New Zealand is famous for its delicious wines – and for a relatively small country, it has an impressive selection! In fact, there are more than 700 wineries to choose from. As such, it’s one of my absolute favorite countries to explore vineyards and sample wines. So if you also love wine, I highly recommend visiting!
The diverse landscape and maritime climate with its mild winters allows for many different wine regions (and even sub-regions!) within the country. There are tons of beautiful vineyards, wineries, and cellar doors for you to explore. Whether enjoying sunny days in Auckland or exploring the mountains near Queenstown, you’re never too far from a local winery.
I’ve lived and traveled throughout New Zealand and enjoyed many of the country’s wine regions. So if you’re not sure where to start, I’ve got you covered! Keep reading for my guide to the 9 BEST wine regions in New Zealand!
- The BEST Wine Regions on the North Island of New Zealand
- The BEST Wine Regions on the South Island of New Zealand
- Thanks for reading!
- Why I Book Tours with Viator
- Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
- Travel Insurance Has Your Back!
The BEST Wine Regions on the North Island of New Zealand
The North Island is home to 5 of New Zealand’s wine regions. It has warmer days and topography that favors the production of chardonnay, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and more.
Hawke’s Bay is home to the oldest winery in New Zealand and produces most of the North Island’s wine. However, there are plenty of equally amazing boutique wineries all over the island.
If you want to learn more about each area, keep reading. I’ll break down the North Island’s top wine regions and the best wineries in each.
- Location: Northern point of the North Island
- Best place to stay to visit the region: Paihia and Kerikeri
- Number of wineries/vineyards in the area: 20
- Main types of wine produced: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Syrah, Merlot
Beautiful Northland is a popular tourist stop, well-known for warm weather, lush forests, beautiful beaches, and the famous Bay of Islands. With the Tasman Sea to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east, no spot in Northland is ever too far from the coast.
Grape vines were first brought to New Zealand in the early 1800s, starting right here in the Bay of Islands. As Europeans arrived with their winemaking traditions, viticulture started to become popular. And once people discovered the best spots for growing grapes, small wineries and vineyards started to pop up all over Northland.
Luckily for visitors, the Northland wine region is easily accessible, with many wineries and vineyards concentrated around Kerikeri. I found a few gems that I’d recommend visiting!
While exploring independently, I visited Omata Estate, a boutique winery in Russell. Sipping on their smooth Chardonnay overlooking the beautiful scenery made for a pretty amazing day, and the smoked salmon wood-fired pizza made it even better!
But if you don’t want to worry about finding a designated driver, I recommend joining this Bay of Islands Wine Tour! You’ll visit the Marsden Winery along with the Sovrano Estate (formerly Ake Ake Vineyard). This organic vineyard has my favorite rosé (which is super light and fresh), along with some fruity Chambourcin that’s worth trying!
On this tour, you’ll get a tour of the vineyards, enjoy many wine tastings, and have a relaxing lunch with a view. I loved learning all about these organic and family-run wineries, and overall, it was one of the most relaxing afternoons I spent in the area.
Tours start at 12:30 pm with pickup in Kerikeri or Paihia. The 4-hour tour costs $165 NZD, covering lunch, wine tastings, and transport. However, this is a popular tour so check availability and book ahead!
- Location: Hauraki Gulf, east of Auckland
- Best place to stay to visit the region: Auckland
- Number of wineries/vineyards in the area: 30
- Main types of wine produced: Chardonnay, Syrah, Red Blends
Waiheke only joined the winemaking biz in the 1950s. But now, it’s famous for its many vineyards growing the perfect grapes in the island’s rich, volcanic soil.
Getting to Waiheke Island is easy since it’s just a 40-minute ferry ride from the Auckland Terminal. Ferries run roughly once an hour from 6 am – 11:45 pm Monday through Saturday and 7 am – 10:15 pm on Sundays. You can check the schedule and purchase a roundtrip ticket online for $46 NZD.
Once you arrive on the island, there are taxis and public transport from the terminal. But when I went, I chose to hop on this full-day Waiheke Wine Tour straight away! It was super convenient because it included pickup and dropoff from the ferry terminal.
On this tour, I visited 4 boutique vineyards with a minimum of 3 tastings per spot. Since Waiheke has so many vineyards, they switch up the destinations daily, but don’t worry – they are all fantastic! And if you prefer a certain winery, let your guide know ahead of time!
The tour is $179 NZD per person. You’ll need to reach the ferry terminal by 10:35 am for your 6-hour excursion. So if you’re looking for an island escape (with wine!), book your tour online here.
