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More than Kiwis

THE FACTS
November is high spring in New Zealand, the weather is temperate, and the summer crowds have not yet descended. A rental car is indispensable, especially for the longer hauls from Wellington to Napier (about 5 1/2 hours) and Napier to Auckland (about six hours). If time constraints force you to limit yourself to the North Island, drive the eastern route to Napier through Martinborough to visit some of the winery and market action you missed by skipping Marlborough.

WHERE TO STAY
Hotel d'Urville The jewel of downtown Blenheim: 11 stylish, themed rooms and one of the best restaurants in Marlborough. DOUBLES FROM $175. 52 QUEEN ST., BLENHEIM; 64-3/577-9945; www.durville.com

Scenic Hotel Te Pania A budget property with boutique aspirations. Light-drenched rooms overlook Hawke Bay. DOUBLES FROM $113. 45 MARINE PARADE, NAPIER; 64-6/833-7733; www.scenichotels.co.nz

Hilton Auckland So far out into Auckland Harbor, you feel as if you're on a docked cruise ship. DOUBLES FROM $140. PRINCES WHARF, 147 QUAY ST., AUCKLAND; 800/445-8667 OR 64-9/978-2000; www.hilton.com

WHERE TO EAT
Gault at George In tony Parnell, classic Italian fare, with dips into the Pacific for ingredients like the New Zealand oysters on offer. DINNER FOR TWO $60. 144 PARNELL RD, AUCKLAND; 64-9/358-2600

Icon Peter Thornley's menu is an effortless mix of traditional and contemporary New Zealand. DINNER FOR TWO $74. MUSEUM OF NEW ZEALAND TE PAPA TONGAREWA, CABLE ST., WELLINGTON; 64-4/801-5300

Maria Pia's Trattoria Pasta, ciabatta, and sausage are made from scratch each morning at this local favorite. DINNER FOR TWO $65. 55 MULGRAVE ST., WELLINGTON; 64-4/499-5590

Mussel Boys Restaurant A funky roadside shack—the perfect place to try New Zealand's popular green-lipped mussels. DINNER FOR TWO $45. 73 MAIN RD., HAVELOCK; 64-3/574-2824

Prime A sun-splashed, lunch-only bistro with a superb globe-trotting menu. LUNCH FOR TWO $58. PRICEWATERHOUSECOOPERS TOWER, 188 QUAY ST., AUCKLAND; 64-9/357-0188

Otto's The chic and well-heeled come here for chef Jason Bartley's daring compositions, which are grounded in his meticulous technique. DINNER FOR TWO $60. METROPOLIS BLDG., 40 KITCHENER ST., AUCKLAND; 64-9/300-9595

RD1 at Sileni Ambitious fare with a local, fresh mission seems to be the mantra at this Hawke's Bay winery restaurant. DINNER FOR TWO $70. SILENI ESTATES, 2016 MARAEKAKAHO RD., HASTINGS; 64-6/879-8768

Terroir A French country bistro on steroids, where excellent wood fire-grilled meats and fish rule, with occasional nods to Asian and Kiwi fare. DINNER FOR TWO $70. CRAGGY RANGE WINERY, 253 WAIMARAMA RD., HAVELOCK NORTH; 64-6/873-0143

WHAT TO DO
Creekside Olive Estate A small grove with exquisitely delicious, handcrafted oils. 774 RAPAURA RD., BLENHEIM; 64-3/570-5372

Hawke's Bay Farmers' Market A Sunday-morning market with lots to taste. "We massage and pat our cows," says one producer of grass-fed beef. TOMOANA SHOW GROUNDS, KENILWORTH RD., HASTINGS; www.savourhawkesbay.co.nz

Kumeu River Sophisticated Chardonnays are this family-run winery's forte. 550 STATE HWY. 16, KUMEU; 64-9/412-8415; www.kumeuriver.co.nz

Lawson's Dry Hills Get a sip of Ross and Barbara Lawson's impressive Gewürztraminer before it's gone. 238 ALABAMA RD., BLENHEIM; 64-3/578-7674; www.lawsonsdryhills.co.nz

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa A must for any visitor to New Zealand. The history of the country is told in riveting narrative displays and exhibits. CABLE ST., WELLINGTON; 64-4/381-7000; www.tepapa.govt.nz

Porirua Market A uniquely Kiwi culinary experience, with vendors selling Maori, Tongan, and Asian delicacies. MIDNIGHT TO 9 A.M. CITY CENTER PLAZA, PORIRUA

Sail NZ Crewing aboard an actual America's Cup boat that sails around Auckland harbor is quite a workout, but it affords stunning skyline views. VIADUCT HARBOR, AUCKLAND; 64-9/359-5987; www.sailnewzealand.co.nz

Unison Vineyard Even though Bruce and Anna-Barbara Helliwell may not make a wide variety of wines, the ones they do are worth the trip. 2163 HWY. 50, HASTINGS; 64-6/879-7913; www.unisonvineyard.co.nz

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