New Zealand: the hottest spots to eat, drink and stay

New Zealand is a stunning country – rich in history, culture and postcard perfect scenery. Earlier this year I spent two weeks travelling both the North and South Islands by car on our honeymoon, below is a snapshot of my favourite places to eat, drink, stay and explore.

Wellington

NZ’s capital city is bursting with vibrancy, life and culture. Often described as the “Melbourne of New Zealand”, Wellington has much to offer the discerning traveller including some top-notch brunch spots, fascinating museums and galleries and activities to suit everyone.

Highly recommend:

  • Joe’s Garage for breakfast and coffee. Located just off Oriental Bay, this funky garage boasts an extensive and delicious all day menu and coffee to wake the dead.
  • Mount Victoria Lookout. Pack a picnic and a bottle of rose and head up the hill for the best view of Wellington.

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Blenheim

One of the South Islands northern most towns, Blenheim boasts marvellous scenery and a relaxed, laid back vibe. Journey into the Marlborough region to experience the world-renowned gourmet food and wine industry enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

Highly recommend:

  • Bike riding around the Marlborough region. We hired bikes from our hotel, Chateau Marlborough, and cruised around the wineries. The weather was fine and sunny and a much better option than driving!
  • Wine tasting at Cloudy Bay. Kick back on a sun lounge and sip on some of New Zealand’s finest including the acclaimed Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, a trademark drop of the region!
  • Lunch at Hans Herzog. This award-winning restaurant is set amongst perfectly manicured Mediterranean gardens with roses as far as the eye can see. We treated ourselves to a long delicious lunch, paired with some equally fabulous wines. The ride back to the hotel sure was long…

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Nelson 

Nelson is a very vibrant and pretty town. Situated on the eastern shores of Tasman Bay, Nelson is the economic and cultural hub of the region. The area is rich in spectacular scenery and has the highest sunshine hours in the South Island!

Highly recommend:

  • Stay at the Hotel Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco. We were only in Nelson for one night but couldn’t have chosen a more picturesque place to rest our heads. The Mercure Hotel is situated on the Monaco Peninsula; just a few minutes drive from the airport and town centre. Accommodation options include a Boutique Hotel, Cosy Cottages and Spacious Studios – all beautifully appointed and spacious. We stayed in the Hotel and enjoyed outstanding service, views across the water and fabulous food and drinks at The Monaco Kitchen.

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Queenstown

Possibly the most beautiful region in New Zealand, Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s top visitor destinations. Situated on the shore of the crystal clear Lake Wakatipu among dramatic alpine ranges, Queenstown is world famous for its iconic scenery, food and wine, friendly locals and of course outdoor adventure activities. If you are going to visit anywhere in New Zealand, make Queenstown the top of your list.

Highly recommend:

  • Eat at Botswana Butchery. Located in the heart of town overlooking the water, Botswana Butchery is one of Queenstown’s most stylish restaurants. The luxurious dining environment and private dining suites are beautifully appointed and are perfect for special occasions or an intimate fine dining experience. The diverse menu is full of flavour with a strong focus on finely cut meats and locally sourced foods. I can highly recommend the Hervey Bay Prawns to start and the High Country Lamb as a main.
  • Stay at Double Tree by Hilton. Luxurious comfort located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu with spectacular lake and mountain views – you’ll never want to leave your room!
  • Treat yourself at eforea Spa. Located in the Hilton Hotel complex, the eforea Spa is the perfect place to unwind and completely relax (if you aren’t blissed out enough already!). Lie back in one of the ten opulent treatment rooms and indulge in a treatment, all of which are focused on organic, natural products and scientific, results driven practices. Plus enjoy full use of the hotels spa facilities including an indoor heated pool, hot tub, fitness centre, and sauna and steam rooms. I had the eforea Signature Tailored Facial and highly recommend it – just what my skin needed after nearly two indulgent weeks of eating and drinking!
  • Hike up Queenstown Hill. If you’re looking for something to get the blood pumping, then take a hike up Queenstown Hill. Also known by its Māori name Te Tapu-nui (mountain of intense sacredness), this 907m climb is easy but mighty steep! There are many points of interest on the way up describing the history of the area and the very top of the hill offer expansive views of the whole basin including Lake Wakatipu, Cecil Peak and The Remarkables. The walk takes about three hours return.
  • Wine tasting at Amisfield Winery. Established in 1988, Amisfield Winery is a specialist producer of pinot noir and aromatic white wines. Just a short drive out of Queenstown, Amisfield’s iconic stone building overlooks Lake Hayes and is set amongst The Remarkables mountain range. Visit the cellar door for a tasting or stay and dine in the globally recognised bistro, whatever you do though, don’t leave without a pinot!
  • Visit Arrowtown. A scenic 20 minute drive from Queenstown lies the historic mining town of Arrowtown, a quaint, leafy village boasting charming cafes, galleries, shops, bars and restaurants still yet to be touched by commercialisation. Enjoy a long lunch under the dappled afternoon shade or pick up a coffee and stroll through the main street – Arrowtown is gorgeous and very relaxing.

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Christchurch 

For a city that was devastated by earthquake in 2011, Christchurch is still very much rebuilding. I was shocked to see how much of the city still lies in ruin and how very little people there were. Christchurch was our very last stop for a couple of nights, and while we enjoyed it, found there was very little to do given the current state of redevelopment. A real shame for what I am certain once was a vibrant, buzzing city.

  • Stay at Hotel 115. This contemporary boutique hotel is situated right in the heart of the CBD, at the crossroad of Christchurch’s two phases – before and after the earthquake. The city’s tram literally goes right through the hotel, adding to the quirky charm, don’t worry, you wont hear a thing! The staff were excellent and the level of service was fabulous. The rooms are beautifully appointed with modern furnishings and all amenities were excellent.
  • Have a drink at Engineers Bar. The latest hot spot for an evening tipple can be found on St Asaph Street at Engineers Bar – an über cool rooftop haunt complete with overflowing succulents and exposed brick walls. Open for lunch, dinner and after dark snacks, Engineers is where the ‘in-crowd’ hangs out. If you’re partial to a cocktail, the Hurricane Mojito goes down a treat.

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