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Eat your way around New Zealand

by Lia Holloway on 30 January 2014, 13:01PM

From the North to South Island, you can indulge in the culinary delights of the freshest ingredients that New Zealand has to offer. From the rustic cooking of the Maori people, to the fine dining of the World’s best chefs, there is something to tempt all taste buds. The best way to explore this scenic country is a self-drive to take in the sights at your own pace. We have suggested a 15 day itinerary, featuring the New Zealand Classic Wine Trail that will leave your senses fully satisfied all the way.

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Day 1 Auckland
Start your journey in style by sampling the creations of Auckland’s most exclusive fine dining restaurants. Clooney –the partnership of restaurateur Tony Stewart and Chef Desmond Harris – offers a contemporary twist on classical cuisine, a style that is a proven success and has been awarded 3 Hats by Cuisine NZ Good Food Awards 2013. Another of Auckland’s gems is Meredith’s Restaurant, with a menu consisting of only degustation options providing guests with a complete gastronomic journey accompanied by fine wine and generous hospitality.

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Day 2 Auckland - Rotorua
After living the high life in Auckland, go back to basics in Rotorua, south east of Auckland, offering you the opportunity to experience traditional Maori cuisine. Steambox at Te Puia allows visitors to choose their meal from a variety of options, which is then transported to the valley where geysers engulf the food in natural steam, cooking it to perfection. During this time, visitors can explore the rest of the valley, bubbling mud pools or simply soak in the surroundings of the forest’s untouched beauty. Treetops Lodge offers a more hands on approach where guests are escorted through the forest in search of indigenous herbs and spices. You can also learn how to recreate the hangi at home and watch the two Michelin star chefs bring traditional Maori culture to the table.

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Day 3 Rotorua - Gisborne
Tucked away on the eastern coast is Gisborne. Located in the Tairawhiti region meaning “the coast upon which the sun shines across the water”, the hot sunshine and fertile clay soils have produced award-winning Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Merlot and Malbec. The region is home to over 20 wineries all ready and willing to share their creations. Gisborne wine tours run daily and tickets are available from the Gisborne Wine Centre just a short walk from the Central Business District.

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Day 4 Gisborne - Hawkes Bay
The official start of the New Zealand Classic Wine Trail, the art deco region of Hawkes Bay is the red wine heart of New Zealand. With its warm and dry climate, wine making conditions are perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah although they have some notable whites as well. Wine cycling tours are very popular and an excellent way to soak in some scenery while tasting your way around the fabulous vineyards. Home to fresh farmers markets, plentiful fruit orchards and pristine beaches, Hawkes Bay is a true gem for your taste buds.

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Day 5 Hawkes Bay - Wairarapa
A short drive south from Hawkes Bay, you can visit the Tui brewery in Mangatainoka to experience the makings of New Zealand’s iconic beer. Only further 45 minutes drive from the brewery is “New Zealand’s most beautiful town”, Feilding, which hosts a farmers market every Friday where you are sure to buy the freshest fruit and vegetables. Next stop is the historic town of Wairarapa. Throughout the region you will also discover artisan chocolate, olives, hazelnuts, cider and gourmet mushrooms. The three sub-regions of Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton are home to more than 50 vineyards, best explored on foot or bike. For a real taste of eating from the land, visit the homely Wharekauhau Country Estate. This is a 5,000 acre sheep station near Wellington, famous for its country-style hospitality featuring dishes using produce from the surrounding gardens and fruit orchards.

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Day 6 Wairarapa - Wellington
Follow the rolling countryside down to Wellington. Perfectly situated on a beautiful harbour abundant with marine life and with the farmlands to the North, Wellington is blessed with the freshest sources for the incredible produce. The city is buzzing with numerous restaurants, bars, delicatessens and cafes. However, the region is most famous for its coffee houses and craft beer.

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Day 7 Wellington
With so many unique experiences, you will need to spend another day here to fully appreciate city. For true beer enthusiasts, take the “Craft Beer Capital Trail” where you will follow a craft beer capital trail map collecting stamps from each bar/brewery you complete. There is a special certificate for those left standing! If you have a sweet-tooth make sure you sample some of the finest chocolates at one of the boutique chocolateries, where there are some unusual flavours including chilli, pink peppercorns and earl grey tea.

