants, so you need to take some food and refreshments with you! The highlight in my eyes is definitely the walk to the Pinnacles, an unusual valley of scree that has been compacted and lifted out of the sea, rising to a height of 200 metres. The erosion of the land over the millennia has left fingers of gravel spires and turrets topped with a harder stone which provide some, let’s say, interesting views. From below you feel the full force of what nature can inflict on this earth, from above you get a full picture of the valley – and it’s awesome. The walk is a bit of a scramble to say the least over river boulders, debris and fossils, but the adventure is more than worth the small effort. We met some 70+ year olds the day my young family and I made the walk and they were bubbling with enthusiasm. So I have decided to recommend this to all, because if they can do it as well as my young children, then I’m sure you can too! Leave early if you'd like a late lunch at Murdoch James Estate, open 12 - 3pm, closed Wednesdays (summer months).

Departing from the Village Square, head south along Jellicoe Street, direction Lake Ferry.

32kms – Left, direction Cape Palliser. The Putangirua Pinnacles Reserve car park is on the left at 46kms. The walk will take you about 3 hours if you walk to the base of the Pinnacles, then up to the lookout and back down the bush track.

You need to follow the stream for 35 – 45 minutes, until the first streambed branching off to the left. When we did it, most of the track was washed away and we had to make several crossings of the stream. After we visited the base of the Pinnacles, we returned down the smaller streambed to the orange marker 100m before the bottom – this leads to the steep track that will take you up to the lookout…. strenuous, but wow, what a view. (Alternatively if you would like lunch at the Murdoch James Estate, then head back the way you came). We then continued on the bush walk back to the car park. Admittedly it’s a bit of an adventure getting there, but as my husband declared " it’s a world wonder”. After the walk, departing from the car park, turn left.

65kms – Ngawi is home to the baby bulldozers with imaginative names such as “Tinky Winky” and “Babe”. Their owners are crayfishermen and fishermen, the only source of income in the area.

72kms – Cape Palliser. The rocks and beach between Mangatoetoe and the lighthouse are home to thousands of sea-lions, a seemingly harmless blob of blubber. You can easily approach within metres, but be sure not to stand between the animal and their escape route to the sea. Return along the coast.

112kms – Right, direction Martinborough and at 125kms, left direction Featherston. Alternatively if you didn't do the longer walk then return towards Martinborough, 7kms before the Square you will see Dry River Road on the right, drive 2 kilometres down here to Murdoch James Estate where the "fabulous kitchen team place emphasis on sourcing local produce to create a café experience to remember. Match the wine to your choice of food using the blackboard menu as a guide or just ask one of the team for their thoughts on the best match".

154kms – Featherston, the first opportunity for a café stop, try the Lady Featherston on Fitzherbert Street. The town housed New Zealand’s largest army training base during WW1, with about 35000 troops passing through the camp before they had to walk the Rimutaka Hill to Wellington to be shipped overseas. Quite a formidable feat you’ll realize once you’ve negotiated the tortuous “hill” yourself. Messines in Belgium is twinned with this little town because New Zealand troops recaptured it from the Germans in June 1917.

The world's only remaining Fell Engine locomotive is on display on the corner of Fitzherbert and Lyon Streets. It has horizontal grip wheels to hold it onto the steep and winding track. It serviced the Wairarapa farming community from 1878 to 1955. For great coffees try the Lady Featherston on Fitzherbert Street.

The disused train track is now a popular walk. If you have an extra day then there is the opportunity to stay at Longwood Lodge, the residence of many of our past Governor Generals. The staff will drive you over the hill to the start of the walk - ask for a torch for the tunnels. They will then pick you up again 4 hours later down by Cross Creek and return you to Longwood in time for pre-dinner drinks followed by a 4 course meal. Stay overnight in the luxurious lodge and wake to a country breakfast fit for a Governor General, so to speak.

