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Food & Wine Trips

A bounty of fresh ingredients, limitless supplies of fine wine, and a growing appreciation of both have meant a proliferation of small, boutique cooking schools in New Zealand. Daylong or weekend classes are the main focus. One of the best is Ruth Pretty Cooking School, 41 School Rd., Te Horo, north of Wellington (tel. 06/364-3161; www.ruthpretty.co.nz), which offers classes most weekends from February through December. Lessons from Ruth and invited top chefs culminate in long, outdoor lunches. Private classes are also available.

Auckland Seafood School, First Floor, Auckland Fish Market, 22 Jellicoe St., Freemans Bay, Auckland (tel. 09/379-1497; www.afm.co.nz), holds regular short courses in its state-of-the-art facility that includes a 66-seat auditorium and a kitchen with eight self-contained cooking stations. From barbecue to traditional French, Vietnamese, or classical recipes, it's all about fish. Also in Auckland, Main Course, 20 Beaumont St., Auckland (tel. 09/302-1460; www.maincourse.co.nz), offers courses in everything from seafood and vegetarian to gluten-free and Italian cooking.

In Christchurch, Celia Hay's New Zealand School of Food & Wine, 63 Victoria St., Christchurch (tel. 03/379-7501; www.foodandwine.co.nz), has a well-earned reputation for turning out accomplished hospitality graduates. The school runs full-time 16-week courses in cookery, restaurant and cafe management, and professional wine knowledge. It has an associated award-winning restaurant. Forty-five minutes northwest of Christchurch, in the tiny town of Oxford, you'll find consummate cookbook writer and chef Jo Seagar. Seagars at Oxford (www.joseagar.com) offer various 1-day cooking courses that cover several cooking styles and cuisines. There is also a superb kitchenware shop and Jo's very popular cafe.

In Queenstown, Kia Toa Cuisine, at Punatapu Lodge (tel. 03/442-6985; www.cuisinequeenstown.com or www.punatapu.com), offers specialized, short-term classes in a luxury lodge environment. The focus is always on New Zealand produce. The courses may include foraging for wild foods or visits to farmers' markets, wineries, orchards, local restaurants, and high country sheep stations.

You'll find details of local wine tours in each regional guide. In addition, you should arm yourself with the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail Guide and the Jasons Taste Traveller guide, both free from all i-SITE visitor centers around the country.

Volunteering & Working

If you wish to work in New Zealand during your trip, you need to acquire a working holiday permit. Details of visa and work permit requirements can be found at the New Zealand Immigration website, www.immigration.govt.nz. There are usually plenty of short-term working opportunities, especially in the summer when orchards, market gardens, and vineyards often need casual workers. The New Zealand hospitality industry usually employs large numbers of working tourists as well. That said, the current global recession has impacted the availability of jobs, so make sure you do your research before landing here. Additional job sites include www.seek.co.nz, www.nzrecruitme.co.nz, www.anyworkanywhere.com, www.jobstuff.co.nz, and www.jobzone.co.nz. The New Zealand immigration website lists many more links to specialized agricultural, horticultural, ski, hospitality, or general jobs.

Personally, I think there are far more interesting jobs available in the volunteer arena. Admittedly, you don't earn money while you're working, but you will take home the intense satisfaction of knowing you have helped others while enjoying a rewarding, personal experience. Many organizations offer volunteer positions within New Zealand. The Global Volunteer Network operates in many countries, including New Zealand. Their comprehensive website, www.volunteer.org.nz, details their programs, which include assistance to conservation groups and conservation projects within New Zealand. Volunteers are involved in habitat restoration, predator control projects, tree planting, invasive weed removal, monitoring re-vegetation growth rates, and more. Working within a kiwi sanctuary to help preserve our national icon must be rated as a rare and privileged experience. This program is based in Wellington, and you need to be moderately fit, proficient in English, and 18 and over to participate.

Volunteering New Zealand (tel. 0800/865-268; www.volunteernow.org.nz) focuses on putting the age, wisdom, and acquired experience of those from age 55 to 65 to good use. Their website features an Opportunities Page that lists volunteer positions for these "young seniors" who may have retired from the workforce but still have much to give to community welfare. Volunteer Abroad (www.volunteerabroad.com) lists numerous opportunities to take part in interesting community projects, from conservation work to educational and outdoor leadership courses. Other good websites to check are www.conservationvolunteers.org.nz, www.transitionsabroad.com, www.unitedplanet.org, www.geovisions.org, www.wwoof.co.nz, www.greenhearttravel.org, and www.partnershipvolunteers.org.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.