Marlborough is a bustling summer destination and I was lucky enough to visit the region at this glorious time of the year. I almost missed the boat with my late booking approach – organizing everything just a few months out – with the most important holiday booking; accommodation, proving difficult.
One word of advice I would give tourists planning on travelling to the Marlborough region – book in advance! However, don’t let that scare you off visiting the region, there is always a way.
Peaceful, beautiful and welcoming are three words I would use to describe this New Zealand gem. From the moment we boarded the Interislander Ferry in Wellington to cross the Cook Straight to Picton I was buzzing with excitement and blown away by the stunning scenery.
Aboard the ferry, we travelled in the premium plus lounge, a must for those wanting a little extra to do on the trip. Food and drinks were included in the price as well as access to TV, newspapers and a comfortable lounge. The next few hours flew past in comfort and before we knew it we had arrived in Picton.
Upon our arrival into Picton, we were welcomed with an out-of-behaviour light drizzle. February is usually a dry month but luck didn’t seem to be on our side this time. Despite the disappointment that washed over us, happy locals who had been willing the floodgates to open up in the region surrounded us. The following day was welcomed with sunny skies, so we hired a car for the day and left Picton with Nelson in our sights.
The next few hours were spent driving through the picturesque region. Lunch was enjoyed in Nelson before we explored the waterfront and visited the Gardens of the World. Following our relaxing, exploratory day in Nelson we packed ourselves back into the hire car and made a beeline for Blenheim (just 20 minutes away from Picton).
The afternoon was spent sipping wine and indulging on antipasto with our lovely Air BnB hosts. Come dinnertime, we made our way into the Blenheim time, a small but quaint city centre – where we stumbled across Mia Dining and Wine Cellar. What a discovery!
This place was amazing with incredible service from the owner and wait staff and not to forget the delectable food and wine. The owner recommended a list of wines to try based on our interests and tastes and the high-quality dishes on the menu were remarkable. Relaxing in this sophisticated, laid-back atmosphere was the perfect ending to an already superb trip.
The next morning we awoke with a slight foggy head (thanks to the tasty wine), but it was time to keep that streak running with a trip to a handful of Marlborough wineries. Led by one of Explore Marlborough‘s wonderful hosts, Karen, we embarked on a bike ride through the vineyards.
Explore Marlborough is the only operator in the region who conducts cycle tours through the winery. We were collected from our accommodation and transported to our starting points where we buckled up into our vintage-style bikes (complete with winy-carrying baskets) and began our ride. We were then guided through three popular wineries; Nautilus, Framington and Wairau River, and dealt a plethora of information on all things to do with wine including the creation process, information on each vineyard as well as local knowledge from each of our hosts.
As lunch rolled around we were left to enjoy a delicious meal paired with the perfect glass of wine (of course). We then spent the rest of the afternoon pedalling around the vineyards on our own, a stunning experience I would recommend to all Marlborough visitors. All roads are bike friendly and flat with most vineyards in close proximity to each other, making for an easy, relaxing ride; however there are a handful situated further away.
We were advised to be back by 5pm as there were more vineyards that needed exploring and much more wine that needed tasting. The food, the wine, the relaxing cycle, experienced guide and hosts and the picturesque views all contributed to making this day one to brag about.
As day four rolled around we began our journey back to Picton, but we couldn’t leave Blenheim without a visit to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre. A surprise to many (including my partner) this is much more than just an aviation museum.
With an incredible exhibit of World War One artefacts -most of which are owned by Sir Peter Jackson himself – the centre boasts incredible history and entertainment. A visit to Blenheim is not complete without exploring the Omaka, a point we quickly acknowledged upon our arrival to the centre.
Back in the car, we made our way back to Picton to embark on our next adventure, kayaking around the sounds. Wilderness Guides provided us with a map, directions, safety equipment and of course kayaks, and we were on our way.
We spent hours exploring the stunning area from the water and even found a gorgeous hidden bay, which we came ashore to explore. This was an incredible way to see the sounds and incorporate some much needed exercise into our trip.
Our next point of call was a four-day trek on the Queen Charlotte Track – the highlight of our trip. Once again we were set up with Wilderness Guides who helped us discover the well-known area.
After a pre-departure briefing we were soon on our way. Surrounded by complete and utter beauty for the entire trip, this was by far one of the best experiences I have ever had. No phones, cars, dogs or civilisation, we were secluded from the world and fully immersed in the bush.
Along the way we settled in at various accommodations, each exceptional in their own right. Our first night was spent at No Road Inn, a smaller complex with four rooms accommodating a maximum of eight people.
We were welcomed with a delicious beer and spent the afternoon rejuvenating in the hot tub surrounded by the calming bush. After mingling with the managers and fellow walkers, we were served a delicious 3-course meal with white bait fritters and orange roughy fish for main and a delicious meringue for dessert.
After another long walk along the trail, we settled in for the night at Punga Cove. With great facilities, including a relaxed bar overlooking the sounds, we enjoyed an exceptional meal at their restaurant before turning in to prepare for another big day ahead.
Portage Hotel was our last point of call along the track and like the previous stays it exceeded all expectations. The rooms were spacious, service was incredible and dinner was mouth-watering. My meal of choice was the lamb paired with Mt Olympus Pinot Noir.
Sadly, we had reached our final day of the trek, but we remained in high spirits at the realisation we completed the 71 kilometre track. With unbelievable views, sensational accommodation, beautiful nature, great walking tracks and excellent lunches this is a must-try experience for all nature-loving explorers.
After completing the final leg we made our way to Harbour View Apartments where our room overlooked the sounds. This final stop on our trek proved to be the perfect way to finish this breathtaking experience. Set in a great location surrounded by beautiful scenery and restaurants, we had everything we needed.
Unfortunately, that was the end of our trip to the Marlborough region. We thoroughly enjoyed exploring this picturesque region and indulging on the best food and wine it has to offer. Our next adventure was set to start in Wellington so off we headed to the big smoke, ticking this beautiful region off the bucket list.
A little message to Marlborough
“Thank you for your beauty, your welcoming nature and friendly locals. Thank you for being small, quaint and unaffected by commercialisation. Thank you for producing some of the best wine I’ve ever tasted and giving us such beautiful sights to explore. A big thank you goes out to the friendly, experienced tour operators and companies working hard to keep people returning for more.”
In addition, if you’re looking for all the top things to see and do in and around Marlborough including activities, attractions and more, be sure to check out our main region section to browse and book online!