165kms – The Summit car park is on the right – pass over the median strip with care! There is a great view of Lake Wairarapa and the east coast and on the other side to the Rimutaka Incline where the specially built Fell Engine train climbed the steep 265m slopes. From here it’s all downhill, literally, to Wellington. If you do not require your hire-car tomorrow, then consider returning it today - you will be picking up a new one in Picton or returning to Auckland.

Day 11 Wellington

A day off from driving! If you are continuing on to the South Island then you will have more time in the capital. Otherwise fly north to Auckland to catch your international flight. There are numerous attractions to be enjoyed today :-
  • The main attraction here is the free National Museum of Te Papa. You can easily spend hours engrossed here - if only you visit the excellent Maori heritage section.
  • The best place to start your visit to Wellington is Mount Victoria Lookout for awesome views of the city and harbour.
  • Visit Courtney Place for lunch with dinner at the White House.
  • Although Wellington is not the largest city, it does lie central to the two islands and is therefore the capital. The Parliamentary District is interesting to wander around - the Beehive houses various government offices! There is a free tour of Parliament House.
  • Be sure to take the Cable Car up the steep hill up to Kelburn behind the city centre and wander back down through the magnificent Botanical Gardens.
  • Wellington is home of the Weta Workshop, makers of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. There are several guided day tours on offer to the main filming sites in and around the city.
  • Play golf at Paraparaumu, just north of Wellington on SH1. This is another internationally recognized course on the "Top 100 Golf Courses in the World" list.
  • Stop off at Titahi Bay on your return to the city for a meal at the award winning Oceana Café. Exit the motorway at Porirua. There are several roundabouts through the shops – just follow the signs for Titahi Bay and travel along the northwest side of the lagoon. Drive right to the end, you can even park on the beach! Titahi Bay has safe swimming, with lovely views of the South Island in the distance.





South Island itinerary

Day 1 Picton - Blenheim 


Today you cross to the South Island by the inter-island ferry, however the trip is more like a scenic cruise as you make your way through the Marlborough Sounds to Picton allowing glimpses of secluded coves, bays and bush clad islands. If you’re lucky a huge pod of dolphins may escort you all the way. Pick up your new hire-car and drive south on SH1.

Possible extra - stay an extra 2 days in the Marlborough Sounds - only accessible by a small boat where you can spend 2 days walking the stunning Queen Charlotte Track through lush forests overlooking the tranquil sounds). 

29kms - Blenheim’s dry climate and soil have nurtured a strong wine industry which has slowly overtaken sheep as the main export of the area. However inland you will find New Zealand’s largest farm, the 182,000 ha Molesworth Station. Internationally renowned labels have established their vines throughout the region, notably of the sauvignon blanc variety. The Marlborough region has almost 60 wineries to choose from such as the world-renowned Riverlands Winery (formerly the Montana-Bancroft Estate) is 4 minutes drive south of Blenheim on SH1, the iconic Cloudy Bay Winery on Jackson's Road and the pioneering Hunters Wines on Rapaura Road. More info on Marlborough Wines.

Day 2 Blenheim

Today is dedicated to visiting some of Marlborough’s more famous wineries, I suggest by bike so you don’t need to worry about drink/driving! Call Wine Tours By Bike on 03 577 6954 and they will pick you up (and drop you back later) from your accommodation. Their fully inclusive package includes a personalized self-guided tour depending on your tastes, well-maintained bikes & helmets, breakdown/puncture support, 4 bottle wine carriers (for your purchases) and support/transport if you can no longer pedal!

