To experience a 'Taste of Marlborough' you can reach this destination from the North, through the spectacular sounds, where the eco-tourist and nature lover will be awestruck by the variety of wildlife up close, from dolphins and seals to seabirds including little blue penguins, shags, fluttering shearwaters, terns and oystercatchers.
You may arrive via the East Coast through Kaikoura, so keep your eyes open for the seal colonies inhabiting the rocky coastline. If you are spending time in Kaikoura a crayfish lunch is a must and for the nature enthusiast the Whale Watch Cruise is a whale of an experience!!
If you are travelling from the south-west through the alpine village of St Arnaud in the Nelson Lakes National Park, home of the rainbow Skifield, the scenery is unbelievably beautiful. This small village is on the doorstep of Lake Rotoiti, great for trout fishing and shoreline walks through bird-filled native forest.
Alternatively, you can approach from the north-west from Nelson through the rural Rai Valley.
The journey has just started and the appetite only whetted for what is in store for you in this spectacular valley.
Here are 'Six of the Best' in Marlborough:
1.Find accommodation: Where better to stay than out amongst the vineyards, to really feel part of this stunning environment. Conveniently situated in the heart of the wine country in an area known as 'the golden mile' is Stonehaven Vineyard Homestay where wineries with cellar doors for tastings and great restaurants for fantastic food are conveniently close by. www.stonehavenhomestay.co.nz
2.Cycle the wine trail: What better way is there to tour the wineries than by bike? Hire bikes from Book-A-Bike located in the heart of wine country at Stonehaven Homestay. Easy cycling on sealed country roads makes this the ideal way to enjoy the wineries and vineyards. Out in the fresh air under Marlborough's sunny blue skies sipping sauvignon blanc and sampling the fantastic fare on offer at the vineyard restaurants and cafes - this is a must for wine-lovers and foodies, who relish a bit of exercise while indulging their passions!! www.book-a-bike.co.nz
3.Visit the artisans, art galleries and museums: Visit some of Marlborough artists at work in their studios ,or visit galleries displaying an amazing assortment of their arts and crafts. Marvel at the talented works on display here of some of New Zealand's finest artists. A gallery not to be misssed is Riverlore, situated amongst the wineries. A browse of Joanna Scott's amazing masterpieces is a must! www.riverlore.co.nz.
The world-class Omaka Aviation Museum, showcasing still flying WW1 planes with dioramas depicting war scenes created by Weta Workshops, is truly deserving of the high praises it receives - one of the best of its type in the world!! www.omaka.org.nz
4.Taste the unusual: There are many taste delights in the region to add to your wine-tasting-tour, from Boutique Breweries, chocolate, fudge, olive oils, honey, hydroponic strawberries, hazelnuts, schnapps to name but a few.
Whether you choose to enjoy a delicious lunch in one of the vineyard restaurants or one of the award-winning restaurants in town you are sure to find great menus featuring fresh local fare.
5.For the Nature Lover: A short 25 minute drive takes you to the picturesque port town of Picton - the gateway to the Marlborough Sounds. There you can choose from a number of exciting activities such as viewing or swimming with dolphins or visit a bird sanctuary island, www.naturetours.co.nz, cruise the sounds and walk the Queen Charlotte Track, www.queencharlottetrack.co.nz, experience the Mail Boat Run, where you will visit remote areas inaccessible by road. www.mailboat.co.nz, try sea kayaking,www.marlboroughsounds.co.nz, or take a mussel cruise out of Havelock, www.greenshellmusselcruise.co.nz.
6. Exceptional Events: If your visit coincides with the second weekend in February, then the Marlborough Wine and Food Festival is definitely a 'Must Do'. The festival, which is held annually at the Brancott Estate, is a showcase of Marlborough wines paired with delicious local fare cooked and served on-site . www.marlboroughwinefestival.co.nz
Every second year at Easter the Omaka Air Show is held. The next time this spectacle is scheduled is Easter 2013. This show features still flying WW1 fighter planes, awe-inspiring aerial acrobatics and a re enactment of a theatre of war involving aircraft. You have to be there! www.classicfighters.co.nz
The Hunter's Marlborough Garden Show is held annually early in November. This is a gardening enthusiast's delight with tours to many of the region's outstanding private gardens not generally open to the public.
With so many wonderful things to see and do in Marlborough you can see why you need to plan your holiday to include at least four days in this remarkable region. Marlborough is a great central base from which to explore further afield - 1 1/2 hrs drive to Nelson, 1 3/4 hrs to Kaikoura, 1 hr to Nelson Lakes National Park and 1/2 hr to Picton. See you here!
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