Golden glow ... great wine is just one of Marlborough's attractions.
You knew New Zealand was beautiful, of course, and you probably knew that there are some stunning landscapes - only you probably think of snowy peaks, deep ravines and rivers of the South Island, where you can find any manner of things to jump off or out of, since the place is known as the adventure capital of the world.
But to go to New Zealand not to eat and drink would be a shame, and to miss the North Island would be even worse. The Classic New Zealand Wine Trail makes a pretty good place to start: some excellent food and wine, and some beautiful coastal landscapes, down the eastern seaboard of the North Island, across Cook Strait and on to Marlborough.
New Zealand's wine industry might be young - in most cases it only goes back a few decades - but it has developed quickly. And in recent years, a remarkable food culture has grown up, too. New Zealanders have taken to farmers' markets with a passion, and where there's wine, there are artisan food producers delivering some good food. It's strictly seasonal - asparagus in spring, strawberries for Christmas, tomatoes in high summer - and highly localised - salmon in Marlborough, sheep's cheese in Wairarapa.
The trail takes in 380 kilometres of wine-producing regions, where you'll find more than 230 vineyards, about 100 of which have cellar doors or restaurants. As well as places to eat and drink, there are spectacular coastlines, white-sand beaches, rural landscapes and - at the centre of it all - there is Wellington, the country's capital and a city fast becoming a terrific place to eat.
New Zealand's best-known wine region is rightfully proud of its sauvignon blanc, but there's much more to the area than the country's most famous grape - although that's certainly one reason to visit, especially since it goes particularly well with its popular export, the green-lipped mussel, which grows in the deep, clear waters of the Marlborough Sounds.
The sounds are beautiful of course, fingers of land covered in trees, surrounded by dark water - all of which you see on the Interislander ferry on the trip from Wellington, which is best experienced in the early morning when the water through the sounds is still. But the sounds are also half the reason the place is becoming somewhere you should eat - from them comes some of New Zealand's best seafood.
Oyster lovers will swoon over Tio Point's Tiostrea chilensis oysters: farmed in the Tory Channel, they're flat, with an intense flavour, bitter and creamy and meaty all at the same time. And there is New Zealand King Salmon, also farmed in the Marlborough Sounds. For wild-caught fish, make a beeline for the Little Fish Company. Each Wednesday, Caroline Anderson, a small crew and her parrot Starboard head out into Cook Strait on her 60-year-old wooden fishing boat, Wairoa, to catch whatever she can by hand - blue cod, groper, sometimes the odd escaped salmon. Then she returns to Picton's commercial wharf as late as Friday to sell the fish, fresh off the boat. Look out for sustainably harvested Cloudy Bay triangle clams, which are sweet and plump.
It's home to the Marlborough Farmers' Market, too, which has launched a small but impressive local artisan food scene. In the rolling country around Blenheim, you'll find everything from producers growing pine nuts - a first in New Zealand - to olive oil. There is chocolate in the form of Makana chocolates, where everything is made by hand, and brilliant food from all over the South Island at BV Gourmet, an excellent delicatessen just outside the centre of Blenheim.
It's a great place to have lunch, of course, and most of that happens in the vineyards. Brancott Estate is a must - back when it was called Montana, the company was a pioneer in planting sauvignon blanc in the area. Last year, it opened a tasting room and restaurant designed by New Zealand architects Fearon Hay: a beautifully restrained assemblage of concrete, metal and glass dug into a ridge.
The views out over the vineyards are spectacular, and so is the food. You should also drop in on Cloudy Bay - a much more casual affair, with a nicely weathered jumble of buildings, and a beautiful barrel room. And at the other end of the scale, don't go past Rock Ferry, a smart bistro in a renovated house with beautiful seasonal food using local ingredients.
● Greenshell Mussel Tour. Combine three fine things: a day on a boat in the Marlborough Sounds; green-lipped mussels; sauvignon blanc. This all-day tour takes you around the sounds, tells you the history of the place stretching back to pre-European times, and rounds it all off with lunch and a glass of wine.
● Interislander, interislander.co.nz
● Tio Point Oysters, tiopoint.co.nz
● NZ King Salmon, kingsalmon.co.nz
● Little Fish Company, Main Wharf, Picton
● Cloudy Bay Clams, cloudybayclams.co.nz
● Marlborough Farmers' Market, mfm.co.nz
● Makana Confections, makana.co.nz
● BV Gourmet, bvgourmet.co.nz
● Brancott Estate, brancottestate.com
● Cloudy Bay, cloudybay.co.nz
● Rock Ferry Wines, rockferry.co.nz
● Greenshell Mussel Tour, marlboroughtravel.co.nz