Marlborough, it must be said, belongs on any list of the world’s most beautiful places. Grapevines as far as the eye can see, overwhelmingly blue skies, moody mists and snowcapped mountains are all par for the course. Whilst it might not have any lowlights, it certainly does have lots and lots of highlights. Here, we’ve pulled together a collection of musts for your time in Marlborough and put them all together on one map. Whether you’re a foodie, an adventurer, a gourmet traveller or a nature lover, New Zealand’s Marlborough has you covered.
As you can see, there’s lots to experience in this utterly spectacular part of the world so to paraphrase Lewis Carroll’s King, it’s best to start at the beginning…
A gorgeous family-owned vineyard and one of Marlborough’s oldest (1989). Forrest is also the proud host of the famous Grape Ride (a 101km cycling race) and the accompanying pinot crush – 100 grape-crushing virgins are invited to partake in ye olde style grape crushing. Competition for an invite is notoriously fierce, so now done by ballot. No matter the time of year you visit, make sure you treat your tastebuds to a glass of The Doctor’s riesling – it’s often a sellout.
Dodson Street Brewery
Like beer? Set in a traditional tavern, there are 26 different beers, ales, lagers, pilsners, etc. for you to try. Sample a ‘flight’ of selected beers from award winning craft beer producer Renaissance Brewing, whose brewery is on site.
Whether you’re looking for somewhere to stay for a couple of nights, or somewhere to take a walk to enjoy the Marlborough Sounds vistas, Lochmara Lodge has it! Just a short (and beautiful) 20-minute boat ride from Picton.
Picton is a seaside town straight out of a postcard. It is also the launching pad to the all of the joys and experiences nestled amongst the Marlborough Sounds (the intricate waterways that make up a fifth of the New Zealand’s entire coastline).
Forget driving, and forget taxis in Marlborough. Get picked up by Sounds Connection and let Sarah (or one of their other knowledgeable experts) drive you around and show you the best of Marlborough. Their local knowledge and relationships are your ticket into places and experiences that you couldn’t ordinarily get.
Marlborough’s first vineyard was planted at Auntsfield in 1873. Here you can see the original cellar set into a hill as well as other built artefacts and a plot of vines grown as they were all those years ago (below). A living history lesson!
Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre
An interest in planes is not a prerequisite for a visit to this amazing museum. Chaired by film director Peter Jackson, the museum comprises a mix of dramatically staged scenes that are straight out of movie sets.
Even if you’ve seen vineyards all over the world, we guarantee you haven’t seen one like this. Here, the rolling hills of grapevines (above) appear to fall off cliffs into the ocean, the vineyards are rigged with a network of speakers to broadcast classical music to the grapes and chickens, miniature sheep keep the grass down between the vines and it’s all carbon neutral. Just go.
Hans Herzog Estate
Guests flying in by helicopter is not a rare sight at this wonderful estate. Hans Herzog has brought his 500 year winemaking heritage from Switzerland to his own 11 acre boutique estate in Marlborough. Their chef’s degustation experience matches food to Hans’ wines (not the other way around). Book early.
A chocolate factory in a sea of vineyards? You bet. Here you’ll obviously find a delicious variety of chocolates but what sets it apart is the Marlborough Pinot Noir reserve truffles. Heaven.
Coffee fiend? This should be your first stop every morning in Marlborough. The food here is worthy of a special stop too – you’ll be blown away by what can be achieved in a rather tiny kitchen. Everything is made in-house, is free range and organic where possible. Keep your eyes peeled for Ritual’s coffee carts roaming around town for a fix on the fly, but when you’re visiting the cafe, look above eye level for interesting installation Barbie art (we won’t say anything more).
(Eds note: the line between ‘must taste’ and ‘must do’ is pretty blurry in Marlborough so make sure you check out both.)
Organic and biodynamically grown, hand-tended and hand-picked, the grapes from this estate are transformed into artisan wines through gentle, traditional winemaking. Seresin doesn’t just produce wines though, their oils are scrumptious too. A tasting here is almost mandatory.
A visit here and you can tell why Nautilus Estate is renowned for its service. Sure, you can do a wine tasting (and it’ll be salivatingly delicious), but why stop at that when you can also sample an edit of local cheeses and take a personalised tour? You’ll never look at wine the same way when you find out about open-top fermenting and the principles of gravity flow, we guarantee.
Cloudy Bay Vineyards
Three words: outdoor wine lounge. Don’t stop at lounging though – try your hand at petanque or croquet between tasting mouthfuls and if it’s a little nippy out you can always cozy up by the open fire. The bottom line is that Cloudy Bay is amongst the world’s most well-known wine labels and if you’ve wondered why… well, a visit here makes it very easy to understand.
Spy Valley Wines
Named for its proximity to a local “spy base” (a satellite communications station), these guys are also the 4th biggest solar producer in New Zealand. Here, wines are produced in runs as small as just 100 cases! Get your tastebuds on a glass or three and admire the award-winning architecture and installation art (above). During harvest (March-April), try the freshly pressed grapes before fermentation begins. Spy Valley is also kid and designated-driver friendly with free espresso and spy activities.
Brancott Estate Heritage Centre
The view alone here is worth a trip – perched on the edge of a hill affords the heritage centre views across the Marlborough valley (below). If you can steal your eyes away from the view however, get the lowdown on sauvignon blanc from Marlborough’s pioneering producer of the grape. Take a master class and taste six wines made from the same variety (under the same head wine maker), but grown in different vineyards to truly understand the difference that ‘terroir’ makes to wine.
Wither Hills Vineyards
Yes yes, there are more tastings to be done. Here, take a trip to the cellar to taste pinot noir straight out of the barrel and then lunch in the beautifully walled garden. Got kids in tow? You’ll appreciate the beanbags on the lawn and boxes of toys.
Thomas’s Department Store
Whether the weather wasn’t as expected, there’s something you forgot to pack or you just can’t bear the thought of a trip without a little retail therapy thrown in, Thomas’s has all bases covered. Here you’ll find a great selection of international labels, but importantly an impressive collection of local labels too, such as Zambesi, organic and fair-trade Kowtow (above), Kate Sylvester and Shen. Don’t forget to check out their homewares department either.
If you’re in the mood for luxury there isn’t a more ideal locale in Marlborough than Timara Lodge. Relax by the pool, explore the extensive gardens, have pre-dinner drinks by the lake, play a game of tennis or cozy up in the library with a glass of something indulgent… and you haven’t even left the grounds yet. Rates start from $700.00 NZ per night and include pre-dinner drinks with hors d’oeuvres, four course table d’hote dinner with wine, full breakfast and Blenheim airport transfers as well as complimentary laundry service and wifi.
Recent refurbishment has resulted in a perfectly simple, modern, convenient and comfortable place to rest your head. Whilst this hotel doesn’t have a spa and other such things it makes up for it in warm service and prime location. This is where you stay when you’re in Marlborough to enjoy the destination rather than laze around your lodgings. Rooms start at around $195.00 NZ per night.
You can download a big high-quality version of the map for printing here – Must Map – Marlborough NZ.