Some wineries you could try are:-

  • The Wine Station is in the historic railway station, here you sample 80 different Marlborough wines. Their aim is to showcase the incredible variety of wines from the region, including same very hard to find wines! There are also a number of gourmet platter options available to compliment the wine tasting experience, including an indulgent Chocolate Truffle platter!
  • The Riverlands Winery (formerly the Montana-Bancroft Estate) is 4 minutes drive south of Blenheim on SH1.
  • The internationally famous Villa Maria Winery is on the corner of Paynters and New Renwick Roads. The impressive new facility was purpose built in 2000 to handle the increasing tonnages of grapes sourced from this premium grape growing region.
  • At Johanneshof Cellars you will experience the passion and flair of a boutique wine producer. Visit the underground cellars resonating to the echoes of bygone centuries through which the modern winemaking craft has evolved. Here vintage harvests rest and mature 20 metres below ground, in New Zealand's first underground rock cellar (bring a sweater and/or light coat). Here you will get to taste some fine boutique wines, all handcrafted and amongst New Zealand’s most awarded Aromatic Wines.
  • Next try the iconic Wither Hills Winery on the southern side of Marlborough’s Wairau Valley and in the lee of the Wither Hills Range. The winery and cellar door is an elegant blend of contemporary design and comfortable sophistication − an ideal showcase for their superbly crafted wines in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.
  • Lunch could be at the picturesque Allan Scott Wines in their unique mud brick building and taste their range of wines.
  • And you can’t miss the Cloudy Bay Winery on Jackson’s Road– I am sure you must have tried their Sauvignon Blanc. Cloudy Bay has built a loyal following for its captivating style, but just like the wines, there are many layers to the Cloudy Bay story.  The unique South Pacific terroir soil helps to create the distinctive flavours of Marlborough where they create a continually evolving range of wines that capture the essence of this special place.
  • For dinner try the famous Hans Herzog Winery & Restaurant – their Mediterranean Garden Bistro in particular is highly recommended! Call well in advance on 03 572 8770 …try and get a table in the fabulous garden, this has to be Marlborough’s best kept secret! Or for casual dining, Rocco’s Italian Restaurant on Dodson Street is a favorite with the locals, tel: 03 578 6940.
Day 3 Blemheim - Kaikoura 126kms

Enjoy the delights of Blenheim and Marlborough to your heart's content, but remember you still need to drive 126 kilometres later this afternoon!

Continue south on SH1 to Kaikoura, your destination for this evening. The rugged coast is home to a diverse range of wildlife which gladly pose within camera range. Watch out for seals, dolphins and albatrosses amongst the rocks, freshly cooked crayfish is usually available from a roadside shop housed in a caravan. A deep-sea canyon system rich in plankton lies close to the coast, which then attract a variety of those very special creatures - the whales. However only male sperm whales are resident all year round as the females stay in the warmer tropical waters near the equator. Just as the road hits the coast, the Store Cafe is worth a stop for refreshments on their terrace by the sea.

Your first stop in Kaikoura should be the Lookout just off Scarborough Terrace. From here you can view the azure-blue waters around Kaikoura Peninsula bordered by the mountain backdrop behind. The  excellent Peninsula Walkway at the head of the peninsula takes you along the shoreline and back over the cliffs.

Day 4 Kaikoura - Christchurch 200kms

After your morning excursion, watching the whales or albatross or swim with the dolphins, continue south on SH1.

68kms  - Turn left to Gore Bay to visit the uniquely eroded (think organ pipes) Cathedral Cliffs just up the hill from the beach. Continue on this loop road which will rejoin SH1 in Domett. Continue south on SH1 towards Christchurch.

The Waipara Valley is a sunny and well drained valley and is fast becoming the new vine growing region. I can recommend a stop at the family-owned Pegasus Bay winery, turn left 4.5 kilometres after the village. Try their generous platter loaded with cheeses and locally caught salmon and duck accompanied with some excellent award-winning wines on the lawn.

Christchurch is New Zealand's second largest city which sprawls across the Canterbury Plains towards the Southern Alps. The main attractions here are the English style gardens and parks, the city even has its very own Avon Riveron which one can punt. It has an English colonial feel to the city with school children in formal blazers and straw hats, with fine architecture and heritage sites evident everywhere. ……however, on February 22nd 2011 the city suffered a devastating earthquake that has unfortunately destroyed many of those heritage buildings, including the iconic Christchurch Cathedral!

