The next morning we took one last look at our vineyard retreat in Renwick.
We then drove up the Wairau Valley, over 90km – and incredibly, most of that way was past vineyards. No wonder the Marlborough region produces so much wine. At the end of the drive were the Nelson Lakes at the foot of the mountains.
We visited Lake Rotoiti, although there are two of them. These mountains form the start of the Southern Alps, which run 500km down the spine of the South Island.
Strange to see sea-birds here, but the lake is only 70km or so from the sea.
Havelock’s claim to fame are its mussels, of the molluscular kind.
So we ventured to its most famed eatery, the Mussel Pot.
And partook in some molluscular gastronomy. And lovely mussels they were too – so fresh and succulent.
The drive from Picton to Havelock via Queen Charlotte Drive isn’t for the faint hearted. It takes in a very narrow and twisty road (a Kiwi special, you might say) that passes by many a picturesque viewpoint and down into quiet little bays.
We also stopped to take a stroll in the Kiwi bush.
Eventually, we emerged from the bush to face the next sizeable town in the region, Havelock.
Next, we visited the town of Picton. It is located deep in the Marlborough Sounds and has a deep harbour.
Because of its sheltered harbour and close proximity to the capital Wellington (just 65km to the north-east, across the Cook Strait), it is a busier town than most. It is the shipping, rail and road gateway to the South Island. In fact, here comes the Inter-Island ferry now.
It fits cars as well as people, but just a warning that people with less than cast-iron stomachs should be wary about getting on-board. Like the Spirit of Tasmania ferry between Melbourne and Devonport, crossing the Cook Strait is a rough business. But luckily for those crossing from Wellington to Picton (or vice-versa) the rough bit is only 45 minutes long. That’s 45 minutes too long for me but others might think otherwise.
Let’s take a walk through the vines.
It’s only early summer so the grapes are just starting to fruit. They won’t be ready until Easter time.
There aren’t many predators around so the rabbits still run free.
And Mother Duck can still rear her ducklings.
The hydrangeas are blooming nicely.
There might be a storm overnight, but in New Zealand the weather doesn’t usually hang around too long.
Time to head inside for the night.
Being recreational wine enthusiasts, our next destination was the wine mecca of Marlborough, a region located at the north-east end of the South Island.
We stayed in a delightful holiday cottage called Andahlane Cottage.
It’s set in the vineyards just out of the small town of Renwick.
Marlborough is a bit like the Hunter Valley on steroids. The vineyards cover an area 5 times the size of the Hunter Valley, hence there are dozens of cellar doors to potentially visit. The wines can also be over-the-top (I think almost everyone has tasted a fruit-bowl-like Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc sometime in their life) but we were interested in tasting the wines of the smaller, artisanal producers.
But that’s for another day.