Gareth is a genuine gourmet. After studying law, the son of Irish immigrants wanted to explore the world rather than stay in New Zealand. He became a tour guide in Europe. That is where his passion for good wine and food began. Today, Kelly runs a wine and gourmet tour operating company, Odyssey New Zealand.
The company takes guests on day or half-day tours to the best vineyards and restaurants in the region of Hawke's Bay on the east coast of North Island. They also have a branch on South Island, in Queenstown, where Odyssey tourists enjoy simply the best the region has to offer.
Hawke's Bay is the most prestigious and oldest wine-growing region of the pacific state. Competitions held by international trade media have shown: the best wines can easily compete with the best in Europe.
When drinking a good drop of wine, the food must be good too. Guests touring here can look forward to a great choice of luxury restaurants. "Discerning tourists often don't have the time to plan everything perfectly," explains Gareth Kelly. "That's why we offer a variety of tours to the best vineyards in the region." A few clicks on Odyssey New Zealand or a call is enough to become part of the next tour.
In addition to wine-tasting, the big vineyards, such as "Mission Estate", "Craggy Range" or "Elephant Hill" also serve first-class food in their own restaurants. "Here, guests have lunch or enjoy a five-course evening meal," says Gareth Kelly, who is an excellent cook himself and holds exclusive dinners in his apartment house complex, with views of the ocean.
Key contributors to the success of the Odyssey's portfolio are the Odyssey tour guides. They take the guests from vineyard to vineyard. Their vehicle of choice: the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Gareth Kelly: "Our guides are more than just drivers. They tell our guests about the country and its people and know a lot about good wine." And a point of honor that the guides don't drink a single drop on their tours. "My employees love the Sprinter," says Kelly. "Because the van is simply a great, comfortable drive. They get to concentrate totally on communicating with the guests."
Just how important the ride in the Sprinter is to ensure a good atmosphere is something Kelly knows from personal experience. Whenever he has time, he sits at the wheel himself and is the guide. "We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. It's just great being able to drive through the countryside with our guests and show them all this natural beauty."
And there is a lot of it! For example, the beach at Cape Kidnappers, where James Cook once landed. Or Tamata Peak, which reminds of the evergreen flanks of Tolkien's countryside. From the top of the mountain you have fantastic views of the entire region as far as the Pacific Ocean. Kelly takes Odyssey tourists here regularly to see the sun set. And it is then at the latest that even the last guest realizes a fact Kelly knows already: "We really do live in Paradise!"