Attractions still worth considering are :-
  • Head to Antigua Boatshed where canoes are available for hire. Request a picnic basket hamper to be enjoyed on the banks of the Avon River along the way.
  • Or hire your very own gondolier to punt you through the Botanical Gardens.
  • The Grand Café at the Casino is a great option ….open for breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week.
  • Visit the Canterbury Museum for their informative Earthquake exhibition as well as the Antarctic section and impressive Maori collection.
  • The new Christchurch Art Gallery is a must see.
  • The excellent International Antarctic Centre near the airport is where you can experience all there is to know about the icy continent.
  • Take to the Port Hills for stunning 360° views as you walk along the Crater Rim Track.
  • Mona Vale was a beautiful Edwardian-style homestead set amongst 5½ ha. of beautiful gardens…..the gardens are still worth the visit!
  • The nearby Dean’s Bush at Riccarton is home to the only surviving stand of wetlands podocarp forest.
  • Join the Christchurch Bike Tour…..they ride along the bike paths and through parks and there is not a hill in sight! Stops include both Mona Vale and Deans Bush, as well as Hagley Park and the attractions.
  • The Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is a zoo with a difference with plenty of opportunities to get up close and touch the animals.....be sure to check out the massive eels! And buy a bag of food to feed the various animals as you walk around the well marked bush lined paths. Time your visit to include the 4.30pm guided tour (no extra charge) through the Natural New Zealand section showcasing our rare native birds, including the kiwi of course. Other highlights here are close encounters of the wildlife kind with various and the farmyard animals that clamber for your attention to be fed and stroked! 
Day 5 Christchurch - Mount Cook National Park 350kms

This morning I recommend departing by 9am so you have time to make all the recommended stops en route! From your accommodation, the best way to find SH1 is to return to the airport roundabout where you turn left to follow SH1 south, direction Ashburton and Timaru. About 7 kilometres south of the airport you need to turn right at the Hornby traffic lights to stay on SH1.

126kms - Soon after passing over the Rangitata River, turn right onto SH79, direction Geraldine and Fairlie.

140kms - The Geraldine Orchard Farm Shop & Café is a great option for a coffee stop, you will see it on the left about 1 kilometre before Geraldine.

In Geraldine there are a few attractions worth stopping for. You can choose from:-

·         Try the hot-chocolate and or handmade chocolates at Coco - the prices ensure they are sold fresh

·         The Giant Jersey has, you guessed it, the largest jersey in the world, plus lots of woolly stuff on sale. It is also home to the incredible Medieval Mosaic, a perfect recreation of the famous Bayeux Tapestry.

·         The Vintage Car Club and Machinery Museum has a sizable collection of cars, tractors and aircraft

·         Barkers Berry Barn is a specialty shop selling unique gift and gourmet items

Turn right after the Geraldine shops to stay on SH79.

187kms – In Fairlie, turn right onto SH8 to Lake Tekapo. Or you could first stop for a famous pie from the Fairlie Bakehouse – locals come from miles to buy these!

The scenery dramatically changes as you cross over Burke's Pass. You are now entering the Mackenzie Basin, a flat expanse of tussock grasslands and home to New Zealand’s highest mountain Aoraki (or Mt Cook as it is known in English) plus the longest glacier Tasman and sparkling turquoise glacial lakes below the Southern Alps - and it bears little resemblance to anywhere else in New Zealand.

228kms – The village at Lake Tekapo is small - their claim to fame being that it has the cleanest and clearest air in New Zealand….the skies above have recently become the world’s first ever Night Sky Reserve. Be sure to visit the much-photographed Church of the Good Shepherd and the Sheepdog.

232kms - Just south of the village, turn right and drive up to the summit of Mount John and enjoy spectacular 360° views.

290kms - The Lake Pukaki Lookout is a great place to stop for photos of Mt Cook reflected in the water….the gorgeous turquoise-blue lake derives its colour from fine glacial particles suspended in the water. They also sell the locally farmed Salmon here (either hot smoked or cold smoked).

