Ultimate Marlborough road trip

Picton town and its sheltered harbour for the Cook Strait ferry, Marlborough
Picton town and its sheltered harbour for the Cook Strait ferry.

Marlborough’s problem is one of transition: for people visiting New Zealand, even for many nationals, it is a place you go past if you’re going somewhere else. Its location – a 30-minute drive south of Picton (the main port of entry to the South Island via the Cook Strait car ferry from Wellington) – means people are either trying to make it north to the ferry or continuing south to Christchurch, Otago or even west to Nelson and the West Coast region.

That’s a shame because Marlborough has everything to offer if you just stop and take a bit more time. Its main centre Blenheim is a functional town but set in beautiful part of New Zealand. And the mountains and hills feel close, especially the dramatic Richmond Range to the north.

Indeed, as Auntsfield winemaker Luc Cowley pointed out, you can always orient yourself in the Wairau Valley, Marlborough’s main wine-growing area: the blue mountains (the Richmond Ranges) lie to the north and the green mountains lie to the south. These latter are more a shade of brown in summer, hence their name: the Wither Hills.

The Marlborough Sounds, too – a collection of ancient valleys flooded with Pacific ocean waters along a 1,500km stretch of coastline – is a stone’s throw away. While many patrons of the car ferry admire its beauty as they pass through the parade of pristine, almost uninhabited bays and coves before hopping in their vehicle and driving on, it is a very good reason to hang around.

Diversity in abundance

There is much else on offer in Marlborough – and that is true of the wines, too. The region has considerably more to recommend it than the Sauvignon Blanc upon which it made its reputation. What’s more, most cellar doors are focused in a relatively small and easily navigable area around Blenheim and Renwick 8km to its west, with the region’s airport lying in between.

In this road trip, we’ve allocated two days to the Wairau Valley so visitors can really get an idea of how diverse the sub-region and its wines can be. Further information can be found on the wine tourism map at marlboroughwinenz.com, while the more energetic traveller can take advantage of local bicycle routes.

We’ve grouped our three-day itinerary so it can easily be rearranged. For instance, those travelling down from North Island could arrive in Picton and head straight to the Marlborough Sounds before returning to Picton the next morning and heading south to Blenheim. Both days 1 and 2 finish around Renwick, which allows travellers to take the 1.5-hour drive along State Highway 6 (SH6) further west to Nelson.

If you only have two days available, start with the day 2 itinerary then do day 1’s suggested trip in reverse (ie, drive out to Renwick and head up SH6 before turning east onto Rapaura Road). Fit in the wineries you want before continuing on Rapaura Road to meet SH1 and continue your journey south.


Day one: Wairau Valley from Blenheim

Nautilus Estate’s main entrance and cellar door on Rapaura Road, Renwick

Nautilus Estate’s main entrance and cellar door on Rapaura Road, Renwick

Grab a breakfast coffee and toastie from Sammies on Scott Street. A Kimcheese (kimchi and cheese – add a pork and fennel sausage pattie if you want) is a monumental start to anyone’s day. From there, it’s a short drive just out of town to Lawson’s Dry Hills – a pioneer of sustainable practices in Marlborough and producer of fine aromatic white wines. From here, a variation on our itinerary would be a 15-minute drive down State Highway One (SH1) to Seddon and the Awatere Valley. This sub-region is slightly cooler than the main Wairau Valley and contains many newer – and sizeable – vineyard plantings, which deliver some truly exciting wines. One of the few cellar doors here is Yealands.

But our main route heads north on SH1 for 15 minutes, crossing the Wairau river to stop off the roundabout at Tuamarina to visit the memorial to the Wairau Affray of 1843 and a glimpse of the country’s…


Source : https://www.decanter.com/wine/ultimate-marlborough-road-trip-517821/

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