From New Zealand’s north island we made our way by ferry to the South Island. On the docket for the South Island: two days in Marlborough, New Zealand’s wine country, followed by two days at the beach.
There were lovely views to be had on the ferry crossing, but – jetlag having it’s way with us – we slept through most of the three-hour journey. Our ferry had been delayed and we were afraid that the car rental agency where we had a car booked was going to be closed by the time we arrived. Indeed it was, and we needed the car to make the 30-minute drive east to Marlborough. However, to our disbelief, the lady working there had seen the ferry come in from her home, returned to the office and reopened after hours to wait for us – her last customers of the day. She was really a lifesaver and one of many examples of Kiwi hospitality that we experienced.
Getting to Marlborough was really when the relaxation portion of our vacation would begin. Our B&B owners there were the most gracious and accommodating with whom we have ever stayed. Unfortunately we missed our booking for dinner and still tired from all the travel, we decided to have a very casual meal somewhere nearby. Being that it was a very small town, there was only one dining option, which was ironically in the style of an English pub. Now having just travelled around the world from England, you can imagine we weren’t thrilled to be eating pub grub in a dank and smoky watering hole full of local degenerates. It wasn’t for lack of trying. With heavy hearts, we went in, we sat down, we read the menu. Not sure where we could go instead, we vacillated for about ten minutes, before slinking out – feeling horribly rude and hoping not be noticed. When we saw the cook out back smoking weed with his friends, it felt like a good decision.
We made our way up to the larger town of Blenheim and did end up finding a dinner spot. On the way home, which was about a 10-minute drive, we were stopped by a roadblock. The officer was very friendly and we only had one drink with dinner (both fortunate and unusual for us) so we weren’t too concerned. But it was a little alarming having to do a breathalyzer one of your first few nights in a foreign country, especially as we didn’t know how strict their drinking and driving laws were. We passed and were sent on our way, but apparently these roadblocks are very common in the area –so if you’re ever planning to go wine tasting in Marlborough – beware.
Speaking of wine tasting – Marlborough is the largest wine region in NZ, and the next morning we were ready to get to it! In one day we managed to visit eight wineries… a record even for us and pretty impressive considering we were on bikes. One of our favorite stops was Auntsfield Estate, a small family-run operation and Marlborough’s first and oldest vineyard. We had a private tour of the vineyards and an old wine cellar that dates from the 1800s. We also really enjoyed our lunch outside by the vines of Georges Michel Winery (or George Michael as we liked to call it), sampling various white wines over charcuterie and cheese platters. Another great memory of the day was when our B&B owner chauffeured us to dinner in an old-timey car, circa 1920, that he built himself and included a few modern enhancements like CD player and GPS.
We would have loved to stay longer in this beautiful region, but unfortunately, being that we were visiting during peak season, accommodation was hard to come by, so we’re moving on. Still, we are excited for our next stop – whale watching in Kaikoura!