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Water & wine 

Whether you want adrenalin-fuelled adventure, beach zen or tourism in a glass, New Zealand is the destination for you, reports Sian Lewis

 

For a relatively small landmass, New Zealand takes up a lot of ocean. The mountainous spines of the north and south island, forced upwards by fidgety tectonic plates, are rimmed by nearly 10,000 miles of coastline.

 

On the rare occasions when a beach isn’t in your line of sight, you can bet there is a lake or a river not far away, usually set against a no-photo-can-do-it-justice backdrop. Where there is water in New Zealand there is fun to be had on it, in it or under it.

 

All that water also gives New Zealand’s wines their world-renowned balance of flavour and acidity. Grapes growing in this climate enjoy long sunny days, bracketed by nights with cooling sea breezes.

 

In November, spring takes its final bow before summer steals the show. Days are warmer, the new season’s wines are released, and it is foodie festival heaven. The Food & Wine Classic (fawc.co.nz) in Hawke’s Bay runs for 10 delicious days from 4 to 13 November.

 

What are you waiting for?

 

 

Water

Legend has it that New Zealand was fished up by the Maori demigod Maui. “Maritime traditions are still deeply rooted in our culture,” says Pip Casey, from Tourism New Zealand. “From the Catlin’s rugged beaches teeming with seals, up to the Bay of Islands’ white beaches, New Zealand offers every kind of water experience you could wish for.”

 

So, how do you like your water? Fizzy and fast-flowing? Then head from Queenstown, through the spectacular Skippers Canyon, and board the world’s original ‘jetboat’ adventure through the Shotover River canyon (shotoverjet.com). It’s not for the faint-hearted – or anyone wishing to stay dry.

 

Would you prefer the gentle lapping of a tranquil lake? How about a floating yoga mat on Lake Wanaka (paddlewanaka.co.nz)? Staying afloat on the stand up paddleboard while you downward dog may have you swimming with the fishes, but the views of the Southern Alps around the lakeshore beat any studio.

 

Blue penguins, the world’s smallest penguins, live side by side with Kiwis – the human kind – in Oamaru, one hour north of Dunedin (penguins.co.nz). At dusk every day, they waddle home from a hard day at sea to their harbour nests. No selfies though – your flash could blind them.

 

 

History in a glass

The Rev. Samuel Marsden was wise. In 1819, he planted 100 vines at a mission in KeriKeri, in the Bay of Islands, noting in his journal, “New Zealand promises to be very favourable to the vine.”

 

For some reason it took until 1973 for the roots of the modern wine industry to be established, with the first Sauvignon Blanc vines planted in the South Island region now synonymous with that varietal – Marlborough. However, New Zealand is a country younger than photography. It is used to playing catch up. Being a relative newcomer has advantages too though.

 

 “New Zealand’s 675 winemakers and 747 grape growers are worldly in their expertise,” explains Sarah Szegota, from New Zealand Wine. “But, they’re not bound by tradition. This gives them the freedom to innovate in the vineyard and the winery.”

 

The good Reverend was also right. New Zealand’s two islands stretch 1,000 miles from subtropical Northland right down to the world’s most southerly grape growing region, Central Otago. The country is long and relatively thin. “No vineyard is more than 80 miles from the sea,” says Szegota. “The maritime climate has a cooling effect, which lets the grapes ripen over a long period, allowing their flavours to develop.”

 

Sauvignon Blanc put New Zealand on the wine map, but now it has to shuffle up to make space for Pinot Noirs from Central Otago, Rieslings like Mt Difficulty Banockburn (mtdifficulty.co.nz), Kumeu River Mate’s Vineyard Chardonnay (kumeuriver.co.nz) and Bordeaux-style blends such as Te Mata, from Hawke’s Bay (temata.co.nz). The list goes on and on… It might be a long way to go for a drink – but it’s worth it.

 

North Island
The Hilton Auckland offers the best harbour views without setting foot on a boat. For guests who don’t mind getting wet, the hotel’s outdoor lap pool offers an underwater viewing window. The central business district location and slick concierge service makes this a great base for business and pleasure. www3.hilton.com

South Island
Locals have been soaking up the atmosphere and other things at the bar in Eichardt’s Private Hotel, on Lake Wakatipu, since 1867. Today the wine list features a Pinot Noir, made exclusively for the suite-only hotel by the Mt Edward winery (mountedward.co.nz), and is the only place in Queenstown to serve Bollinger by the glass. eichardts.com

Auckland, also known as the City of Sails, has more boats per capita than anywhere else in the world. This is a nation that loves sailing. For the ultimate team-building event, channel your inner Catherine Middleton with a two-hour yacht race around the city’s Waitemata Harbour on an authentic America’s Cup yachts. Catherine’s team beat Prince William’s. Twice. exploregroup.co.nz

In sunset’s warm glow, as the scent of lavender fills the air, it’s easy to imagine that the Mudbrick Estate is in Provence. A quick glance at the 360° views of the Hauraki Gulf and the Auckland skyline offers a stunning reminder that this winery and conference venue, on Waiheke island, is a short 35 minutes by fast ferry from the CBD. Vineyard tours and cellar door wine tasting experiences are also available. mudbrick.co.nz