295kms – Turn right onto SH80. The 55 kilometre scenic drive to Mount Cook Village at the base of Aoraki / Mt Cook (our highest mountain) and the Tasman and Hooker Glaciers encompasses world-class scenery at its best where your excitement grows in parallel with the vista before you as you enter this world heritage site known as the Mount Cook National Park.

En route a stop at Peter’s Lookout is recommended - on the other side of the lake you are looking at Braemer Station where they filmed the escape from inside the Misty Mountains (1st Hobbit movie) and the Warg chase. The farm next door is called Tasman Downs Station – site of the Lake Town set! The whimsical lakeside village set sat over the water and incorporated clusters of two-storey wooden dwellings arranged around connecting walkways, waterways and wharves. Filming at this location was one of the largest operational periods in the shooting schedule with around 700 people on set.

For dinner my recommendation is the a-la-carte Panorama Restaurant or the extensive buffet in the Alpine Restaurant, both at the Hermitage…. a short stroll away up the path. Reservations are essential so call in advance on 0800 686 800 to book a table.

On arrival you can choose from:-

·         Several different alpine walks with wonderful views. The view of the Tasman Glacier from the lookout up a short steep track is well worth the drive!

·         Scenic flights around Mount Cook, with a landing on the Tasman Glacier, telephone 0800 800 702 to make a booking.

·         Visit the informative Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre,

·         Or the DoC Visitor’s Centre is just as good.

·         Eat, drink and just relax in the Hermitage while enjoying the incredible views that lie before you.

·         Join the Star Gazing tour (this evening of course) and gaze in awe at the galaxy of stars in the Milky Way – our skies are some of the clearest in the whole world!

For a walk I can recommend the Hooker Valley Track - this is one of the most popular short walks in the Mount Cook National Park. Start at the White Horse Hill camping and follow the Hooker River. There are massive views of Mt Sefton and the shrunken Mueller Glacier, past an Alpine Memorial and over three swing-bridges until the final destination of the terminal lake at the bottom of the Hooker Glacier. Here Mt Aoraki looms ahead with great walls of ice up on the left and buttresses of rock tower over the foaming river to the right. The walk takes approximately 2 hours one way – so walk as far as you like. This is New Zealand at its very best! 

Day 6 Mount Cook - Wanaka 206kms

This morning I recommend the Glacier Explorer Trip. The excursion involves walking to Tasman Lake and then taking an informative boat ride to the face of the 27-kilometer-long glacier. Touch and even taste the 500-year-old ice in your hand, explore the huge dripping terminal face of New Zealand’s longest glacier. As the glacier retreats, the terminus is calving resulting in highly picturesque icebergs. Watch and listen to the ice melting before your eyes in this tranquil glacial lake. Please wear comfortable walking shoes.

After lunch, return along SH80 and turn right to Twizel, soon after you could stop at the Salmon Farm to feed the massive fish and to try the smoked salmon. Continue south on SH8, consider stopping in Omarama for petrol as there is not another fuel station for 80 kilometres! The highway will take you over the scenic Lindis Pass, the pass was first used by the Maori people walking to Lake Wanaka for summer fishing.

174kms - Just after Tarras, turn right onto SH8A to Wanaka. The tranquil lake has picture-perfect mountains as a backdrop and is one of my favourite places in New Zealand! Your accommodation for tonight is at a superbly hosted B+B chosen for the stunning mountain and lake views across their very own pinot producing vines. A scrumptious breakfast is also included.

