New Zealand's Marlborough sauvignon blancs are revered the world over, but there is so much more to this buzzing country's wine scene. This itinerary will have you travelling from North Island to South, exploring world-famous wine regions as well as some hidden gems and ensuring you get your five-a-day - grape varietals, that is. You'll be chauffeur driven, visit vineyards by pedal power, helicopter or even vintage car and pair world class wines with fine foodie treats as you go.
— Miranda, Original Travel Expert
Kick off your Grape Escape with sun, sea and syrah. Just 35 minutes by ferry from Auckland, or ten minutes by helicopter, Waiheke Island is fondly known as the 'wine island' thanks to the 27 boutique wineries that have sprung up on an island measuring just 35 square miles. This is the weekend escape for in-the-know Aucklanders, so settle into a suite at hip hotel The Boatshed - overlooking the vanilla sands of Oneroa Bay - and enjoy a few days of sun-drenched wining and dining.
An expert local guide will be on hand for a day's wine touring, hopping from boutique vineyard to boutique vineyard to sample a variety of sumptuous syrahs (the plum and peppery notes of Mudbrick's Reserve Syrah gets our vote), as well as tasting succulent fresh oysters from Te Matuku Bay and locally pressed olive oil. Designated driver sorted.
From one of New Zealand's smallest wine growing regions to one of the largest (second only to Marlborough), Hawke's Bay is the next stop on this vinous voyage. Hawke's Bay is also the oldest wine region, with a legacy dating back to 1851 when the Mission Estate was first established by French missionaries. The French legacy remains in the region's much-admired Bordeaux blends and full-bodied cabernet sauvignons, merlots and syrahs, though should you have a penchant for paler grapes, Hawke's Bay also produces some of the country's finest chardonnay.
Saddle up for a guided wine tasting by bicycle, peddling along a coastal path to sample a Clearview Estate Cabernet Merlot and Elephant Hill Reserve Chardonnay, before turning inland and tracing the Tuki Tuki River Trail past orchards, vineyards and farmland, tasting oak-matured reds at family-owned Te Mata Estate en route. If you'd prefer to save your energy for swilling, we can even arrange for transport between vineyards in a chauffeur driven Daimler Conquest named Queenie.
Ninety percent of New Zealand's sauvignon blanc vines are grown in Marlborough, and you could easily spend a day comparing gooseberry and passion fruit notes on these grapes alone. Head to Jack's Raw Bar at the Cloudy Bay Vineyard in summer (December to mid-April) to slurp freshly shucked oysters while sipping their (Original Travel approved) sauv blanc.
Days can be spent cruising the sounds in search of New Zealand fur seals, orcas (October to March), and pods of inquisitive dusky dolphins, visiting mussel farms to feast on fresh green shell mussels, walking through picturesque pine forests or cycling from cellar to cellar to get your daily (fermented) fruit fix. A favourite foodie experience in Marlborough is the blind tasting menu at Hans Herzog Estate; the wines take centre stage as you select your preferred tipple per course and the sommelier and chef creates the perfect dish to accompany each glass.
Conclude your New Zealand wine wanderings in Queenstown, the gateway to the Central Otago region. There are over 200 vineyards within easy reach of the town, many of which are encircled by towering mountains and sit beside placid lakes. Queenstown is also quite the adventure hub so there are plenty of adrenaline activities to sample when you've developed a little Dutch courage.
To end the trip on a literal high, travel out to Milford Sound by helicopter, taking in the stunning view of the deep blue fjords (and keeping eyes peeled for dolphin dorsal fins), before landing on the Mt Tutoko glacier. Returning to Queenstown, head out to explore Central Otago vineyards to sample the finest pinot noir, paired with local cheeses.
With your feet back on solid ground, there are plenty of ways to explore the great outdoors: cycling, trekking, riding, bungee jumping and more. To really clear foggy heads, we'll arrange a day of exploration in the heart of Mt Aspiring National Park. Speed past snow-capped mountains and valleys carpeted in ancient forest on a hair-raising jet boat ride on the Dart River, before setting off along well-maintained trails to discover the forest and alpine lakes on foot.
A similar itinerary would cost in the region of £7,150 pounds which included all flights, hotels transfers and organised trips.
The guide prices shown are designed to provide you with a broad indication of how much to budget for your trip. Prices are generally for private arrangements using economy flights based on two people travelling together and sharing a room. There are a number of factors which will influence the price; these include the standard of accommodation, the season, the class of flights, the airline used and the level of private guiding versus shared excursions.