Arrive early in the morning to New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. Auckland is mostly a jumping off point for other destinations, but also provides interest in its museums, nightlife, and natural, native bush island destinations. Your hotel is right in the city center, within minutes of all the major sites. Enjoy an evening at leisure to explore the many exciting restaurants in the Viaduct. Perhaps enjoy dinner at White’s, the signature restaurant of the Hilton Hotel.
Today, it’s a transfer and ferry ticket to Waiheke Island, Auckland’s food and wine neighbor 12 miles away from the city. Waiheke has stunning coastal vistas as well as some of the Auckland region’s hottest properties. Pass by hillside vineyards, look down on sweeping sandy beaches, and get a real feel for what Auckland’s most populous off-shore island is like. Your accommodations are at a glorious boutique hotel right along the seaside with fabulous views overlooking Oneroa Beach.
After breakfast at the hotel, have some leisure time to explore the beaches or hire a bike, motor scooter, or car to get around the island. Then enjoy a half-day private tour around Waiheke and experience award-winning wines, olive oils, arts and crafts, and beautiful scenery on this tranquil island. The inhabitants are a diverse bunch of colorful, creative, passionate, and original people, drawn together by their communal love of the island and its unique lifestyle. A “small is beautiful” philosophy yields low quantities of extremely high quality fruit, which is made into wine. With tastings at the best boutique wineries, you’ll get a taste of the delicious reds that make Waiheke famous.
After breakfast, head back to Auckland by ferry and then enjoy a private transfer to the airport, where you’ll hop on a short flight to Hawke’s Bay. Here, at the famous start (or end) to the New Zealand Wine Trail, you’ll get plenty of opportunities to enjoy the sunshine and delicious red and white wines of this vineyard region. Pick up your rental car and make the leisurely drive to your hotel in the heart of Napier. Spend some time taking in the fascinating art deco architecture and enjoy dinner at one of Napier’s fabulous restaurants.
The Crown Hotel
A small group tour through the vineyards and food-makers of Hawke’s Bay takes you to premium sites, allowing you to sit back, relax, and enjoy warm Kiwi hospitality. Your tour includes 5 to 6 wineries, including a wine-making tour; 2 specialty food outlets; a delicious 2-course winery lunch; and a take-home goodie bag.
The Crown Hotel
Drive a few hours today through rolling green hills to Martinborough, the smallest destination on your list, but not the smallest in reputation. Visit the Wine Centre in the heart of the village and explore local wineries. Your accommodations this evening are in a historic hotel, perfectly restored and oozing with sophisticated charm.
A 2-hour drive brings you to the capital city of Wellington this morning. Depart right away on a foodie’s half-day wine tour with Zest Food Tours, exploring the culinary treasures of this beautiful city. Meet chefs and indulge in some of New Zealand’s iconic foods. Enjoy lunch with a 25% off coupon at famous Logan Brown’s or a buzzy café. Then check into your stylish, contemporary, chic hotel in the city center, bursting at the seams with magnificent artwork and within walking distance of the National Museum (Te Papa), the waterfront, live theaters, designer shopping, city markets, Waitangi Park, and Oriental Bay’s promenade and beach. The afternoon is yours to enjoy at your leisure.
Take a short flight this morning across the Cook Strait to the South Island town of Blenheim, the capital of New Zealand wine. Drive a short way to your cottage on a famous vineyard, then enjoy a private afternoon tour to sample the gourmet food and wine of the Marlborough region. Learn about matching wine and food, enjoy private tours of the wineries, and meet with the winemakers. Try Prenzel schnapps, olive oils and chocolates as well. The wineries visited will depend on your preferences, but some of iconic options are Cloudy Bay, Allan Scott, Hunters, and Montana Brancott, as well as a number of boutique wineries. Tonight, perhaps enjoy dinner at Herzog Wine Cellars’ acclaimed restaurant.
3.5-star cottage on a vineyard
Drive via the East Coast through Kaikoura—stopping, if you wish, at an excellent local winery—then travel further south to Waipara, home of many north Canterbury wines. Overnight in Christchurch at the best hotel in the city. For additional activities, we suggest whale watching in Kaikoura by boat or scenic flight, dolphin swimming, a famous Kaikoura crayfish lunch, or dinner at our favorite restaurant in Christchurch.
This morning, a private driver will pick you up and take you around the scenic Banks Peninsula, home to the charming French-heritage town of Akaroa. See undulating dunes, wave-ravished beaches, fur seals, and more. Then head to the airport for a short flight south to Dunedin, the capital of Scottish history in New Zealand. Collect a rental car and drive to central Dunedin, an octagonal university city, where your elegant historic accommodations are nestled in secluded gardens but within walking distance of the city’s finest cafés and restaurants.
With a half-day small group foodie tour through Dunedin today, you’ll be delighted at all this southern city has to offer. Find specialist food havens and boutiques and enjoy small tastes of local specialties, including the humble yet famous cheese roll, which is different from what you may be used to at home. Meet families and owners to taste their products, including gourmet ice cream, sophisticated chocolates, craft beer, freshly roasted coffee, and locally baked treats. The rest of the day is yours to spend at your leisure. Perhaps make a visit to the albatross and penguin colonies on the Otago Peninsula.
After breakfast at the lodge, a 4-hour drive through some of the most remote areas of New Zealand brings you to Queenstown. Drive through the sheep-filled Otago region and parts of Southland, soaking up some of the most eye-catching scenery on earth. Check into your luxury boutique hotel, within brief walking distance of downtown Queenstown, and make sure to arrive in time for their complimentary pre-dinner drinks and hors d’oeuvres!
Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel
This afternoon, enjoy a small-group boutique winery tour of the Otago wine region, especially well known for its earthy pinot noirs. Through the Gibbston Valley and the rolling, vine-clad foothills of Bannockburn and beyond, your vineyard selection will select those most appropriate for the day’s passengers. During your scenic tour, 4 winery tastings are included, as well as a winery lunch and commentary on the early pioneering history of this rugged region.
Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel
Today is devoted to adrenaline and scenery. Enjoy a 4-hour excursion by helicopter through some of New Zealand’s most dramatic scenery to the spectacular Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park. On reaching Milford Sound, board a nature cruise for a leisurely itinerary that allows plenty of time to enjoy the stunning scenery and wildlife. On board, a nature guide with specialist knowledge of the region’s history, flora, and fauna will provide detailed interpretation. View spectacular waterfalls, rainforests, and towering peaks. Plus, keep an eye out for fur seals, dolphins, and penguins. Fly back over the fjords and land on a patch of snow in the alps. Celebrate your tour of New Zealand with a glass of champagne and cheese while marveling at the scenery. Perhaps tonight, you’d like to enjoy an additional Maori hangi (feast) and cultural performance.
Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel
Today, it’s time to say goodbye to New Zealand. Drive the short way to Queenstown airport to catch your flight home.