Conveniently stretched along SH1 60km north of Christchurch, this resolutely rural area makes for a tasty pit stop. The valley's warm dry summers followed by cool autumn nights have proved a winning formula for growing grapes, olives, hazelnuts and lavender. While Waipara accounts for less than 3% of NZ's vines, it nonetheless produces some of the country's finest cool-climate wines, including riesling, pinot noir and gewürztraminer.
Of the region's 30 or so wineries, around a dozen have cellar doors to visit, four with restaurants. To explore the valley's bounty fully, pick up a copy of the North Canterbury Wine Region map (or download it from www.waiparavalleynz.com). Otherwise, you'll spot several of the big players from the highway. The area's main towns are tiny Waipara and slightly larger Amberley, but you're likely to spend most of your time in the countryside between the two.