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Enjoy a wide range of New Zealand experiences with a small group of fellow Travel Insiders.

In recent years, New Zealand has undergone an extraordinary renaissance and has become a leading food and wine destination, taking advantage of its wonderful climate and unspoiled nature.

The result is highest quality fresh local food and wine galore, all in NZ's extraordinarily beautiful natural setting.

Come experience and enjoy this for yourself in October 2014.

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Detailed Day by Day Itinerary for the
2016 NZ Epicurean Extravaganza

Me - David Rowell - your hopefully friendly, helpful and possibly even intrepid tour leader.

Pictured here flanked by a father and son who participated in the 2014 NZ tour.  Clearly all three of us were enjoying ourselves!

Tour Itinerary

Join with me and a small select group of fellow Travel Insiders on this food and wine focused tour of New Zealand in Oct/Nov 2016.

Our tour combines 'must do' New Zealand sight-seeing with opportunities to enjoy some of NZ's world-class (and sometimes world-beating) cuisine and wines, and plenty of flexible opportunities for you to ensure you see and do exactly what you want.

Here are the details of what we’ll do each day during this wonderful experience.

The tour is 13 days in length, and possibly longer if you add extra touring before or after the main tour event.

After you've finished viewing this daily detailed itinerary, please click here to return to the main New Zealand Epicurean Extravaganza Tour page.

Daily Itinerary Details

Day 1  (possibly Friday 26 October - or earlier)  Leave the US

To arrive in Auckland, NZ on Sunday 29 Oct, you probably need to take a flight on the evening of Friday 27th.

You should make your own arrangements to fly to New Zealand, so as to arrive in Auckland on or prior to Sunday 29 Oct.

We're personally flying on Hawaiian Airlines, but you have a range of airlines to choose from.

If you choose to also enjoy our pre-tour option in Queenstown (click link for details), obviously your travels need to start earlier.  Most people in our group are choosing to add time in Queenstown to their itinerary.


Day 2  (Saturday 27 October - or earlier)  Cross the Dateline

We skip a day as we fly to NZ.

Your approximately 13 hour overnight flight crosses the international dateline and we skip over this day entirely.

But you’ll be compensated – on our return back to the US, you’ll repeat the day and arrive into LAX (or SFO) earlier than when you left Auckland.


Day 3 (Sunday 28 Oct - or earlier) Arrive in Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland - seen here from Devonport - is a beautiful city in a lovely harbor setting.

Just 15 minutes across the harbor from cosmopolitan Auckland is sleepy small Devonport.

Auckland's inner harbor has been transformed into an area full of upmarket dining experiences.  Try some.

Welcome to Auckland, New Zealand.  Your flight probably arrives early this morning.

Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, and located on the shores of a beautiful natural harbor.

We’ll give everyone the morning on their own, and then in the afternoon we’ll provide a city sight-seeing tour, including a ticket for the beautiful scenic ferry ride across the harbor to the sleepy town of Devonport on the other side (remember it is NZ’s spring so hopefully you’ll enjoy a nice warm sunny afternoon).

Due to different people having different energy levels, we have nothing scheduled for the rest of the day, but will be on hand to assist with dining recommendations and reservations as needed.

Special Features - City tour, Ferry ride


Day 4 (Monday 29 Oct)  To Rotorua via Waitomo and Otorohanga

We visit the Waitomo caves on our way to Rotorua.
In the caves we travel by boat through caverns lit by glowworms.

The view from a suite at Solitaire Lodge.

Happy Halloween!  Hopefully there'll be no tricks today, but treats a-plenty.

We hope you're well rested after a good night's sleep.

This morning we leave Auckland and travel to Rotorua, stopping on the way at the Waitomo Glowworm caves, where we'll walk through some beautiful native bush and into a natural cave system where we glide silently by boat through dark caverns lit by the natural light of glow worms.

We stop in a typical NZ country town where you can select from various typical NZ food choices for lunch, then continue on to Rotorua, where we'll spend the next two nights.

