Marlborough is All About the Wine, Right?
Wrong, wrong, WRONG!!
Marlborough is certainly famous for its sauvignon blanc. Yes we are by far the largest wine producing region in NZ and Marlborough sauvignon blanc in all its wonderful forms is lauded throughout the world. At Na Clachan we think Marlborough sauvignon blanc is so good we wrote a song and video extolling its virtues. It’s a tongue in cheek celebration of Marlborough’s best known export. (https://youtu.be/wur8yctcQKs)
But despite the dominance of vineyards in the Wairau and Awatere valleys let’s put the winemaking into perspective. We have about 25,000 hectares (62,500 acres) of grapes which is 250km2. Marlborough comes in at a whopping 12,484 km2 so only about 2% of Marlborough’s total land area is used for grapes. So we have plenty of space to fit in a range of activities and attractions.
Take a few days in Marlborough and enjoy the wide variety of activities and attractions it has to offer.
Let’s start with walking. With a land area that large there has to be some great walks around. True. Perhaps the best known local walk is the world famous Queen Charlotte Track (http://www.qctrack.co.nz) which runs 70km from Ship Cove to Anakiwa in the Marlborough Sounds. There is a huge range of options from walking one-day sections of the track, to completing the full length with camping, backpacker accommodation or luxury lodges. Perhaps one of the great attractions of the track is the option of having your pack transported between accommodations to save you some weight on the day’s walk. Out of the high season you can also use this as a mountain bike track.
If you fancy something a little more remote head out into the Richmond Ranges with its network of tracks and DOC huts (http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/marlborough/places/mount-richmond-forest-park/). I have spent several days in the Richmond ranges and on some occasions have not seen any other walkers. If you’re feeling energetic you can climb to the top of Richmond, Fishtail or Mt Riley where you will be rewarded with views of the Sounds, Wairau Valley and to the North Island.
Another personal favourite is the Saw Cut gorge walk with its spectacular narrow gorge cut into the limestone. It’s a surreal experience walking through here, but don’t attempt it after heavy rain.
If a gentle stroll is more your kind of walk there are plenty of 1 – 2 hour walks to chose from in both Picton and Blenheim to choose from.
Or perhaps messing about in boats is your thing. The Marlborough Sounds have one tenth of NZ’s total coastline with a maze of sounds, inlets and bays. You can book a fishing charter, take a Mail Boat cruise, go dolphin watching or visit Motuara Island bird sanctuary to see little blue penguins and saddlebacks.
More the independent type? Why not hire a kayak for a few hours and explore the Queen Charlotte or Pelorus Sound? If you can’t decide between the boat and the walk, you can combine the two by taking the water taxi to a drop off on the Queen Charlotte Track, having a walk and being picked up from another bay.
Arts and crafts more your line? Marlborough is home to many artists, potters, wood workers and multi media artists. Many welcome you to their studio if you give them a call ahead of time. On Saturdays in the summer you can catch up with some of the local crafts at the Artisan’s market.
Take a stroll through Pollard Park and the botanic gardens, or visit the Marlborough Museum. The Wairau Bar on the coast east of Blenheim is the site of the earliest known Maori settlement in the South Island. There are several golf courses, a new swimming complex, squash courts, mountain bike trails, ten pin bowling, tennis courts, croquet lawns, multi-screen cinema and a theatre.
The Omaka Heritage Museum (http://www.omaka.org.nz/index.htm) is a treasure trove of WW1 planes and artifacts in stunning settings. You don’t need to be a plane enthusiast to enjoy the stories of pilots, designers and engineers. The museum houses Sir Peter Jackson’s private collection and the tableaux are created by Weta Workshops. While we are on the subject of museums, take a visit to the Edwin Fox in Picton. She is the world’s second oldest surviving merchant sailing ship and is also the only surviving ship that transported convicts to Australia. (http://www.edwinfoxsociety.com)
But perhaps all you want to do is pamper yourself at one of the spas around Blenheim and then maybe head out for an alfresco vineyard lunch. There is plenty of choice, many with stunning vineyard settings, a focus on local produce and great wine to accompany your meal.
Na Clachan (http://www.naclachan.co.nz/marlborough-wine-tour/) offers a range of half and full day tours with the option of a at a vineyard restaurant lunch. Your guide (Chris or Helen) will tailor the tour around the tastes and requests of the group. Its not just about tasting wine – your guide will fill you in on the history, the stories and the people who pioneered wine making in Marlborough. We may be newcomers to the wine world with a short history, but there are plenty of stories to share along with the wines. Although sauvignon blanc is the main varietal here you can expect to be tempted with chardonnay, riesling, sparkling wine, gewurztraminer, pinot gris, pinot noir and more. Pace yourself though, it can be an exhausting experience!
This post originally appeared on the Purple Roofs Gay Travel Blog.