Over the last two decades, Waipara Valley has emerged as the fastest growing wine region in New Zealand – winning international awards for the quality of its wines from an eclectic assortment including Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay.
Waipara’s thriving reputation has brought an ever-increasing number of enotourists to the area, which lies in North Canterbury within driving distance of the South Island’s main town, Christchurch, and the country’s most revered wine region Marlborough.The influx of visitors has given rise to the Waipara wine trail, which plots a course through the region’s many wineries – most of which are small boutique estates specialising in award-winning artisan wines, although large scale producers such as Pernod Ricard, Villa Maria, Constellation and Craggy Range have all invested in Waipara.
The Waipara wine trail has been developed to encourage visitors to explore the picturesque region by either foot or on bicycle. As well as passing through the region’s many high-class wineries, there is an opportunity to visit historic sites, marvel at spectacular views and dine on delicious local produce from on-site restaurants. Waipara Valley is also considered the ‘greenest wine area in the world’ courtesy of the collaborative efforts of many winegrowers to develop a sustainability project. The valleys are also strewn with olive groves, nut farms and fields of lavender, creating an almost surreal sense of natural beauty – which was used to provide fantastical scenery for the blockbusting Lord of the Rings films.
Waipara Valley is also considered the ‘greenest wine area in the world’ courtesy of the collaborative efforts of many winegrowers to develop a sustainability project. The valleys are also strewn with olive groves, nut farms and fields of lavender, creating an almost surreal sense of natural beauty.
This ‘other worldliness’ is only enhanced by visiting attractions such as the disused Iron Ridge Quarry Park which has been converted into an outdoor art gallery complete with enormous steel sculptures. And, the Waipara wine trail also passes the Weka Pass Railway, an historic rural rail line using vintage steam and diesel electric trains that have been beautifully preserved. Tours of the Waipara wine trail can be taken from Christchurch and typically involve a 5.5hour experience that visits several leading wineries, with guided walks through the vineyards and cellars before sampling premium red and white styles – often accompanied by gourmet food pairings.North Canterbury is regarded as a haven for food enthusiasts with a bounty of natural produce that can be lazily perused during a weekly Farmers’ Market (every Saturday during the summer) and the annual Waipara Food and Wine Festival that takes place in March.
Like many places in New Zealand’s South Island, Waipara and its surrounding areas are still recovering from the devastating earthquake the struck the region in November 2016. Visitor numbers unsurprisingly lulled at the turn of the year but have been gradually returning towards their former figures. To assist the area’s recovery, tourism officials have extended to so-called Alpine Pacific Triangle – which travels through the Waipara Valley with Christchurch, Hanmer Springs and Kaikoura at its apexes – and renamed it the Alpine Pacific Touring Route. Visitors wishing to explore beyond wine tastings in Waipara can enjoy adrenaline fuelled activities such as bungy jumping and bush walking before relaxing in natural spas in Hanmer Springs, while Kaikoura is famed for its marine mammal encounters – with whales, dolphins and seals all frequenting the coastal waters. Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism chief executive Vic Allen said the new route took in some of the world's best vineyards, food trails, adventure, scenery, wildlife and spa relaxation.
‘We're encouraging visitors to take the time to stop and explore along the way, and to enjoy the best food, wine and relaxation in stunning settings,’ he added.
If you are interested in exploring the Waipara wine trail, contact Wine Paths’ local expert in New Zealand for more information and inspirational ideas before planning a bespoke trip.
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