Rotorua is a center of intense geothermal activity, with boiling mudpools, geysers, natural hot pools for bathing in, and also a region full of much of New Zealand's indigenous Maori people and their culture.

Perhaps enjoy a soak in a therapeutic natural mineral pool yourself this evening.

Note - we offer a luxury indulgence option in Rotorua - two nights at the exquisite Solitaire Lodge, including gourmet 5-course dinners each night.

Included Meals - Breakfast
Special Features -
Waitomo Glowworm Caves tour


Day 5 (Tuesday 30 Oct)  Rotorua Area Touring, Evening Surprise

David and one of the sheep at the Agrodome.
One of the geysers at Te Puia.

A contemporary painting of the volcano eruption in 1886 that created the Buried Village.

Today's another day with a primarily sight-seeing emphasis, although there will be a culinary experience this evening.

Although New Zealand's economy is slowly shifting to higher value-added items such as, well - high end wines - it still remains in largest part a primarily agricultural economy, and so we start off today by experiencing the Agrodome and learning about NZ's ubiquitous sheep (which still outnumber people by five to one or more) and the farming lifestyle.  You've seen thousands from the coach already, now you can meet some up close and in person.

After an interesting and entertaining visit to the Agrodome, we move on to Te Puia where we'll learn about New Zealand's Maori people (Polynesians who settled NZ in the 13th and 14th century) and then see some of the amazing natural geothermal activity that is so prolific in the Rotorua area.  We also get to see NZ's native bird - the nocturnal and flightless kiwi.

In the afternoon we go to the Buried Village - NZ's own version of Pompeii - a village that was obliterated by a volcano eruption in 1886.  Much of this has now been excavated, and as well as a tour through the remains of the small village, there's a beautiful bush walk alongside a trout-filled stream and down to a roaring waterfall.

We have something very special planned for the evening.  It was David's birthday a few days ago in Queenstown, and to belatedly celebrate, he has arranged a special and uniquely NZ surprise event for you this evening.  A distinctive dinner is included.

Included Meals - Breakfast, Dinner
Special Features -
Agrodome, Te Puia, Buried Village, special evening activity


Day 6 (Wednesday 31 Oct)  Gisborne

Gisborne is centered on the confluence of three rivers.
A moody misty morning picture of vineyards in the foothills just out of Gisborne.

Although a far from internationally cosmopolitan city, Gisborne has a couple of surprisingly good restaurants.

Today we go 'off the beaten (tourist) path' and head to the small city of Gisborne on NZ's East Coast.  Almost entirely overlooked by international tourists, Gisborne is one of the country's prime wine growing regions, and the third largest in the country.

Gisborne produces a broad varietal mix and diversity of wine styles, reflecting the different soil types and meso-climates of the region.

Revered as a top Chardonnay-producing area, Gisborne also has a celebrated reputation for Gewurztraminer. This goes back to the 1970s, when Matawhero was making New Zealand's first benchmark Gewurztraminers.

More recently, some fine Viognier, Pinot Gris and Chenin Blanc wines have emerged, along with sparkling wines. Reds are also becoming increasingly popular, with excellent Merlots, Malbec, Pinotage and even the occasional Syrah being produced.

We'll visit a winery for an in-depth tour and private tasting, and spend one night in Gisborne.

The small city boasts being the first city in the world to see the sun each day, due to its location close to the International Date Line.

Included Meals - Breakfast
Special Features -
Gisborne winery visit and tasting


Day 7 (Thursday 1 Nov)  Hawke's Bay

We'll tour, taste and eat at multiple award winning Clearview Estate.
Our group enjoying lunch at Clearview in 2014.
Our lovely Napier tour headquarters, the County Hotel.

Part of the stately promenade along Napier's Marine Parade with the Pacific Ocean in the background.

The Mission Estate - one of Hawke's Bays' oldest wineries and best restaurants.

We continue on for the relatively short distance to Hawke's Bay, which will be our home for the next four days.

