April and May are shoulder season in New Zealand, and the weather is still nice and the crowds aren't as thick -- it's autumn to our spring here in the northern hemisphere. We're presenting two different ways to explore it: via car through vibrant wine country or via motorhome.
These two trips are both lengthy, and that's important -- you're spending a good chunk of time in transit, so it makes sense to maximize your time and get the most out of it. Swain Tours (tel. 866/226-9097; www.swaintours.com) has a special package that combines New Zealand's vineyards and stays at boutique hotels starting at $2,650 per person for ten nights of accommodations, international round-trip airfare and domestic airfare, four breakfasts, and eleven days of a car rental. The price is based on travel April 1-May 31 from Los Angeles on Air New Zealand (click on special offers heading at the top of the page). The package starts in Hotel Du Vin, situated south of Auckland in a vineyard and winery, with a day at leisure, followed by a five-hour drive to Napier's Mon Logis Boutique Hotel in the center of the Hawke Bay Region. The next couple of days find you in Martinborough, known for its pinot noir, and ending at Peppers Martinborough Hotel. Finally, the trip to Blehnehim and Hotel D'Urville puts you right in the heart of the large wine-producing Marlborough region on South Island, famous for its zippy, citrusy Sauvignon Blancs. The last stop is in Christchurch with time at leisure and accommodations at The George Hotel.
If you really want to do something different, Go Way (tel. 800/387-8850; www.goway.com) has a great deal for motorhome vacations through New Zealand. It's an outdoorsy culture where camping is big -- Kiwis call it "tramping." Starting from $1,799 per person you can make your own way through this varied terrain, whether it's farms, beaches, grasslands, geothermal valleys or vineyards. The price reflects travel May 1-June 8 and July 24-August 31 and you must book by July 31. New Zealand is blessed with a network of campervan sites with cooking, washing and laundry facilities. The sixteen-day package includes international airfare from Vancouver on Air New Zealand for fourteen days of an RV rental and three excursions: a one-hour bike safari, Waiheke Island Explorer and best of both worlds day tour. United States residents take note that it is possible to depart from Los Angeles if need be, but the three excursions are not included in the promotional price. Furthermore, if you book for travel between April 1 and August 31, you get an extra week free of RV rental depending on availability, for a total of 23 days altogether. That's a seriously long vacation for a not-so-serious price.
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