"Far and Wonderful" wine countries in AUS, NZ

Old Sep 17, 13, 7:57 pm
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"Far and Wonderful" wine countries in AUS, NZ

My wife and I will be celebrating our 25th anniversary next year and I have promised to take her away someplace "far and wonderful" as she puts it. I am working on an early March date for heading out. I was hoping to get some input on a few areas I am researching from people who have actually been there. First a bit about the trip...

The lovely Mrs. mdc definition of "wonderful" involves beautiful outdoor areas with plenty of creature comforts. Not 5 star, but nice sans stuffy.

We like being outside. Our running joke on vacations is we can judge the quality of a vacation by the number of meals we are able to eat outdoors (we live in Chicago so this is a special treat in March). We love to trail run, easy mountain bike, etc. Wine tourism is also fun for us (to a point). One of our favorite summer places in the US is Jackson, WY if that helps.

The key to this trip is we aren't looking so much for a bunch of tourist sites to check off our list as we are looking for places with a great feel. A 2 hour cup of coffee at a cafe, dinner on a rooftop terrace; that sort of thing.

So with that long introduction in mind I've been researching places in Australia and New Zealand that might work. Comments on my summaries and further suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated. (I took her to Galena, IL for 10 years so I have major making up to do)

1) Waiheke Island - Looks nice, close to Auckland so easy to get to. It looks like a lot of people day trip here so I'm not sure what spending 3-4 days would be like. A bit pricey and not a ton of accommodation options.

2) Hunter Valley - It has the advantage of being close to Sydney (where we will be for a few days) but I guess it also has the disadvantage of being close to Sydney. ;-) I'm not quite sure if people stay here or just pop up for the day. No clue what the actual area is like except for the wine tours.

3) Barossa Valley - I love Shiraz. I have heard great things about Adelaide and this area. A bit more difficult to get here but it sounds like there are a lots of options and Kangaroo Island would be a nice side trip.

4) Queenstown etc. - Seems to be #1 on most peoples NZ list. That isn't necessarily good but I also hear a lot of "touristy but not in a bad way" which is encouraging. Seems like the center of the outdoor activity universe.

5) Marlbourough? Margaret River? Others?

Again, any and all help appreciated. Thanks All

mdc in Chicago
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Old Sep 18, 13, 10:04 pm
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How many days do have for all this in total ?
Travelling time between destinations in Aust & NZ can be significant
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Old Sep 19, 13, 12:11 pm
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I grew up near Jackson and have spent a bit of time in a few of the wine regions you mention.

The Hunter is my favorite area in Australia, although it has started to get more traffic and is a bit more commercial than it used to be. That being said, it is a perfect 2-day escape from Sydney. There are some really lovely hotels and the valley is picturesque.

I recently visiting Martinborough in NZ and I can tell you that I felt "at home" in the area. In some places (and if you ignored the water views), I felt like I was driving through Wyoming. I was there during the off season but Martinborough felt like a smaller and less touristy wine region. I liked that it had amazing wines but was not one of the "big" wine centers that is on everyone's list. Everyone was incredibly friendly and the wine tasting was very laid back. It's also worth stopping in Wellington for at least a day on your way to/from Martinborough.

I love Shiraz, too, and I left Marlborough with a case of some really, really amazing and unique Shiraz.

Last edited by jja34-1; Sep 29, 13 at 1:59 pm
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Old Sep 19, 13, 12:57 pm
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Margaret River is ideal -- mix of fine wine and surfing with almost deserted beaches though water is coldish; I recently rented a rammed-earth house for the weekend and watched the kangaroos grazing on the front lawn (it was on 5 acres) while being walking distance to a world-famous winery (Cape Mentelle).

Chateau Yering in the Yarra Valley an hour's drive from Melbourne is another choice, next door to Yering Station and very outdoor oriented. http://www.chateauyering.com.au/

Lots of other good choices, depending on your price point. If cost is no object, there is always the Southern Ocean Lodge where they have hot and cold running Grange if you wish http://southernoceanlodge.com.au/
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Old Sep 19, 13, 1:45 pm
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Mwenenzi, we are planning on 17 days total and we are likely to hit two different areas (plus a couple days in Sydney) so I'm hoping we have enough time that travelling a bit won't swallow it all up.

jja34-1, Wyoming with mountain views sounds too good to be true. I'll do some research on that area as well. Any towns you can recommend?

number_6, I'm wondering is there reasonable tourism infrastructure in terms of restaurants, places to stay etc in Margaret River? I would imagine there would be but my research is not turning up a ton. Also, is the town of Margaret River the place to be in the area? Again, tough to tell from my vantage point with no idea what its like out there.

Oh and I used to think money was no object until I caught a whiff of what "no object" means in a few places down under. Ouch! So I'll just say money isn't "much" of an object.

Thanks all!
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Old Sep 20, 13, 6:35 am
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The drive from Perth to Margaret River is only about 1.5 hours and it's an excellent drive. Margaret River itself is beautiful and some fantastic wines and nearly deserted beaches. I would recommend this trip to anyone that visits Perth.
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Old Sep 20, 13, 7:10 am
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Originally Posted by Youngie View Post
The drive from Perth to Margaret River is only about 1.5 hours and it's an excellent drive. Margaret River itself is beautiful and some fantastic wines and nearly deserted beaches. I would recommend this trip to anyone that visits Perth.
Great advice, but sadly it is about 300 km south of Perth and 3 hour drive. Doing it in 1.5 hours requires paying several thousand dollars in speeding fines as well as loss of license (well patrolled route so no chance of doing so unapprehended). I rented a Mercedes C200 at PER which is an ideal car for the wine tour (twisty roads by the wineries).
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Old Sep 20, 13, 7:19 am
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Originally Posted by mdc22474 View Post
... is there reasonable tourism infrastructure in terms of restaurants, places to stay etc in Margaret River? I would imagine there would be but my research is not turning up a ton. Also, is the town of Margaret River the place to be in the area? Again, tough to tell from my vantage point with no idea what its like out there.