There are several options available here:-

  • You could drive along the lakefront direction Glendhu Bay and Treble Cone Ski-Field - on the end of town you could visit the Rippon Winery... Probably the prettiest winery in the world (OK, I am biased). Cellar door closes at 5pm. Set against a backdrop of Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps, they invite you to the Mills family farm to share in their history, community, story and wines. The tasting is relatively informal with 5-7 wines are available daily for tasting, mainly of their current vintages.
  • Cycle along the Outlet Track along the banks of the mighty Clutha River, a favourite spot for trout fishing.
  • Watch out for “The Leaning Tower of Wanaka”, the centerpiece of Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World. Only one of the world’s most interesting and eccentric visitor attractions!
  • Pop out to the end of the Wanaka Wharf to see the big fat trout (no fishing permitted from the wharf, sorry)
  • Visit Cinema Paradiso for an old-fashioned movie experience where you get to lounge around on huge sofas or enjoy a meal or drink before, during or after the movie!
  • For the best views in town wander along the lakes edge to the Edgewater Resort for freshly baked scones or pre-dinner drinks on the lawn on the lake’s edge.
Day 7 Wanaka

This morning you could join the the Classic Central Otago Wine Trail tour. This small group tour combines history with visits to the three terroir regions of Central Otago - Bannockburn, Gibbston Valley and Wanaka. You’ll meet passionate, award winning wine makers, in many cases tasting their fine wines in the comfort of their own homes. A platter-style lunch is also included overlooking Lake Dunstan at Carrick Winery in Bannockburn, as well as visits to 4-6 vineyards with tasting up to 5 wines at each!  You will also have time to explore Old Cromwell Town on the banks of New Zealand’s second longest river the mighty Clutha.  

Or you could do a full day Dram Tour around Wanaka with Central Lakes Tours. Included are a variety of stops, such as visiting the world’s most southern whisky distillery; wine tasting of locally produced wines at two selected premium wineries; experience locally produced cider and fruit juice flavours; opportunities to taste delicious regional produce at a food market on Lake Dunstan; time for lunch at Cider House Café (own expense)

Or for something a little different, join the afternoon 
Backroads, Tastes & Treasures Tour with Funny French Cars. Travel in style in a classic vintage 2CV Citroen. This tour combines history with visits to the three terroir regions of Central Otago - Bannockburn, Gibbston Valley and Wanaka. This tour offers a wonderful mix of heritage, history rich in gold mining and passionate artisans who produce a fantastic range of flavours including wines, beer, lavender, apple cider, fruit juice, fruit ports, seasonal stone fruits, olives, honey as well as meeting the local painters, sculptors, potters & hand knitters. 

Day 8 Wanaka - Te Anau 270kms

Drive south on SH6 past Wanaka Airport. It is hard to believe that this sleepy region was the most populous in New Zealand during the chaotic gold boom years of the late 19th century. Cromwell is one of the sunniest, warmest places in the South Island (in the summer that is), making it ideal for growing fruit trees and the region is fast becoming renowned for fine Pinot Noir wines. Old Cromwell Town is worth exploring.

54kms - You then continue south on SH6 through the dramatic Kawarau Gorge.  Just before the gorge, look for the large fresh fruit shop on the left (Jones Fruit Stall), it is well worth a stop at as they have all sorts of seasonal fruit that you can try and their real fruit ice-creams are amazing!

Soon after leaving the Gorge there is the excellent Gibbston Valley Winery and café which is a good option for lunch. They also run the Gibbston Valley Cheesery next door!

90kms - The Kawarau River Bridge is home to A.J. Hackett's very first bungee jumping platform - this is where you get to tie a huge elastic band to your ankles and jump out into space over the river (if you dare?), or just have fun watching others.

106kms - At the Frankton roundabout (fill up with petrol here) turn left to stay on SH6, direction Lumsden and Te Anau.

194kms - At Five Rivers, turn right. The café on the corner is highly recommended – try their cheesy rolls, the specialty of the region!

270kms - Te Anau is the gateway to the Fiordland National Park – it is 1,250,000 uninhabited hectares of stunning wilderness. Fiordland has a primeval rugged landscape, largely untouched by humans apart from incursions by tourists at Milford and Doubtful Sounds and a few fishermen in other fiords. It was declared a World Heritage Area on account of the outstanding geological features and exceptional beauty, the jewel in the crown being Mitre Peak in Milford Sound.