If you choose to do your own tour, there are a few top contenders I’d recommend!
On the east side of Waiheke, Man O’ War Vineyards offers their famous Syrah, Chardonnay, and Bordeaux blends alongside light lunches on a stunning coastal property. They’re open Thursday through Sunday from 11 am – 5 pm, and Mondays from 11 am – 4 pm. Tastings are complimentary with lunch reservations, but be sure to book ahead!
On the North side, Te Motu is my favorite for its full-bodied Bordeaux blends, garden-fresh meals, and tasting flights starting at $25 NZD per person. When I came here, I sat on their beautiful patio overlooking the Onetangi Valley to enjoy some food and wine.
Te Motu is open on weekends from 12 pm – 5 pm, and Monday/Thursday/Friday from 12 pm – 4 pm. However, bookings are necessary on the weekends, so call them at 09 372 6884 or email them ahead of time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Location: East coast of the North Island
- Best place to stay to visit the region: Gisborne City
- Number of wineries/vineyards in the area: ~20
- Main types of wine produced: Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Merlot
For a diverse selection of wines within a relatively small area, head to the North Island’s east coast.
The first grapes were accidentally planted here in the late 1800s when French missionaries mistook the Poverty Bay area for Hawke’s Bay. They quickly realized the long summers, rainy springs, and unique soil were the perfect wine-growing trifecta. Commercial vineyards started popping up in the early 1900s, and the rest is history!
Three wine subregions are nestled around the protected valleys of the Waipaoa River, making nearby Gisborne City the best base for exploring. Most vineyards and wineries in the Gisborne subregions are at most a 20-minute drive from the city, so they’re easily accessible by taxi, Uber, or your rental car (if you’ve got a designated driver!).
Bushmere Estate was one of my favorites here, with fresh, seasonal dishes and single-vineyard wine tastings – including their famous Chardonnay! I came here for lunch and had a light main so I could splurge on dessert. Their churro ice cream sandwich was delish! However, I also saw people eating pork belly and some local fresh fish which smelled amazing.
Bushmere is located just a 10-minute drive from Gisborne and is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 am – 3 pm. It’s the perfect choice to sample wine and have a filling lunch before heading back to the city.
A little further South, Matawhero Wines offers tasting flights for just $15 NZD. They had some of the best Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris I’ve tried! They also have beautiful on-site accommodations if you’re looking for a place to splurge! And if you’re traveling with a special someone, it makes a wonderful romantic getaway in New Zealand.
The winery is located just 15 minutes from Gisborne and is open Thursday and Friday from 12:30 pm – 3:30 pm and on weekends from 12 pm – 4 pm. I recommend coming here to enjoy the ground’s rustic charm or even play a game of pétanque!
If you don’t have a designated driver, just take a local tour! The Brews & Vinos Gisborne Wine Tour offers tastings and gourmet bites for groups of 4-6 people. I went with a group of friends and had a lovely time snacking on delicious cheeses and organic wines. The guides were super friendly and knowledgeable, sharing lots of history and info about the subregions and what makes each so special.
The Brews & Vinos Tour is also a great choice if your cruise ship is docking in Gisborne. Just message the company via their Facebook page or call them at 027 656 8222. They respond quickly and can pick you up wherever’s convenient.
Related Read: The North Island doesn’t just have amazing wine. If you want to get outdoors and experience the beautiful terrain, read about the best hikes on the North Island of New Zealand.
4. Hawke’s Bay
- Location: East coast of North Island
- Best place to stay to visit the region: Napier or Hastings
- Number of wineries/vineyards in the area: 100+
- Main types of wine produced: Syrah, Bordeaux blends, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris
Hawke’s Bay is New Zealand’s second-biggest wine-producing region, so you’ll find plenty to sip on! French missionaries first planted grapes here in the late 1800s, and these days you’ll find over 100 wineries and vineyards in its 5 subregions.
Hawke’s Bay is famous for its Syrah. However, red blend fans and Chardonnay lovers will also fit right in!
To get a taste of what Hawke’s Bay is all about, head to Mission Estate Winery – the birthplace of wine in New Zealand! Their tastings are set in an old seminary building with amazing views over Napier and Hawke’s Bay. They’re also super reasonably priced starting from $10 NZD for a self-guided tasting and $15 NZD for a guided one.
The large estate hosts a cellar door, restaurant, and Mission Farmhouse (where you can also stay overnight). You can visit the cellar door for tastings Monday to Saturday from 9 am – 5 pm and Sundays from 10 am – 4: 30 pm, with the last tastings 45 minutes before closing. The restaurant is open every day for lunch (11:30 am – 2:30 pm) and dinner (5:30 pm – 8:30 pm).
