With warm summers and cold, clear winters, these regions can deliver a taste experience that's every bit as memorable as the fantastic scenery.
Canterbury's fertile soils, warm summers and cold winters produce a veritable feast of fresh food and wine experiences for the adventurous gastro-tourist. Over on the West Coast, the food is as wild as the landscape and often as pioneering as the people.
This area is easily explored on a driving route known as the Alpine Pacific Triangle. Each town has something special to offer, so make sure you have enough time to savour the experiences.
The Waipara Valley wine region lies in the shelter of the Teviotdale Range. Here hillsides, valley floors and river terraces provide the winemakers with a range of soils and microclimates from which to weave their magic.
Cellar door tastings at celebrated wineries, especially Waipara Hills, offer the chance to experience the distinct influences that soil and climate have on each variety of wine. Waipara’s long, hot autumn period produces richer, spicier pinot noirs and racier rieslings.
Local gourmet food and wine tour operators, such as Taste Canterbury Tours, will guide you on a tantalising journey to boutique producers of wine, beer, olives, cheese, eel, salmon, ostrich, lamb, beef, berries, herbs, hazelnuts, honey and chocolate.
Kaikoura, famous for whale watching adventures on the northern Canterbury coast, is also the home of crayfish (lobster). You can buy it freshly cooked from a roadside stall and eat it on the rocks beside the sea. Local chefs, at restaurants with breath-taking views, have perfected the art of preparing this local delicacy.
As an alpine spa town, Hanmer Springs offers time out for relaxation and pampering in a breath-taking landscape. With your new knowledge of the region’s wines and produce, the local café and fine dining menus will read like a gastronomic atlas of New Zealand.
The cafés and restaurants of Christchurch offer menus and wine lists that proudly celebrate the region’s abundant ingredients. Canterbury lamb is a favourite, perfectly matched with a mouth-filling Waipara pinot noir.
Several farmers’ markets, like the one at Riccarton House every Saturday morning, offer pickles, preserves, fresh vegetables and tasty artisan breads. They’re a great place to talk with local food lovers and pick up tips for further food and wine explorations.
Barry’s Bay cheese, boutique wineries, locally grown fruit, vegetables, walnuts and honey all contribute to the town’s tempting menus. Historic homes offering luxury bed and breakfast accommodation ensure the first meal of the day is as delightful as the last.
Where the coastal plains begin to rise inland, the picturesque rural town of Geraldine is known for berries, preserves, chutneys, fruit and cheeses that can all be sampled at the Berry Barn complex.
Further inland, Fairlie marks the eastern gateway to the tussock-covered MacKenzie country. High country sheep farms have dominated this area for more than 100 years. Today they also raise deer, ostrich and succulent lamb.
Luxury farm stays around Fairlie offer hearty rural cuisine and informative insights into local farming activities.
Nestled in the arms of the Southern Alps, the historic Hermitage Hotel is a fine place for dining. In the restaurant, stunning views of Aoraki Mount Cook are made even more enjoyable by award-winning fish and game dishes crafted from fresh local ingredients.
A salmon farm near Lake Tekapo takes full advantage of cold, fast-flowing water that sweeps down from the mountains to feed the hydro-electric power station. Brown and rainbow trout fishing is popular in the lakes and rivers of this area - if you get lucky, bake your catch in foil and enjoy a great night in.
Along the South Island’s west coast, mountains rise steeply from the narrow coastal flats. Wild ocean beaches are strewn with driftwood washed down by the rivers and pebbles of all colours decorate the gold-flecked sand.
Like the landscape, the food here is wild. In March, the popular Hokitika Wild Foods Festival offers extreme challenges, such as huhu grubs and fish eyes, alongside more the traditional delicacies - venison, pork and whitebait.
Hunting deer or boar by helicopter, deep in the forest-covered mountains, will appeal to gastro-tourists who prefer to source their own wild food.
During the September to mid-November season, tiny native whitebait are caught in their thousands along the river mouths. Combined with egg and a little flour, they make amazing fritters - the perfect accompaniment for any of the local boutique beers.
Speaking of beer, Monteiths brewery in Greymouth provides tours and fascinating insights into their range of boutique beers. And New Zealand’s oldest ice cream company, Westland Snowflake, makes a beer flavoured ice cream.
The tiny mining town of Blackball, which hosts a sausage festival in November, is known for its salami company and an apiary that specialises in a distinctive rata-kamahi bush honey.
Throughout the West Coast region, historic hotels, luxury lodges, restaurants and cafes offer light alfresco dining in summer and hearty fireside meals during winter.