You could check-out the Wildlife Centre (a 10 minute walk from the Visitor Centre/DoC) for a view of the near extinct pre-historic looking flightless Takahe as well as many other NZ native birds. It is run by DoC so donations are gladly accepted!

Another great option before an early dinner is to see the Ata Whenua – Shadowland movie at the Fiordland Cinema. It is a 30 minute film show cases the unique beauty and remote wilderness of Fiordland from the air to the screen for all to enjoy! No reservations are necessary, there is a screening every hour, on the hour between 3pm and 6pm.

Day 9 Te Anau - Milford Sound - Te Anau 240kms 

Please allow at least 2.5 hours for the drive to Milford as you will be stopping all the time to take photos. NB it is a good idea to take a picnic to enjoy on the cruise as there are no shops en route or at Milford and only a limited selection on board the boat. Also note that what you do not manage to see on the way there you can always stop at on the way back!

The drive towards Milford Sound is quite stunning to say the least. Possible stops en route or on the way back include Eglington River Valley, Mirror Lake and Knobs Flat before reaching the Divide – the lowest pass over these mountains. Continuing along the road you next have the Falls Creek Lookout down to the Hollyford Valley. Please note that there are traffic lights at the Homer Tunnel as it is only one way traffic…..you can be waiting for up to 10 minutes!

Once through the 1.2km long Homer Tunnel you will see the spectacular Cleddau Canyon and the incredibly precipitous walls on which the road slowly winds its way down.

There is parking available 10 minutes walk from the Visitor Terminal. Don't forget the insect repellent as the sand-flies are not only a menace, but practically man-eating! Plus a rain coat - the area receives 12,000mm of rain per year per square metre - so chances are high that you will see rain!

120kms - Milford Sound is quite simply unparalleled to anything in this world - wet or fine Milford is incredibly grand. The awesome Nature Cruise on the fiord includes countless waterfalls tumbling hundreds of metres down sheer cliffs, mountains rising straight out of the sea, fur seals and (usually) dolphins. Mitre Peak magnetises photographers, as does the cascading Bowen and Stirling Falls.  A 'Sound' is a flooded river valley, but these are flooded glacial valleys with sheer sided walls that plunge hundreds of metres under water as well as above - so they are misnamed. The Maori believe the fiords were created by the titanic mason Tute Rakiwhanoa, who used an adze to cut out the steep sided walls and gullies.

Afterwards, return to Te Anau the way you came. If you feel like a short walk, the Nature Walk at the southern end of Lake Gunn is highly recommended (it starts from the Cascade Creek parking)…..it is like walking through a fairy tale!  

Day 10 Te Anau - Queenstown 206kms

Return the way you came on SH94 and then SH6 towards 
Queenstown.

165kms - At the Frankton roundabout, turn right and drive north another 8 kilometres on SH6. 

173kms – Turn left to Arrowtown. On the corner of the highway and Lake Hayes you will find the multi award winning Amisfield Restaurant & Winery, where you can stop and try some wines and have some lunch.

180kms - The pretty tree-lined town of Arrowtown is another former gold mining settlement. Two years after the first European settlers established high country farms in the Wakatipu area, gold was discovered in the Arrow River and news soon spread. Within weeks 1500 people arrived as the news of gold spread and people in search of the alluvial treasure arrived in droves. At the height of the gold rush, Arrowtown's population grew to over 7000. In 1865 many of the miners started to leave for other gold-mining areas and the local government invited Chinese miners to the area. Most worked in the Shotover and Arrow Gorges, although wherever Chinese stores opened communities began to develop. Wander amongst the historic cottages, visit the reconstructed Chinese Settlement (the Chinese were subjected to many prejudices so had their own settlement. The main shopping street is a shopper’s particular delight!

Return south by taking the road along the base of the hill, via Coronet and Arthur’s Point. You could (should) drive up the Coronet Ski-field Access Road for fabulous views of the Wakatipu Basin and Shotover River! You don’t need to drive all the way up….turn left onto Skippers Canyon Road and there is a parking and a Lookout immediately on the left.