The Mission Farmhouse is a short walk from both the restaurant and winery, making it a great choice for a small group traveling together. There is also a hot tub, barbecue, and fireplace, and each bedroom has an ensuite bathroom. The farmhouse can host up to 6 very comfortably with prices starting at $550 NZD. So if you want to make a weekend of it, book the house online.
Once you’ve visited the place that started it all, you can move on to another historical favorite in Napier: Church Road Winery. This place has been running since 1897 on the exact same grounds! It appeals to a wide variety of wine lovers and has a popular rosé (which I loved!).
Tastings are available Thursday to Monday 10:30 am – 4:30 pm, but you’ll need to get there by 4 pm for the last tasting. They range from $10 – $190 NZD per person, so it’s great for all budgets.
Further South you’ll find Trinity Hill. This place has absolutely beautiful views and some of my favorite Syrah (the rosé is also delicious!). Their cellar door is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 am – 5 pm, but bookings are recommended.
Of course, letting someone else drive so you can sip away is always a great idea! One of my favorite wine tours in the Napier area is this Half Day Hawkes Bay Wine Tour. What I love about this tour is it’s so well-paced with a variety of wines, and it also ends with a visit to Te Mata Peak. Trust me, this epic 360-degree view is the perfect way to cap off a wonderful day!
The 4.5-hour tour starts at noon, which is the perfect time to begin wine tasting if you ask me! It costs $135 NZD per person, including roundtrip transportation, wine, and a tasty cheeseboard. For wine tastings with a view, book this tour online here!
Why I Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! I almost always book tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
- Location: Southern tip of the North Island
- Best place to stay to visit the region: Wellington
- Number of wineries/vineyards in the area: ~30
- Main types of wine produced: Pinot Noir, Syrah
Martinborough (not to be confused with Marlborough – I’ll get to that one later!) is the southernmost portion of the Wairarapa wine region. This is located on the southern tip of the North Island and is a great addition to your Wellington itinerary.
Though wine production didn’t take off here until the 1970s, the cool weather and soil composition make for a fantastic wine selection. What I love about the region is that it has rustic boutique wineries in a small-town setting.
I tried this half-day Martinborough Winery Tour which stopped at 3 different wineries, giving us a great introduction to the region. Each spot had a different vibe, but my favorite on the tour was the beautiful, rustic Poppies Martinborough. Rosé lovers will fit right in here, but Poppies also has a range of Pinot Gris, Riesling, and delicate Pinot Noir.
Another pro of this tour was that it caps off at 11 people, which allowed me to mingle and get to know others. Overall, I felt it was a great deal at USD $154 NZD including roundtrip transportation and all the wine tastings. The tour is 4-5 hours and starts at 12:30 pm. However, it sells out fast so book your spot online ahead of time!
If you choose to visit Poppies without a tour group, wine tastings start from $10 NZD and offer delicious platters with tapenades, bread, cheese, and other goodies. They’re open daily from 11 am – 4 pm.
For bold sips of Syrah and fresh, local lunch, head to the famous Moy Hall. It’s just a 10-minute walk from Poppies so it works well to combine the two. Reservations are recommended for dining, but tastings are $10 NZD on a walk-in basis. Their silky, smooth Syrah was the highlight for me, but the Terrace Pinot Noir was a close contender!
If you are in the area during the second half of November, Martinborough also hosts an annual festival called Toast Martinborough. Ticket holders will get access to a shuttle bus to participating vineyards, where you can enjoy food, wine, and music in good company! Tickets start at $85 NZD, but you’ll need to purchase them early to get the best deal!
Related Read: If you’re in the Wellington area, be sure to visit Zealandia Ecosanctuary – it’s beautiful!
The BEST Wine Regions on the South Island of New Zealand
The South Island is home to New Zealand’s biggest wine region, Marlborough, as well as the world’s Southernmost vineyards in the Central Otago region.
You’ll have your pick of a wide variety of wines, including world-renowned Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. From larger vineyards and estates to family-owned boutique wineries, the South Island has tons of options for every wine drinker out there!
- Location: Northwest tip of the South Island
- Best place to stay to visit the region: Nelson
- Number of wineries/vineyards in the area: ~40
- Main types of wine produced: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc
If you’re catching a ferry from the North to the South Island, you won’t be far from Nelson. The Nelson wine region is small but mighty, and visiting the wineries is one of my favorite activities in Nelson.
