The region of Marlborough is located in the northeast of the South Island and is known for its dry climate, the dramatic coastal scenery of Marlborough Sounds and an exceptionally attractive agricultural landscape, set against a backdrop of forest-clad mountains. The Wairau River is a focus for recreation. Its swift upper reaches are ideal for kayaking, and the trout fishing is excellent. Mount Richmond Forest Park is a popular hiking area. The long, straight valley of the river broadens to wide plains on which stand the region’s capital, Blenheim. Marlborough has fertile soil and temperate weather and has become a center of the New Zealand wine industry. More than 50 vineyards produce excellent Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The south of Marlborough is mountainous, rising to the peaks of the Kaikoura Ranges, precursors of the Southern Alps.
Owned by the French luxury-goods conglomerate LVMH, Cloudy Bay in Blenheim is Marlborough’s most popular winery, and for good reason. Its vast green lawn, dotted with cocoon chairs hung from towering gum trees, is the perfect setting for an afternoon wine tasting. Opt for the “Cloudy Bay Indulge” tasting. Our lunch from the on-site Jack’s Raw Bar was one of the most pleasurable meals we had on the South Island.
For those interested in something other than wine, consider a gin from Prenzel. The award-winning Blenheim Bay Gin, with 11 botanicals and complex citrus notes, is tremendous. This is the oldest New Zealand gin that is currently still in production.