South Island – Marlborough

Welcome to South Island of New Zealand and the country’s largest wine-growing region, Marlborough! No prize for guessing what we did here, LOL!

We initially booked just an AirBnb room in a house on the ‘golden mile’ of Marlborough vineyards and wineries, however 2 weeks prior to getting there, the hosts informed us that there would be an increased in price due to the recent upgrade of the studio. It was only natural that we were upset at first for the last minute adjustment, however upon arrival, we were delighted by the new and modern, self-contained studio set in the property’s manicured lawns and rose gardens. The “upgrade” turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we much appreciated our own space instead of confining in just a room.

With a region that produces more than 300,000 tons of wines annually on its endless neat rows of grapevines, it was difficult to choose which vineyards to visit within one week. Sauvignon Blancs, Pinot Noirs, Pinot Gris, Chardonnays, Cuvees and Rieslings, too many choices, too little time!

Nautilus – As fans of “bubbles”, we were keen to sample the winner under the Champion Sparkling Wine 2018 category of New Zealand Wine of the Year™ Awards. We ended up buying a case to be sent home just in time for Christmas!

Saint Clair – Uber relaxing to be sharing a seafood platter with local olive oil and fresh warm bread while pairing them with Saint Clair’s finest Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc in the sunny courtyard amongst the vines.

Brancott Estate –With the restaurant sitting on the hilltop overlooking the breathing-taking views of the Marlborough landscape, how could we not enjoy the wine tasting and dining experience?  The Showcase Series Chardonnay complemented the well-executed dishes we ordered perfectly.

Cloudy Bay – This vineyard needs no further introduction. We didn’t do any tasting here, as we are rather familiar with their wine collections. Jack’s Raw Bar Oysters at the vineyard were our main purpose for visiting. Unfortunately for us, it was shut when we got there… 🙁 They do have very nice estate compound to enjoy a glass of their iconic Sauvignon Blanc.

No.1 Family Estate – The only winery in New Zealand producing premium Méthode Traditionelle wine exclusively (they called it Champagne in France). The wine critics named No.1 Family Estate as the ‘Finest-quality sparkling wine venture in New Zealand’ and we couldn’t agree more!

Other than world-renowned wineries, Marlborough is also famous for its fjord-like Marlborough Sounds. To appreciate the stunning views and contrasting landscape of Sounds, we did a small portion of the 70km long Queen Charlotte Track.

We set out on an easy 15km return walk from Anakiwa towards Grove Arm lookout to have 180-degree views of the Queen Charlotte sound. It was magnificent! – We are seriously running out of words to describe the beauty of this country.

Another interesting loop walk we did was the Trig K track, which was about 40min drive away. This track led us to two small waterfalls and views of the Pelorus River. We even had a little picnic at one of the waterfalls and that was lovely. It was a relatively easy track that can be completed in about 3-4hrs for most adults with decent fitness levels and a good sense of balance.

Mount Robert Circuit at Nelson Lake National Park is rated as an advance tramping track by some travel sites for a reason.

The challenging track saw us zigzagging uphill on a steep terrain, crisscrossing in and out of the beech forest and tramping through ankle deep snow terrain with most part of the climb being quite exposed. Incredible views of Lake Rotoit and remarkable alpine scenery made this hike all worthwhile nonetheless!

What was supposed to be a 4hrs loop track ended up to be 5 hrs as we missed a turn and spent an extra hour climbing back to our starting point…we were so pooped out after the walk!

The best way to reward ourselves after this epic hike – a nicely chilled bottle of bubbly, of course!

Next – South Island Dunedin

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