No stranger to grape growing, vines have been thriving in this area since the 1800s when German settlers arrived. Even though it’s one of the lesser-known regions, Nelson brings its A-game with boutique wineries, amazing wines, and a picturesque coastline. Plus, if you’re in the area to visit Abel Tasman National Park, you might as well try some top wines while you’re here!
Nelson has two main subregions – Moutere Hills and Waimea Plains. The good news is that most of the wineries are in the same general area along Tasman Bay, making it easy to hit up a bunch in one go!
To see it all, I recommend this easy Hop-On Hop-Off Wine Tour This was one of the best tours in my books because I got to explore different towns, pubs, cellar doors, and vineyards without worrying about itineraries or who was driving!
Top of my list was the award-winning Gewürztraminer and the crisp Sauvignon Blanc at the beautiful family-run Seifried Estate. But, the laid-back vibe and rustic décor at Forsters Moutere Hills also won me over! Forsters offers wine tastings paired with beautifully presented dishes made from local ingredients. I booked ahead of time for this one, and recommend doing so if you go (which you should!).
The Hop-On Hop-Off Wine Tour runs for 8 hours, starting at 10 am with the last bus returning to Nelson at 5:45 pm. It’s offered on weekends and costs $100 NZD, including over 20 stops in the region. I loved the flexibility on this one, so if you don’t want to worry about schedules or transport, book your wine bus tickets here!
Related Read: If you’re driving from the ferry terminal in Picton, check out the best stops between Picton and Nelson here.
Related Read: Another fun place to explore from Nelson that has wineries nearby (that you can bike between!) is the cute coastal town of Mapua.
- Location: The northeast tip of South Island
- Best place to stay to visit the region: Picton or Blenheim
- Number of wineries/vineyards in the area: 150+
- Main types of wine produced: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay
If you’ve heard of any wine region in New Zealand, it’s probably Marlborough! The perfect blend of cool weather, sunny days, and just the right amount of rain means Marlborough is one of the best wine regions in the world. Its world-famous Sauvignon Blanc is also one of my favorites. You absolutely cannot visit Marlborough without trying some wine!
Renowned for its wine production since the 1980s, this region produces most of New Zealand’s wine. It has 3 subregions with more wineries and vineyards than you can imagine. Best of all, Marlborough’s wineries are super easy to reach and there are tons of tour options. So, visitors can drop off their bags and get straight to sippin’!
Whenever I come here, I get some serious analysis paralysis. If you’re also overwhelmed by choice, go for an organized tour! This full-day tour is a great way to hit a few wineries, make friends, and not worry about the hassle of organizing anything. I visited 6 wineries along the way, including a lunch stop at the stunning Saint Clair Vineyard Kitchen for an amazing, seasonally-inspired lunch.
The 6-hour tour includes pickup in Picton at 9:30 am and in Blenheim at 10 am. The $190 NZD price includes transport and wine, but you’ll need to pay for lunch. This tour is popular for a reason, so book your spot ahead of time here!
If you’re not feeling the bus tour vibe, I also saw lots of people visiting wineries on bikes or groups with rental cars (and a DD!). And if you like the idea of getting some exercise, this self-guided biking tour makes everything so easy! They offer pickup/drop off in the Picton area and set you up with absolutely everything you need (bike, helmet, vest, lock, and maps).
You can have the bikes for 7.5 hours, and you can also opt for tandem or E-bikes if preferred. The $50 NZD price covers everything but food and wine tastings. If you want to explore by bike, book yours online here!
If you’re traveling on your own, take a peek at the Marlborough Wine Trail for ideas. I suggest stopping at famous spots like Cloudy Bay for tastings starting at $15 NZD. But Framingham Wines wins the coolest winery in my books – the small-batch Riesling was delicious, and they also have great live music and a cellar turned into an art exhibit space!
No matter which direction you go, in Marlborough, you’ll be spoiled with dozens of world-class wines! There’s a special bonus if you’re there in February: the annual Marlborough Wine & Food Festival, where you can see and taste the best of the best!
- Location: East coast of the South Island
- Best place to stay to visit the region: Christchurch
- Number of wineries/vineyards in the area: 75+
- Main types of wine produced: Pinot Noir & Riesling
The Waipara wine scene is much smaller than its Northern neighbors in Marlborough. However, Waipara has its own unique flair and is filled with beautiful, laid-back boutique wineries.
One of two subregions in the North Canterbury wine region, Waipara entered the winemaking game in the 1980s. It’s located in a valley that provides perfect temperatures and sunshine for grapes to flourish.
