A bit of travel is always necessary for a happy life, to broaden one's horizons. But did you know that people will truly travel all the way across the world to get to parts of New Zealand, known as truly world-class for their seafood, wine and scenery, which we simply forget are there? Marlborough, home of some the most beautiful wineries in the world, is such a place.
This year, I started by visiting the top of the South Island. I had somehow never been to this part of New Zealand but it opened my eyes to what is open to me, a Wellingtonian, so close to home. I felt ashamed that after living in Wellington all my life I’d never been to Nelson region or Marlborough. So this year, I pledged that travel around New Zealand would be high on my priorities.
You can only imagine how thrilled I was when none other than the Interislander got in touch with me wanting to team up on a few trips so I could explore what’s over the Cook Strait. I literally couldn’t believe my luck. Pinching myself half an hour later, I was able to prepare for what proved to be a very indulgent weekend with Matt.
We decided to leave on the 8 pm Ferry to Picton, packing up our car after work at home and zooming to the Ferry Terminal. We sat in the car, swatting away the beads of sweat because I kept letting my inner anxious Lucy out and so made us arrive half an hour early.
The night was still and beautiful, and we watched as Wellington harbour basked in the heat, like a beautiful golden shell curving towards the sky.
Onboard, we went upstairs and settled in with fish and chips and a hot dog each. I have to say, these were FRESH and the fish was pretty damn tasty. I would highly recommend the Interislander just for the hot dogs.
Matt and I went outside and watched the Ferry depart from Wellington, drinking in the pink skies and purple billowing sunset. The undulating hills of the city rose and fell, cast in light. They looked different and we found ourselves saying over and over “We’re so lucky to live here.” A new perspective can truly change how much you appreciate your home. We continued to play with our cameras, chasing shadows, until it got dark and we had to go back inside.
The next Morning, we rose at 8 am, at the Picton Yacht Club Hotel, quickly dragging a brush through our hair and slapping on some sunscreen before running down to breakfast and out into the arms of Picton, welcoming us to the Marlborough Sounds. We parked the car ($5 all day parking? Reason enough to move to Picton RIGHT NOW) and stumbled into the water taxi booked to take us to Lochmara Lodge.
Lochmara Lodge is a hotel/restaurant/conservation park/holiday park/menagerie situated on the edge of one of the bays in the Marlborough Sounds. You could spend days exploring what this fun and interesting spot has to offer, but we only had a few hours. Being Wellingtonians, we headed straight for the coffee shop and re-gathered ourselves. First, a walk to the look-out to see what the sounds looked like. Our jaws dropped as we sighted the scenery, bushy hills and crisp blue sea.
Next, the underwater observatory. We hung out with starfish, stingray and got an insight into what the bottom of the Marlborough sounds looks like via an artificial reef. It was great to know that Lochmara Lodge is so passionate about conservation and are trying to educate the public about protecting the unique sea life in the area.
Matt and I returned to the lodge, hunkered down for lunch in the restaurant again and scoffed ourselves on mussels, calamari and seafood chowder, all of which was very light and fresh, without a whiff of that fishy smell. I truly can’t imagine eating more fresh seafood and we happily ate it all along with a glass of Pinot Gris. After exploring the lodge and surrounding grounds for the rest of the afternoon, including feeding some pigs, we got back on the water taxi at 2:45 and returned to Picton.
In Picton, we stumbled on a Maritime Fair, where a hilarious clown was performing for the town, making adults, as well as children, laugh uproariously. Cirque Du JP knew how to keep us captured, and even got Matt in on the action, calling him up on stage!
Once that was finished, we decided it was about time to head to Blenheim. We didn’t quite realise but it is only a short drive, half an hour from Picton. I think we’d both imagined it was a bit further, but it was so good to know for when we next visit.
Then came my favourite part of the trip - our stay at Vintners Hotel Marlborough. This place is insanely beautiful and you are literally staying IN the vines of a winery. We ran around the room, so excited to be there, and Matt promptly plonked himself in front of the TV watching Sky Sport while I pottered, did a face mask and put away all our clothes and possessions like it was our home. Did I secretly want to move in? You bet I did.
