DESPITE three decades plus of travel writing I still had New Zealand on my list, so in November I headed off to see as much of this amazing country as possible. Twenty-six hours’ flying is never fun but Edinburgh to Auckland via Doha passed faster than I’d feared. Still, when hitting Auckland’s 13-hour time difference, the Novotel day room at Auckland airport was worth £65 for a six-hour sleep before I could check into my Airbnb.

Hotels in Auckland are expensive. Very. Airbnb is a useful alternative, just book well ahead. I didn’t want to drive so used a limo service which worked out at £70 for a 22-mile journey (way cheaper than parking costs for two days).

I decided on a bespoke bus tour for orientation. Auckland City Tours’ Michael Silvey, mercurial and entertaining, whisked me round, exploring the obvious and less obvious sights.

I don’t love Auckland, though the food scene and adjacent islands are well worth exploring. Dinner at DeBretts Kitchen is a must, as is the scenic Fullers Ferry to Waiheke Island to dine at the Oyster Inn, a great seafood restaurant.

Heading south I picked up a hire car from (best value in NZ – super-helpful staff and good vehicles all over NZ) and I hit the road for Wellington. This city I did love: its size; its vibe and its food scene. I took a food tour with  and in three hours experienced some of the wonderful artisan food and drink, from cheese and pate to ice cream and coffee. A feast on foot.

From Wellington it was across to South Island and down to Arrowtown, genteel neighbour to the “adrenalin capital” – Queenstown. Though only 15 mins away, this historic town is a totally different experience and I adored its frontier charm, historic buildings, fabulous restaurants and laid-back atmosphere. Millbrook golf resort is not dissimilar to Gleneagles, and for an imaginative dinner, try Saffron Restaurant.

Queenstown is lovely but it’s now a victim of its own success; queues for everything. Do yourself a favour and stay in Arrowtown.

After a few days I hit the west coast. The Wilderness Lodge at Lake Moeraki is run by ecologists and offers an insight into NZ’s natural heritage, as well as quality accommodation.

On deserted beaches you are guided to see seals, rare Fiordland crested penguins (beware the dreaded sand flies), provided with kayaks and taken to see glow worms after dark. For around £300 a day you get dinner, B&B and included excursions as described above.

From there, venture even further into the “wild west”. I did, and ended up at Hotel Lake Brunner in Moana. What a hoot – a country pub in a remote hamlet where the locals adopt you and the pace of life is wonderfully horizontal.

From there it was a necessary stop en route to the wine country in Greymouth – staying in Coleraine Motel, a good choice on the edge of an old mining town. I’d been in New Zealand several weeks now without seeing a vineyard. That needed remedying, so it was onto Nelson.

I really like this garden city. Close to the sea, surrounded by mountains, national parks and great hiking trails, it’s a wonderful base to spend some time. It’s got some excellent restaurants such as the Cod & Lobster, run by a charming Brit, with superb seafood; also you can see where the first game of rugby was played in New Zealand and enjoy the fantastic World of Wearable Art – one of the world’s unique museums. Where else can you see a stunning selection of more than 50 wearable art garments, alongside more than 140 veteran, vintage and classic cars?

Last stop was the heart of the famed Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough country around Blenheim.

Close to the town is Marlborough Vintners Hotel and it was from there I took the Hop’n’Grape wine tour, run by a winemaker with encyclopaedic knowledge of the industry.

One of the great joys of New Zealand is coming across spectacular scenery, charming towns or country inns. Picton is one such town. This is the centre for reaching the beautiful Queen Charlotte Sound with its myriad inlets, little settlements and charming inns.

I caught the postal boat and travelled to remote Furneaux Lodge for a weekend of hiking and relaxing. The lodge and the neighbouring resort at Punga Cove are well worth a visit.

Of course, I only experienced a tiny part of what this magnificent country has to offer but I loved it all. I will be back soon, NZ, to experience the rest.