But if you don’t have a car, there are lots of tour options! When I went, I chose this Waipara Wine Trail Afternoon Tour. Everything is so close together, I was able to see 4 wineries without feeling rushed. The tour stops at the popular Waipara Springs Winery for their silky Pinot Noir, as well as beautiful Waipara Hills for crisp Riesling or light chilled Pinot Noir Rosé – perfect for a warm day!
You have two options with this tour. For $125 NZD, you can leave at 1:30 pm for the 4-hour standard wine tour. But for $160 NZD, you’ll leave earlier (at 12 pm) to enjoy a vineyard lunch before hitting all the wineries. Both tours include roundtrip transport, making it super convenient. So choose between both options and book online here.
If you want to curate your own tour, there’s also a Waipara Valley Vineyard Trail that you can explore by bike or foot. It’s 14.5 km (9 miles) and takes 1-2 hours by bike (excluding time spent in wineries of course!). It’s a nice option if you want to catch some fresh air between wine tastings and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
9. Central Otago
- Location: Center of South Island
- Best place to stay to visit the region: Queenstown
- Number of wineries/vineyards in the area: ~133
- Main types of wine produced: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay
Central Otago is New Zealand’s most Southern wine region. It has 6 distinct sub-regions set in beautiful mountains and valleys.
Grapes were introduced here during the Gold Rush in the mid-1800s but didn’t quite take off commercially until the 1970s. Since then, Central Otago has earned a reputation for its silky Pinot Noir, but there are many more varieties to enjoy here!
The closest subregion to Queenstown is Gibbston, about a 30-minute drive east. As such, Gibbston makes a great day trip from Queenstown! And if you’re doing a road trip from Queenstown to Wanaka, it’s an excellent chance to explore the wineries and vineyards in between! You’ll be rewarded with amazing views and fine sips of wine.
If you’re staying in Queenstown, you’re in a fantastic spot to explore the best wineries in the area. I find the most relaxing way to do so is by joining a wine tour directly from Queenstown. However, with so many, it can be hard to choose – which is why I’ll break down two of my favorites below!
If you’re looking to splurge a little, this Gourmet Food and Wine Tour from Queenstown is a delicious option. It includes visits to three of the subregions – Gibbston, Bannockburn, and Cromwell, passing by tons of scenery along the way. This tour is a foodie’s dream with loads of food and wine tastings. You’ll also get a peek into New Zealand’s largest wine cave at Gibbston Valley Winery while you sample a few wines.
This 6.5-hour tour begins with a 9:30 am pickup in Queenstown. The luxury transport, as well as lunch, snacks, and all wine tastings, are included for $286 NZD. But it does sell out fast, so book your spot online here!
If you’re on a tighter budget, you’re still in luck! With this Hop-on Hop-off Wine Tour, you’ll have more flexibility but see as many wineries as you’d like! There are over 20 stops that include not just wineries, but also breweries, and activities like bungee jumping and jet boats. Some of the top wineries on this tour include Brennan Wines and the stunning Amisfield Winery, known for its award-winning Pinot Noir.
Buses run every 45 minutes from Queenstown. The full-day option costs $90 NZD and the half-day is $65 NZD. Tickets cover transport, but you’ll be responsible for tastings and whichever activities you choose. If you want a customizable wine tour, book this bus tour online here!
Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!
You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:
- Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
- Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It is what most budget backpackers get for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping! You can easily compare campervans, prices, and book on the website Motorhome Republic. We also have a 5% discount code (QUEEN5) with Mad Campers, which you can use at checkout.
- Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one, you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. Motorhome Republic is my suggested website for booking a motorhome in New Zealand simply because they are a reliable company and the website is super easy to use! We are also partnered with Kiwi Motorhomes, which is well known as the top motorhome rental company in New Zealand. You can get 5% off using the code Queen5. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
Travel Insurance Has Your Back!
Life can be unpredictable and when you’re traveling abroad the last thing you want to worry about is getting sick or injured and having to pay out of pocket for treatment.
If this concerns you, SafetyWing can help! SafetyWing specializes in very affordable and comprehensive medical and travel insurance that is aimed at digital nomads, remote workers, and long-term travelers. It costs just $45 USD per 4 weeks!
To start coverage you must purchase it after leaving your home country, so we usually purchase it as soon as we land in the airport.
Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada before the border closed!
Thanks for reading!
New Zealand is truly a wine-lovers paradise with so many different regions spread throughout the country. If you enjoy wine tasting, you have to visit! And if you’re already planning a trip, I hope this guide has helped you!
But wine isn’t the only thing this beautiful country offers. To learn more, check out my other blogs about New Zealand. Below, I’ve selected some articles I thought you might enjoy. Thanks for reading!