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Day 8 Wellington - Marlborough
Take the ferry across Cook Straight to the very top of New Zealand’s south Island to the Marlborough region, famous for the green-lipped mussel and also New Zealand’s biggest growing wine region producing 56% of the country’s total wine.

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Day 9 Marlborough
With over 40 cellar doors to explore, there is an abundance of opportunities to sample the world renowned Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. The variety has been a great success with its robust aromas and crisp flavours of gooseberry and capsicum. Second to the brilliant white, is the pinot noir know as the most fragrant, fruity and richly flavoured red. The Marlborough food and wine festival is held in February every year and is a wonderful collaboration of local restaurants and wineries. The regions pristine waters are a myriad of fresh seafood including blue cod, snapper, salmon, green-shell mussels and scallops. Of course these are best accompanied by the acclaimed regional wines.

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Day 10 Marlborough - Greymouth
The West Coast has steep mountains towering over the wild oceans below. Hunting deer or boar by helicopter is available for those with a steady hand and primal instinct. In March, Hokitika Wild Foods Festival invites the brave eaters to try huhu grubs and fish eyes. Don’t worry as there are also some more conventional delicacies like venison, pork and whitebait. During September to
November thousands of whitebait make their way along the river-mouths and whitebait fritters are a delicacy best enjoyed with a local beer. If you are travelling in November, be sure to visit the Blackball sausage festival. This quaint mining town is known for the quality local salami company and an apiary that features rata-kamahi bush honey. Stop in at Greymouth, where you will be intrigued by the new refurbished Monteiths brewery and their extravagant range of boutique beers. Greymouth is also home to New Zealand’s oldest ice cream company, Westland Snowflake.

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Day 11 Greymouth - Christchurch
Christchurch is abundant with restaurants and cafes showcasing the regions finest ingredients, especially Canterbury lamb. Visit the farmers markets every Saturday morning, a great place to mingle with the locals and find out the best dining spots. For a more fine dining experience, Pescatore will have the taste buds in a trance with the delectable wine list perfectly selected to accompany classical cuisine.

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Day 12 Christchurch
Too big to explore in one day, there’s still Barry’s Bay cheese, boutique wineries and an abundance of local fresh seafood to discover. Visit neighbouring towns of Lyttleton and Akaroa for the best seafood experiences. Christchurch also offers beautifully historic bed and breakfasts, which will keep the feet warm and belly full.

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Day 13 Christchurch - Dunedin
Leaving Christchurch on the way south to Dunedin is Fleur’s Place in Moeraki bay. Enjoy the rustic architecture overlooking a brilliant view of the beach and interesting rock formations. Founded by Scottish settlers, Dunedin hosts a haggis ceremony at Larnach Castle that’s not to be missed and the town also produces their own single malt whisky called Milford. This coastal town has friendly pubs where you can try the local Speights Brewery delights and has some excellent restaurants to explore. The Cadbury factory offers daily tours which are perfect for all ages, with lots of free samples along the way.

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Day 14 & 15 Dunedin - Queenstown
Queenstown offers dining in the most picturesque of landscapes. With the long alpine lake and snow-capped mountains surrounding the town, there are 360 degrees of breathtaking scenery. You will be spoiled for choice with a plethora of dining options with the freshest ingredients available. So it is no wonder culinary royalty is attracted to Queenstown. For those with a big appetite, try the mammoth burgers at the legendary Fergburger with top sellers like Cockadoodle Oink, Sweet Bambi and Mr Big Stuff. Try to go early morning or late afternoon because the lunchtime crowd is regularly lined up out the door. They also have Fergbaker next door featuring mouth-watering gourmet meat pies and baked goods. For a more refined encounter, Chef Benjamin Batterbury of The Rees Hotel creates an exceptional dining experience tailored around local produce and elegantly matched by an enormous wine cellar. Speciality of this region is fruity Pinot Noir although the intense Riesling and spicy Pinot Gris are also heavenly. For the ultimate indulgence and an excellent ending to your trip, book in for a Spa and Wine Experience with Queenstown Wine Trail. Choose from either a full body massage or facial and foot revival before a leisurely lunch, underground wine cave tour and cheese factory visit.

For more information about holidays to New Zealand, visit www.travelbag.co.uk/holidays/australasia/new-zealand

To find out more about New Zealand, go to www.newzealand.com


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