Nadia exploring the vineyards at Kinross, New Zealand

Nadia exploring the vineyards at Kinross, New ZealandIMAGE: Nadia El Ferdaoussi

Travel writer Nadia El Ferdaoussi has travelled throughout New Zealand's two islands experiencing it as a gourmet traveller. In this first part of a two-part feature on her food and drink experiences, she focuses on the south island.

Really great food and drink experiences aren’t hard to come by in New Zealand. In fact, you’re more likely to have the opposite problem, the choice can be overwhelming.

Here, I’ll focus on some of the very best the South Island has to offer in the first of a two-part feature. That includes some one-of-a-kind, unique experiences such as making your own jar of honey, pulling up crayfish pots, eating still-warm homemade cookies in one of the coolest cinemas you’ll ever visit or drinking wine specially created for a one-room hotel.

Espress Martini in the sky

Espress Martini in the sky

Getting there

First, you’ve got to get there and, with New Zealand on the opposite side of the world to Ireland, if you can, go in style. Emirates’ Auckland route via Dubai runs on the snazzy A380 aircraft, whose business and first class cabins are on the upper deck with a walk-up bar. Ever had an espresso martini at 40,000ft? Now’s your chance.

Before we scoot down to the South Island, your trip will likely see you fly internationally in and out of Auckland. While you’re there, don’t miss the new Auckland Fish Market, where you can “eat like a fish and drink like a pirate”. The rebooted food court of sorts showcases local talent and of course locally caught and sustainably sourced specialities.

Fresh fish from Auckland Fish Market

Fresh fish from Auckland Fish Market

A cruise through Doubtful Sound

If you’re looking for a dream foodie itinerary and trip planning isn’t your forte, the guys at New Zealand In Depth are who you need to speak to, or for any kind of curated journey throughout NZ. It’s how I came across some of the coolest food and drink experiences mentioned in this feature. My hands-down highlight would be an overnight stay with Fiordland Cruises in Doubtful Sound. After crossing Lake Manapouri by ferry, you meet your crew to traverse the Wilmot Pass, the only road connecting the pristine and raw Doubtful Sound to the rest of civilisation.

Here you board Southern Secret for a blissful 21 hours in the untouched surroundings of Fiordland National Park. As one of the only charter boats allowed in the area, you’ll feel humbled at the sheer scale and solitude of the environment and have the chance to help retrieve the crayfish traps set the previous day, fish for your supper and dine under the stars (it’s BYO, so stock up before you board).

Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound

Trying local wines

Back on dry land and also in the area, The Cinema Suites is a truly unique place to lay your head and try its very own Fiordland Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc. Drink in your suite or in the cinema downstairs while watching the 32-minute Ata Whenua Shadowland short movie for a cinematic view of this remote and beautiful World Heritage site.

We can’t talk about New Zealand without mentioning wine and the choices are endless, from the famous Marlborough region to Central Otago. Stay in Blenheim at Marlborough Lodge and visit local wineries you’ll see on the wine list such as Te Whare Ra and Saint Clair. Producing, respectively, interesting blends such as Toru (meaning three in Maori) a co-fermented field blend of Riesling, Gewürtztraminer and Pinot Gris or different takes on the world famous Sauvignon Blanc, a Barrique limited release which is fermented and aged in seasoned oak.

Lunch at Kinross Cottages

Lunch at Kinross Cottages

Further south in Central Otago, stay at Kinross Cottages in the Gibbston Valley which acts as cellar door for five local wineries including its own and Wild Irishman produced by winemaking legend Alan Brady who planted some of the first grapes in the region.

Make your own honey

Also close to Queenstown, one for the kids, pop into Buzzstop Honey Centre where you will not only learn about bees and the honey-making process, but you can have a go at spinning and bottling your own jar complete with a photo of your face on the label in the centre of a pair of bee’s wings to take home as the ultimate NZ souvenir.

The choices are endless when it comes to really excellent food and drink in New Zealand. Give the guys at NZ In Depth a shout if you want an expert hand in curating a once in a lifetime itinerary and maybe leave a little space in the case to bring home a couple of one of a kind bottles of wine.

Stay tuned to F&W for part two which includes the best meal of the trip, still unsurpassed to this day.