That evening we had dinner at Hans Herzog Winery, but not before an impromptu photoshoot in the vines. The photos came our eye-waveringly beautiful and it was hard to choose just a few. I couldn’t believe that we had come over just 24 hours before on the Interislander. It felt like we were in another world completely.
At Hans Herzog, we enjoyed a shared Chateau Briand, a bottle of Pinot and a chat with the staff and other diners. We both agreed we’d like our home to look like the little cottage and garden on the winery, and stayed out until almost 11, ordering an affogato for dessert.
The following day, we did a fabulous wine tour with Wine Tours by Bike. This was such a great way to explore the wineries and Steve, our host, was just the bee's knees. These guys had everything from maps to helmets sorted. Although we only made it to five wineries, Forrest, Framingham, Nautilus, Cloudy Bay (which I’ve wanted to visit for years!), Wairau and Bladen, Steve told us that that was pretty standard. We bought five bottles of wine, from Bladen, Framingham and Nautilus Wineries which is a great way to kick-start a wine collection. Matt and I agreed we’re going to try and appreciate when we drink wine more and do our research instead of choosing what is on sale at New Work going forward.
I crashed after the delicious burger at Wairau River Wines (oh boy, that burger - the coconut yoghurt in it was heaven), having too much food and alcohol in my body at once, but then pepped up enough to cycle home. We finished up the tour, before heading home, and going to The Good Home in Blenheim for dinner (eating more fish and chips and burgers - I promise, my diet starts tomorrow!). Shout out to Hayley, the manager for taking us under her wing when we were late to arrive.
The following morning we went to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre and were taken on a fantastic tour by the owner. She explained that Sir Peter Jackson became friends with her husband and asked whether he’d like to house his personal collection of World War One memorabilia. The result is an international collection of some incredibly rare planes and other items from the era which crazily are all right here in Blenheim (so Wellingtonians with a passion for history, get easel over here!). Another section, on World War Two, focuses in part on the Eastern front. I particularly liked the stories of the Russian female fighter pilots. One, Lydia Yitvyak represented as a waxwork and I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of this before. These ladies were the original lady-bosses. They used to lie on the plane wings during a blizzard to stop them being swept away!
After our fascinating tour, it was time for lunch and we opted to go to Terravin Winery. The food here was absolutely to die for. We only regret we couldn’t order everything on the menu! We did try the goat's cheese, popcorn chicken, salmon and some iconic Marlborough oysters (which were probably the best I’d ever had). I couldn’t recommend coming here enough and if we come back, we will certainly be ordering the platter, pictured below.
Finally, to finish off our trip we explored The Vines Village and the famous Makana Chocolate Factory. I even managed to find my favourite chocolate dipped orange rind there, which I’d first tried in Italy and can’t seem to find anywhere in Wellington. I wish I could have bought ten packets but I can’t trust myself not to blow up like a balloon so I just bought one. Back in Picton, we drove to check out the view at Snout Track which gave us a wonderful vista over the sounds and then we headed back to our wonderful Interislander to take us home. We plonked in the Pencarrow lounge and ate delicious dinner, kicked back with a magazine, and then, after taking some photos, I even ran into my mums best friend. Well, it’s New Zealand, right?
Getting a chance to visit Marlborough really opened my eyes to the fact there is so much more of New Zealand I haven’t seen. From now on, I want to see more. I was so grateful to the Interislander for giving me a chance to explore. Wellington is a fantastic city in and of itself, but it is important to remember that it also has so much more available to it very nearby. Taking the ferry across the Cook Strait is truly a magical experience that can’t be replicated. It’s something you should certainly do more than once in your life, and make part of your holiday. Together, Matt and I made some many memories of our incredible indulgent weekend to the Marlborough Sounds. I can’t wait to open a bottle of the wine we bought on the trip, and pour out a glass. I know it’ll hold all those wonderful feelings and experiences that we had in Marlborough, which with every sip I can relive over again.