Imagine going to sleep under a sea of stars with a belly full of some of the best wine in the world and fare from an incredible picnic-hamper, with nothing but vines surrounding your camper to wake up to in the morning. Don't just imagine it, do it! Take a North Island wine tour in your maui campervan.
With a rich pedigree of producing light and fruity wines dating back to the 1800's, New Zealand's North Island wine-makers and vineyards are some of the most respected in the world. A case in point, one international critic stated that a Sauvignon Blanc pressed in New Zealand's Hawke's Bay region is "unforgettable and arguably the best in the world".
Indeed, it is the unique combination of rich soil, a diverse climate, natural water quality and a little bit of 'kiwi ingenuity' that make the wines in New Zealand's North Island so palatable. That said, visiting just one winery in New Zealand with your maui campervan will not satisfy your taste. A proper wine tour of the North Island needs to include at least four or five quality wines from the award-winning vineyards from Coromandel to Hawkes Bay to Napier.
Luckily, maui have created the prefect North Island wine tour with a campervan, read on to find out more:
Auckland – Whitianga
175kms (2hrs 12 mins)
Pick up your camper and head straight to the first of our boutique wineries, Mercury Bay Estate.
Mercury Bay Estate is a boutique, family owned vineyard and winery, producing Coromandel's finest wines using sustainable means. Sharing these wines with local food to in a relaxed and family friendly vineyard and cellar door setting.
Upon arrival at the vineyard, have a chat with the vintner and a private tour of the estate. Located in the Coromandel, there's plenty for you to do before picking up your gourmet picnic basket.
If you have an extra couple of days you can include a visit to Hot Water Beach and enjoy your very own geothermal pool, relax by taking a stroll through the iconic Karangahape Gorge, or take in the local gold-mine history at Goldfields Vintage Railway.
Whitianga – Waitomo (via Hobbiton)
253kms (3hrs 15mins)
A big travel day, but definitely worth it. With amazing views along the way, the time will whizz by. Particularly with a stop in at the famous Hobbiton in Matamata. A must-see for those who loved the movies. After a stop in at Hobbiton, you'll head right into the heart of the 'King-Country', stopping at Waitomo.
Waitomo is most famous for its spectacular glow-worm caves, however you can also enjoy a gourmet meal at the café or stretch your legs in its scenic reserve. Don't forget, the driver goes free when exploring the glow-worm caves!
Waitomo – Rotorua
148kms (1hr 53mins)
Take your time getting to Rotorua, with lots to see and do on the way. Te Kuiti will be the largest town you encounter on the way, so be sure to stop in and stock up on lunch supplies.
Pureora Forest Park, a hidden wonderland of tall trees, clear rivers and rare wildlife, is a great place to stop and explore if you love walking.
You'll know when you've reached Rotorua. It's like nowhere you've been before, with evidence of volcanic activity everywhere you look.
If you have an extra couple of days, it's well worth spending them in Rotorua. Complete your middle-earth trilogy with a visit to Te Puia, a 60 hectare site which is home to Maori arts and crafts, a kiwi enclosure, the famous Pohutu Geyser and more than 500 geothermal wonders!
Rotorua – Napier
220kms (2hrs 34mins)
Once you reach Linden Estate, sit back, relax and drink in the stunning Hawkes Bay views with a bottle of wine. Of course, you can have your gourmet picnic hamper or – you can sneak it into the van for tomorrow's lunch and indulge in dinner at the restraint.
Established in 1971, Linden is located in New Zealand's most versatile winegrowing region. Linden Estate is the first winery as you arrive into Hawkes Bay, and the ideal place to begin any wine tasting experience in the region. The cellar door and restaurant is elevated above the surrounding vines, providing a wonderful vista across the valley floor to the wooded hills in the background. Linden Estate Winery offers unique, exquisite wines, beautiful views and approachable staff.
Napier – Palmerston North
191kms (2hrs 20mins)
Palmerston North is a must for the ultimate rugby fan. With a stop at the New Zealand Rugby Museum. The museum is host to a range of rugby paraphernalia including trophies, equipment, photographs, badges and loads more.
If you want to get out in the outdoors, Manawatu Gorge passes through a unique landscape of steep Greywacke Ranges covered in native vegetation.
The track provides an opportunity to walk through native bush, see a carving of Whatonga, enjoy scenic views and experience native wildlife only a short distance from Palmerston North.
Palmerston North – Martinborough
156kms (2hrs 5mins)
Our third vineyard, Coney Wines, will have you smiling from ear to ear. This quirky family owned and operated boutique vineyard have often startled guests by bursting into spontaneous song. The extra touch? Each wine label contains an edgy poem for you to enjoy.
Music is an intrinsic part of Coney Wines, with the belief that harmony can be experienced in their wine and they are convinced the grapes respond even better to good music. The wines themselves have harmonious names – Rallentando, Ragtime, Ramblin' Rose and Pizzicato.
While you're in Martinborough you can explore the picturesque village square, home to several heritage buildings, have a look at some of the other wineries along the classic wine-trail or work on your swing and enjoy the great outdoors at the Martinborough Golf Club.
Martinborough – Wellington
82kms (1hr 12mins)
Enjoy New Zealand's capital city, Wellington. Wellington is quite possibly the trendiest city on this side of the equator. If you love art, Wellington is the city for you. With lots of amazing places to enjoy a coffee, something delicious to eat, a browse through one of the many art galleries, a walk along the harbour or taking in some of New Zealand's political history – you might have to be dragged away.
Options from here are to meander back to Auckland along the west-coast, or continue your wine journey in the beautiful South Island