Hawke's Bay is the oldest wine growing region in New Zealand, and also the second largest.  With a climate similar to that of Bordeaux, it is no surprise that red wines dominate, with over 80% of NZ's plantings of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes to be found in this region.

The area also produces rich and complex Chardonnays.

Hawke's Bay is sometimes referred to as the 'food bowl' of New Zealand, due to the wide variety of orchards and market gardens that provide a huge diversity of fresh fruit, vegetables, berries, and produce of all kinds, blessed by soils and a climate conducive to excellent growing of highest quality foodstuffs.

Add locally raised meat products and coastal/river fishing and the area is abundantly overflowing with local delicacies allowing for a wide range of locavore type taste treats.

There's still more to Hawke's Bay than 'just' food and wine.  The city we'll be staying in (Napier) was devastated by an earthquake in 1931; the city-wide rebuilding that necessarily resulted was predominantly in the then prevalent style of Art Deco, making the city now into a gracious and extraordinary living museum of this style.

We've managed to persuade the city's most distinctive boutique hotel to give us all their rooms for our stay, which changes our experience from merely being guests in a generic hotel to having our own hotel for ourselves; a much friendlier and more special experience.

We drive straight to one of the region's better known wineries, where the owner has offered to give us a personal tour and tasting.  We also have lunch in his highly regarded on-site winery restaurant.

We'll get to our lovely hotel mid afternoon.  The balance of the day is free, and you might wish to visit the NZ Wine Center, located directly opposite to our hotel, and with interesting exhibits and tasting opportunities galore.

Note - some upgraded room options are available in our lovely Napier hotel, if you'd like to consider this extra treat.

Included Meals - Breakfast, Lunch
Special Feature -
Winery visit and tasting


Day 8 (Friday 2 Nov)  Local Touring, FAWC Opening

The Tukituki river and Te Mata Peak in Hawke's Bay.

NZ celebrity chef Ray McVinnie serving one of his creations to participants at an earlier FAWC event.

This evening marks the start of Hawke's Bay's annual Food and Wine Classic (FAWC) Festival - the 'anchor event' of our Epicurean Extravaganza, and perhaps the country's finest wine and food festival.

FAWC offered over 50 featured events in 2013, many of which quickly sold out.  It is expected perhaps 60 events will be offered during the ten days it will be held in 2014.

FAWC runs over two weekends and the week in-between; and while there are events every day, the key events occur the first weekend, which is (of course) the weekend we are present.

You'll have already selected the events you will attend, almost surely including the launch party this evening.

Earlier in the day, we'll enjoy some sightseeing around beautiful Hawke's Bay, and will stop at another winery for a special private tour/tasting with one of the winery's senior executives.

There'll also be a chance to visit one of David's favorite spots (he lived in Hawke's Bay in the early 1970s and again in the early 1980s) - an 'ice cream garden' that serves what many consider to be NZ's finest ice cream.

Included Meals - Breakfast
Special Features - Area touring, Winery visit, Ice cream garden, FAWC opening


Day 9 (Saturday 3 Nov)  FAWC Events

Perhaps enjoy beautiful Hawke's Bay and its wineries from a different perspective with an early morning balloon ride.
Or maybe attend a cooking demonstration/workshop and enjoy the results

More FAWC related events today.

There are a wide range of activities scheduled for today - lunchtime, afternoon and evening events.  Pick and choose the ones which have most appeal.

Currently the 2017 schedule has not been announced, but you can get a feeling for the range and type of events by looking at the 2013 program (link currently works but will be replaced eventually).  There were 19 events to choose from on this day of the 2013 Festival.

What a shame you can't be in two (or three!) places at once.  But, on the positive side, you'll have plenty of reasons to return for FAWC again next year, too.

Included Meals - Breakfast
Special Features -
Your choice of FAWC events


Day 10 (Sunday 4 Nov - Guy Fawkes Day)  More FAWC

The lovely Craggy Range winery, home to several different FAWC events this weekend.

