Lonely Planet staffer Suyin recently left her desk in the Melbourne office to take to New Zealand for some much needed relaxation and exploration. We quizzed her for travel tips on where to go for the tastiest bits.

1. You deliberately chose an off-the-beaten-track route in New Zealand. Where did you go and why?

I covered the northern half of the South Island of New Zealand, taking the Tranzalpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth and then hiring a car and heading up the west coast, across to Nelson, then Blenheim, and back down the Eastern coast. From what I observed, this is a pretty established route for retired European couples in campervans. So, it was more of an 'off-the-beaten under-60s track'! Being under 30, people assumed I was there for the hiking or other outdoorsy stuff, but what I was really after was a rest - but in a new and interesting place. The northern half of the South Island is all about fantastic food, wine and scenery – perfect ingredients for a very relaxing holiday!

2. What's the best experience you had?

On the way to Karamea, (which is literally the end of the road on the West Coast), I made a last-minute decision to follow a sign to the Tauranga Bay Seal Colony. The seals didn't disappoint but, in keeping with the gourmet theme of the holiday, the best part was breakfast at the Bay House Cafe just a few minutes down the road from the seal colony. The setting was perfect, looking over the pristine and deserted Tauranga Bay and the food, all fresh, local produce, was amazing. (It wasn't until after breakfast that I realised Lonely Planet had listed it as one of NZ's best restaurants.)

3. Anything you’d change about your trip?

The sandflies. They were vicious and merciless.

4. Why should someone tailor a trip to New Zealand the way you did?

New Zealand is often associated with outdoor adventure activities, and while there is plenty of that, New Zealand has a lot to offer lovers of food and wine. My trip would be ideal for anyone who wants to enjoy stunning scenery and natural wonders at the same time as sipping on a glass of wine and sucking down some very large, shucked oysters!

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