Oh and I used to think money was no object until I caught a whiff of what "no object" means in a few places down under. Ouch! ...
Margaret River is a small town (few thousand population) but quite affluent and surrounding area gets lots of tourism. There are some superb restaurants at several of the wineries (e.g. Leeuwin) which are in the Michelin 1-star category. The town itself is more pizza and fish & chips. Also a great coffee shop by the surf, which has "California surf" food (quite good). Food wise it is a hotbed of artisanal cheese making, olive oil and even chocolate (some of the best chocolate in the world is made in Margaret River). Almost worth a trip for food, ignoring the wine.

Yes, the "no object" category starts at $1000/person/day so $2K for a couple, and quickly goes up from there. Well worth it, at least in some of the resorts (and they often have big discounts in the off-season). Margaret River can be done very cheaply (lots of backpackers there for the surf and to work in the vineyards) and has a broad range of accomodation well priced for what it is (ie. cheaper than comparable in Napa in California).
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Old Sep 20, 13, 11:42 am
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Originally Posted by mdc22474 View Post

jja34-1, Wyoming with mountain views sounds too good to be true. I'll do some research on that area as well. Any towns you can recommend?
Well don't expect the Grand Tetons but the valleys on the drive up from Wellington are amazing and the farmland near Martinborough reminded me of the valleys near Jackson.

I stayed at Wherekauhau (which, in my estimation is reasonable compared to many other luxury lodges in NZ) and drove in to Martinborough one day. I also spent one night and two days in Wellington to check out a few of the museums there and enjoy the lively area around the harbor.

Last edited by jja34-1; Sep 29, 13 at 1:59 pm
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Old Sep 27, 13, 7:37 pm
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Margaret River is gorgeous.

Lots of different winery restaurants which are nice to sit at and relax. Plenty of nice places to spend lazy afternoons drinking wine, eat cheese, gaze out at beautiful sunsets. If you go there, it's the region you'd go to so pick your accommodation and be prepared to drive an hour or two each day to explore places. Margaret River itself is a bit plain. Best places are away from the town itself.

Difficult to get to as it's 3 hours drive south of PER, which is 5 hours flight west of SYD.

Another beautiful region is the Mornington Peninsula which is about 1.5 to 2 hours SE of Melbourne, itself only 1.5 hrs flight from SYD. Lot of beautiful beaches, wineries, restaurants, beautiful valleys.

The Hunter Valley is nice but has gone quite commercial but if you choose carefully, it's a good choice.

Haven't been to the Barossa for about 10 years but Kangaroo Island being in the same state is definitely a drawcard for doing the two of them together.
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Old Sep 29, 13, 1:05 am
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Originally Posted by jja34-1 View Post
Well don't expect the Grand Tetons but the valleys on the drive up from Wellington are amazing and the farmland near Marlborough reminded me of the valleys near Jackson.

I stayed at Wherekauhau (which, in my estimation is reasonable compared to many other luxury lodges in NZ) and drove in to Marlborough one day. I also spent one night and two days in Wellington to check out a few of the museums there and enjoy the lively area around the harbor.
You are confusing Martinborough (small town in Wairarapa with lots of nearby wineries famous for their reds) with Marlborough (region at top of South Island, a 3 hour ferry ride from Wellington with lots of nearby wineries most famous for whites). While both are close to Wellington, the scenery, access and wines are very different in each.
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Old Sep 29, 13, 1:58 pm
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Originally Posted by Kiwi Flyer View Post
You are confusing Martinborough (small town in Wairarapa with lots of nearby wineries famous for their reds) with Marlborough (region at top of South Island, a 3 hour ferry ride from Wellington with lots of nearby wineries most famous for whites). While both are close to Wellington, the scenery, access and wines are very different in each.
Whoops...too much red wine, I think. Thanks for pointing that out. Have now fixed my posts.
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Old Oct 2, 13, 6:02 pm
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Now that I'm looking into the Margaret River area in more detail I'm working through the logistics and price of getting there. I think the best way to spend part of our vacation here would be as part of a trip to some other places we have talked about in Asia (Bali, Thailand, etc.) as opposed to as an add on to an Australia/New Zealand vacation. It's just way cheaper to go to someplace like Bali and then hop a discount flight to Perth than to go via Sydney. Interesting. Giving me some ideas though.
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Old Oct 2, 13, 11:35 pm
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Originally Posted by mdc22474 View Post
...It's just way cheaper to go to someplace like Bali and then hop a discount flight to Perth than to go via Sydney. Interesting. Giving me some ideas though.
True due to LCCs in Asia and miners commuting within Oz keeping fares sky-high to PER. Aadvantage Aaward redemption is very cheap on QF for SYD-PER travel, etc. however and readily available.
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Old Oct 4, 13, 8:18 am
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It's just way cheaper to go to someplace like Bali and then hop a discount flight to Perth than to go via Sydney
yes. Check out Air Asia to PER from KL. (and using KL as a base you can get LCC flights to resort destinations like Penang or Kota Kinabalu).
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