Wine sleeping softly at Craggy Range.

Another wonderful line-up of gourmet food and world-class wine events for Sunday (there were six different events to choose from for this day of last year's Festival).

Perhaps you'll want to participate in a master-class and actively add to your own skills.

Perhaps you'd prefer to enjoy a degustation meal with the chef, or enjoy tasting a flight of award wines, personally introduced to you by the wine-maker in person.

There will be special meals at special venues, and probably will be new exclusive wines released for the first time over the weekend, giving you lots to enjoy and appreciate.

Today is 'Guy Fawkes Day' in New Zealand and other British Commonwealth countries - they celebrate a failed attempt at blowing up the Houses of Parliament in London back in 1605.  There'll probably be some fireworks and a bonfire or two about the town this evening.

Included Meals - Breakfast
Special Features -
Your choice of FAWC events


Day 11 (Monday 5 Nov)  To Wairarapa/Martinborough

A 'blast from the past' - a Four Square store, once ubiquitous in NZ and the precursor to modern day supermarkets, now seldom found, but here is one in Woodville, where we stop for lunch.

Peppers Parehua, a lovely treat for your time in the Wairarapa.

Our pre-farewell dinner drinks at Peppers in 2014 in one of their enormous suites - room for 20+ people and more.

Although FAWC events run all this week, we are moving on and continuing our exploration of New Zealand, its local food, and its wonderful wines.

Today we travel down to the Wairarapa area, home of some lovely very small wineries and great restaurants.

It is an easy half day drive, including a lunch stop in the sleepy little town of Woodville, an interesting country town with a few antique shops (ie shops that sell antiques) and a few antique shops (ie old shops!) too.

The Wairarapa wine producing region is small in size, but huge in style, and characterized by a multitude of small boutique wineries.

Wines are acclaimed for the intensity in their flavor and are described as old world style with new world flair.  Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc are the main varietals, but Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, the Cabernets and Merlot are all also grown.

This evening we have our farewell cocktail party and then a barbeque dinner - hopefully outside if the weather cooperates.  This is invariably a fun and festive way to celebrate the wonderful shared tour, and a great excuse to drink any 'extra' bottles of wine that we don't feel able to squeeze into our bags to take back home with us.

Included Meals - Breakfast, Dinner

Special Features -  Farewell barbeque dinner


Day 12 (Tuesday 6 Nov)  To Wellington, main tour ends

Wellington is a truly lovely city.
The two buildings that comprise NZ's Houses of Parliament.

There are plenty more wineries to visit if you wish to stay on longer!

After breakfast, we travel on to Wellington, New Zealand's capital city.

Although also set on a wonderful harbor, Wellington has almost nothing in common with the feel and ambience of Auckland (and NZers believe the inhabitants are very different, too).

Which is better?  Decide for yourself!

A special experience today will be a tour of NZ's Parliament House.

Our main tour comes to an end today, probably about lunchtime, and you have a choice of being dropped off at either the airport or centrally downtown.

What will you do next?

If you choose to fly back home, you'll probably fly first to Auckland (a quick one hour flight from Wellington) and then on back to the US from there.  You'll have plenty of time to fly from Wellington to Auckland to connect with the evening flights back home later today.

Due to flying back over the date line, you'll arrive back in the US earlier on the same day than when you left Auckland.

Alternatively, you might decide to extend your Downunder experience a bit further and continue on with us to Tropical North Queensland for four nights.

And, of course, you might decide to do your own thing, any other way you choose.  Perhaps go elsewhere in Australia, maybe fly back via Fiji or Hawaii, or maybe extend your time in NZ on your own.  We'll be happy to help you create the experience you most desire.

Included Meals - Breakfast

Special Features - City tour, Parliament tour

For More Information

Please return to the main page for more information about our 2018 New Zealand Epicurean Extravaganza Tour.  And here's a link to jump you directly down to the booking form.  Alternatively, you can also visit our page with additional information about our pre and post tour optional extensions.

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