206kms - Queenstown is the Adventure Capital of the World! The beautiful resort was originally named as 'fit for a Queen'. It lies on Lake Wakatipu where you can observe the strange seiches phenomenon - this is an unusual rhythmic rise and fall of 12cm in its water level every five minutes due to variations in atmospheric pressure. A Maori myth says it is the beating of a monster's heart lying in the depths of Lake Wakatipu! The sheer breadth of tourist activities available here is impossible to list, however the ' in-thing' at the moment are tours that have anything to do with the numerous Lord of the Rings and Hobbit filming locations.

Day 11 Queenstown

Today you have a free day in Queenstown. Options today could include:

 

  • Start your day with a Sunrise Balloon flight.
  • Visit the Underwater World Observatory on the pier, where trout and eels are visible in the clear waters of the lake; they live freely in the lake however as they are fed they like to hang out here. The cutest part is seeing the ducks diving for the food. Beside the pier are marks showing the level to which the lake rose in the floods of 1878 and 1983.
  • Take the Skyline Gondola for awesome views! There are various activities you can do up here such as riding the down-hill Luge, descending to the bottom by Zip-linesmountain-biking or Bungy-jumping!
  • Have a leisurely lunch at one of the wineries – the Amisfield Bistro & Winery on the corner of the Lake Hayes-Arrowtown turnoff is highly recommended! As it is a favourite with Queenstown locals, call ahead on 03 442 0556 to book a table! If you are feeling guilty then why not go for a walk around Lake Hayes before your meal!
  • Take the plunge and try a bungee jump, or just have fun watching others do it
  • Learn to fly-fish in the trout infested lakes and rivers
  • Visit the Kiwi Birdlife Park near the gondola, the park spreads for over 2 acres and you need to allow about 2.5 hours to see everything!
  • Hire bikes from Around the Basin Cycle Adventures at 23 Brecon Street and follow the Queenstown Cycle Trail on purpose built cycle-ways through the Wakatipu Basin, past 2 lakes, three river gorges, historic Arrowtown and even the wine area of Gibbston Valley if you are feeling energetic. Choose either Guided or Supported (self-guided) tours, both offer a free shuttle back if you need it!
  • Or cycle along the lakefront track to Frankton, turn right and continue along the lakefront to the Hilton and then if you wish, you can even go as far as the Kelvin Heights Golf Club or Yacht Club or the Bay View Reserve and catch the water-taxi back across to Queenstown ($10pp) – call Queenstown Water-taxis on 03 441 1124 to request a pickup and to check on times.
  • Play golf on one of the most magically located courses in the world
  • Head to the Onsen Hot Pools at Arthurs Point. Each booking receives a private cedar-lined private pool, each with push-button retractable walls and ceiling so you can enjoy the dramatic scenery as you soak on the edge of the cliff overlooking the spectacular Shotover River – worth the 10 minute drive on its own! Call 0508 869463 to book.
  • For drinks, McNeill’s Cottage Brewery where there is a nice mix of heritage and atmosphere, plus fine home brewed ales; or The Sundeck Rooftop Lounge Bar on top of The Bunker at 14 Cow Lane is the newest bar in town and has incredible views!
  • For dining, the Madam Woo (Asian Restaurant) on Mall Street has funky décor and funky food; or Rata Restaurant is located in Te Nuku at 43 Ballarat Street and is Josh Emett’s (Michelin star chef and Masterchef judge) latest Queenstown venture; for a special dinner treat, try the Prime Restaurant & Bar on the waterfront of Queenstown Bay (the entrance is #2 Rees Street, above Sunglass Hut)…..if it is stunning weather then ask for a table on the upstairs balcony overlooking the lake.

Day 11 Queenstown ......internal or international flight

If your flight back to Auckland or to Australia is in the afternoon or this evening then you will have time to enjoy a bit more of Queenstown.
                                                                                

  


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