New Zealand boasts some truly wonderful landscapes and with such an abundance of fresh mountain air and wide open spaces, its of little surprise that this remarkable country also produces a wealth of outstanding modern and traditional cuisine along with some of the world's finest wines. Covering many of the country's highlights, this luxury self-drive starts in Auckland in the North Island, New Zealand's City of Sails and ends in the South Island at the picturesque lakeside town of Queenstown in the heart of the Southern Alps. As you make your way through New Zealand's ever-changing landscapes, we've recommended some superb excursions to help you gain an insight into the country's cuisine, including trips to artisan markets and some of the country's finest wineries.
Days 1-2: UK/Auckland
Fly from the UK to Auckland, arriving on day 3.
Days 3-4: Auckland
Arrive in New Zealand's northernmost city set on the picturesque Auckland Harbour. You'll be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel for a two-night stay. Your second day in the City of Sails is free for you to enjoy an optional Big Foody Tastebud Tour, discovering some of the city's best culinary hotspots including visits to local producers along café's, restaurants and, on weekends, the city's farmers markets. You'll be guided by a local expert before rounding things off with a light lunch.
Days 5-6: Waiheke Island
Board a ferry to beautiful Waiheke Island, located in the Hauraki Gulf. On arrival you'll be met by your hosts and transferred to your accommodation.
Spend the next day at leisure exploring Waiheke Island, the second largest island in the Hauraki Gulf and home to a beguiling blend of forests, beaches, vineyards and olive groves. Discover the island's unspoilt coastline, maybe heading to Cactus Beach, accessible only by kayak, or take a guided nature tour to learn more about the island's wildlife.
Days 7-8: Rotorua
From Waiheke Island, make your way by ferry back to Auckland where you'll transfer to the airport for your short flight to Rotorua. On arrival, collect your hire car and drive to your accommodation. The rest of the day will be at leisure.
The following day is free to enjoy an optional Te Ra + Kai Ngawha day pass and steambox lunch. Discover the distinctive flavours and unique preparation of the traditional steambox hangi and explore the region's Maori culture with an extended tour and interactive weaving encounter.
Days 9-10: Hawkes Bay
Depart Rotorua this morning and drive east to picturesque Hawkes Bay, one of New Zealand's renowned wine-producing regions.
The next morning we recommend an optional half-day private food and wine tour, a fun way to spend the day and also a chance to learn about the region's award-winning wines and visit some of the best local wineries.
A Long Island Tours vehicle will pick you up from your hotel as you commence a highly enjoyable half day tour of the vibrant world of Hawke's Bay wine. Talk with the personalities who are passionate about crafting world-leading wines, visit some of the best of local vineyards and sample their award winning vintages. The region's rich soils and warm growing conditions also attract innovative epicurean food producers and you'll get to taste all manner of tantalising treats and meet the people behind them. Guided by a wine specialist, this is a fantastic day for wine and food lovers.
Day 11: Wellington
After breakfast on day nine, you'll depart Hawke's Bay and enjoy a scenic drive south to New Zealand's capital city, Wellington. On arrival, check into your hotel and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure. Spend time exploring the city's many restaurants, cafes bars and microbreweries as well as a host of art galleries and Te Papa, New Zealand's fascinating national museum.
Days 12-13: Marlborough Sounds
This morning you'll make your way to Wellington's ferry terminal where you'll leave your hire car and board the Interislander ferry, travelling in Premium Class to Picton at the northern tip of the South Island where you'll catch the Cougar Line Water Taxi to Bay of Many Coves in the Marlborough Sounds.
The following day will be yours to explore this stunning coastal region of deep inlets and drowned river valleys with plenty of opportunities for kayaking, walking and wildlife watching, as well as the chance to discover another of New Zealand's wine producing strongholds.
Days 14-15: Abel Tasman
Take a water taxi back to Picton and collect your new hire car for the drive to Nelson and the Abel Tasman National Park, an area of outstanding natural beauty with numerous unspoilt bays, gorgeous beaches and a host of activities including white-water rafting, mountain biking, hiking and fishing to name just a few. Along with the wealth of activities there's also plenty of opportunity to relax and unwind with a host of wineries, art galleries and first-class restaurants all to be found in the region.
Days 16-17: Kaikoura
From Abel Tasman you'll head south to the pretty town of Kaikoura on the South Island's east coast. Backed by snow-capped mountains, Kaikoura is the best place in New Zealand for watching whales and dolphins. Throughout the year, the waters off the Kaikoura coast attract migratory humpback, pilot, orca and southern right whales, depending on the season.
Day 18: Christchurch
Depart Kaikoura and continue south to Christchurch where you'll leave your hire car. Spend the night in Christchurch, often thought of as New Zealand's most 'English' city, and spend time exploring the centre, much of which has been rebuilt following the 2011 earthquake. There are some beau...
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