Tasman gave me a great taste of good Kiwi tucker so I was excited to be en route to the country’s food and drink hot spot, Marlborough. You may have heard of Marlborough from the Sauvignon Blanc that has become the go-to choice for white wine these past few years. Many moons ago it became a favourite of mine and I soon introduced it to Mum and Dad who, like me, consume barrels of it each summer. The Marlborough region produces 77% of all New Zealand wine and has become a must-visit for any wine lover. With good wine goes good food and many of the wineries here have award-winning restaurants, a win win for both me and mum.
The drive from Tasman was incredibly hilly and windy, another reminder of our wise decision to rent a car. We had booked a picturesque B&B in a little town called Renwick about 10km from the main hub, Blenheim. Renwick’s location couldn’t be more central to the wineries and it is rather quiet so perfect for a relaxing time away. At first we were a bit unimpressed by our splurge accommodation but by the time we left we had very much enjoyed our time socialising with the other guests at breakfast. I even got offered a job by a farm owner who said he liked my attitude towards farming *applaud*.
The best way to explore the many wineries is by bicycle because the wineries are fairly close to one another unlike some other wine regions I’ve been to like the Swan Valley and the Yarra Valley in Australia. Luckily mum’s ankle was feeling a lot better and she was able to do some gentle pedalling and with a few glasses of wine, more vigorous peddling. Even with the wineries nearby it took quite a while to get through our list of vineyards we wanted to visit. Each winery charged between $2 and $10 for a basic tasting and around $20 to taste their premium collection of some of the more pretentious *cough* Oyster Bay *cough*.
My favourite wineries, and mum’s too infact, were Saint Clair and Giesen. I knew these would be my favourite as I already drink their wines. I did arrive with an open mind but I ended up buying the same wines as I do in the supermarket – doh! Reisling has become my white wine of choice since moving to New Zealand as its predominantly sweet here unlike in Europe. Giesen do a fantastic sweet Riesling and their premium version was a cut above the rest but at $35 a bottle and no one to share it with (far too sweet for Mum) I gave it a miss.
During our three days in Marlborough we wined and dined like there was no tomorrow with our favourite places being Allen Scott, Hotel d’Urville and my personal favourite, Blenheim’s Sunday Farmers Market. Here we picked up some exceptional blue cheese from Kaikoura and some walnut oil, hazelnut dukkah and fresh artisan bread. YUM!
As much as we enjoyed the culinary delights of Marlborough we were a little disappointed at the scenery surrounding it as it was all rather barren, much different to the lush green vineyards in, say, Italy. Maybe because we were there in the dry summer but it didn’t look like we had imagined. On the second day of exploring the vineyards we took the car due to a bit of a nightmare the previous day where we cycled one long stretch of road that seemed like a marathon in distance when in fact is was only about 10km. Let’s just say it bought back memories of the time we cycled an intermediate mountain bike trail at night in Wanaka. Lols.
All cheese and wined out we were looking forward to getting back to the great outdoors and left the vineyards to explore nearby Marlborough Sounds. We took a cruise through the sounds on the boat doing the daily mail run which is definitely the best way to see the area. It was amazing to get a close up of the houses hidden away in the many coves and bays.
We also saw heaps of wildlife including plenty of seals, hundreds of bottlenose dolphins and even the rare Hector’s Dolphins who swam in front of our boat for a good half an hour. It was magical. We were dropped off on the Queen Charlotte Track which is one of the ‘NZ Great Walks’ and spans the length of Marlborough Sounds. You can walk it in around four days. You can also cycle the route but we didn’t fancy that as even the relatively flat part of the track we walked was very up and down, certainly only achievable by keen mountain bikers. On our way to camp we couldn’t help but stop off at a fancy resort for a cider in the sun. It was absolutely breathtaking.
During our hilly afternoon walk we joked that we would reach the campsite to be greeted with a well needed glass of wine – we were still in Marlborough after all. After two hours we reached our camp and we were met by Tony who offered us each a glass of wine, we couldn’t believe our luck! I felt like Robinson Crusoe, totally alone in our tropical beachside spot. We enjoyed the last of our cheese and wine down by the water much to the excitement of the sandflies. Sunrise was just as spectacular as sunset the evening before and we enjoyed another scenic walk to a different jetty where the mail boat picked us up.
Mum and I both agreed that our walk and camp on the Queen Charlotte Track in Marlborough Sounds was one of the highlights of our tour around the South Island. We saw more wildlife than people and the array of unique fauna and flora was indescribable. What an incredible part of the world.