Exploring New Zealand’s Unbeatable Wine Country

Whether you prefer ‘gourmand,’ ‘epicure,’ ‘bon vivant,’ ‘foodie’ or maybe even ‘snob’ (in the best kind of way of course) the sentiment is still the same. You are, my friend, a lover and appreciator of good food and wine. From gourmet spreads of artisan cheese to a cold glass of vintage pinot noir, you know a thing or two about the good life as it unfolds through the nose and palate.

And if it’s true that the stomach is a quickest way to a lover’s heart, then where on earth could be more romantic for a wedding and honeymoon than New Zealand?  Long hailed as a bastion of natural beauty, this beautiful country also has a reputation for its sophisticated dining and wine culture. Here, we round up a dream wine country itinerary in New Zealand.


What to do: The Classic New Zealand Wine Trail. This scenic route meanders through over 240 miles of wine country and covers 120 of New Zealand’s best cellars. You can either start on the North Island in Hawke’s Bay and work your way to Marlborough on the South Island, or vice versa. Along the way, you’ll be able to stop at plenty of outstanding restaurants (many of which are onsite at the vineyards) and explore charming towns, like Wellington, with loads of local flavor.


How: You can rent a car if you want the freedom to travel at your own pace. And, since the route has easily-marked signs guiding you between wineries, you won’t have to worry getting lost without a GPS. Or, you can arrange for a bus service or chauffeur if you’re traveling with a group—or if you just want to enjoy a maximum amount of wine. Heck, you could even take a bike tour and really earn all of those delicious calories. Either way, the route requires at least 4 (but preferably 6-9) days to truly savor the region and to make worthy stops along the way.

When To Go: New Zealand is an impressive display of colors year-round, but fall (between March and May) means ripe vines and a vibrant color wheel at the vineyards. Fall also brings a harvesting of local produce, so regions like Auckland, Marlborough and Wairarapa host lively festivals with craft food, beer, wine and music.

What to drink: Hawke’s Bay is the land of robust cabernet sauvignons and merlot. In Wairarapa, pinot noir gets star billing, while Marlborough is blockbuster sauvignon blanc country. Still, though the regions specialize in these grapes, you can expect to find a variety of flavors and variations.


Photo Courtesy New Zealand Tourism Board.

What to eat: New Zealand is world renowned for its distinct Pacific Rim cuisine, so you can expect to sample plenty of fresh-off-the-boat seafood. Marlborough green-lipped mussels are world-famous and also known for their health benefits (they’re said to improve joints). If you’re an oyster connoisseur, try the Bluff Oysters. They are grown slowly in the cold and clean waters of Foveaux Strait, giving them an unbeatable freshness that’s nearly impossible to replicate.


Also on the menu? Plenty of lamb dishes, lobster, and award-winning cheeses. Oh, and save room for dessert. New Zealanders are notorious for their love of ice cream. A local favorite is hokey pokey- a creamy vanilla ice cream strewn with pieces of honeycomb.

Fun Excursions:

  • Clink champagne glasses in a hot air balloon
  • Try a Rotorua therapeutic mud bath or spa day
  • Go on a hike or nature tour
  • Take a scenic helicopter ride
  • Kayak the Marlborough Sounds


The New Zealand Wine Trail also boosts architectural treasures along the way. Stop in provincial towns like Hastings and Napier to see some of the world’s finest art deco and Spanish mission architecture (perfect for a photo for wedding thank you cards).

Where to Stay: After an epic adventure through wine country, you’ll likely need a good bed, hot bath and some R&R. Look no further than the plush Matakauri Lodge, located on the banks of Lake Wakatipu and just minutes from the heart of Queenstown on the South Island.


This boutique property boasts four luxury suites and six villas, each with private terraces looking out to a dramatic Queenstown lakeside, with spectacular mountain views. This luxury spa resort has been listed as one of its top 100 hotels in the world, with a personalized concierge service to make the most of your stay in Queenstown.


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