The Beginning of the South Island

After a great weekend in Wellington, it was time to say goodbye to North Island. Having booked onto the 8am ferry, we had an early start for the beginning of our South Island adventure. We had been warned that the ferry crossing is often quite choppy, so we were thankful that it was a beautiful and calm day. 

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With the first part of the journey not especially scenic as we crossed the Cook Straight, we decided to stay in the lounge with a coffee. However once we entered into the Malborough Sounds, we made our way to the top observation deck. Finding a nice sheltered spot away from the wind, we watched as the beautiful rugged coastline came into view. It was just as stunning as we had been told, with amazing views either side of the deck.

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After slowing making our way through the Sound, we finally arrived into the small port town of Picton. Rather than stopping for a look around, we decided to try and get away from the ferry crowd, and drove straight to the nearby town of Bleinhem. We stretched our legs with a short walk around the town, before stopping for some lunch. 

Fancying a more leisurely afternoon we decided to visit some of the region’s many wineries. The Marlborough region produces roughly three quarters of New Zealand wine, with the climate providing the perfect conditions for Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir amongst others. 

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We made our way through the tasting menus at the Alan Scott and Whitehaven wineries, before breaking up the drinking with a quick visit to Makana Confections chocolate factory.

Our final stop for the day was at the stunning Clos Henri, with the cellar door located in a beautifully restored church house. The friendly French host explained how the site had been chosen by the owners due to it being situated on a fault line. This means the vineyard has both clay and stone soil types, and it was fascinating to taste the difference this can make to two otherwise identical wines. 

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We stayed just a short drive away in Renwick, and with wineries all around us it was the ideal place for a relaxing evening walk, with this of course timed perfectly for sunset. 

Feeling more adventurous the following day, we decided to tackle part of the Queen Charlotte track. The hugely popular 70km trail through Malborough Sounds is usually completed over 3-5 days, with numerous campsites and lodges dotted along the route. 

Unfortunately we were limited for time, and decided to just complete the first section of the walk, which starts in the small holiday town of Anakiwa. This began through thick forest for several kilometres before we arrived at an opening around Davies Bay. 

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We continued along the track with a gradual climb through more forest, occasionally glancing the stunning coastline through the trees.

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After several hours of walking we arrived at Grove Arm Lookout, and were treated to panoramic views of the surrounding bay. It was the ideal spot for some lunch, with a picnic bench perfectly situated overlooking the water, however this was somewhat ruined by some very persistent and annoying wasps. 

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After returning along the same track to complete our walk, we made the short drive west to the popular city of Nelson where we spent the next day and a half. 

The centre of Nelson was full of life, with a busy cafe scene especially along the pedestrianised Trafalgar street. This leads to the landmark Christ Church cathedral, which towers over the city and is reached by a steep granite staircase. 

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Nelson is often rated as one of the countries most liveable cities, and is also known as the craft beer capital of New Zealand (no coincidence there then). We found time to visit several stops on the Nelson craft beer trail, including McCashin’s Brewery and The Vic Brewbar. There also seemed to be a wide variety of restaurants to choose from, including   the excellent Burger Culture.

We also found time to visit Tahunanui Beach, which is just a short drive south from Nelson. With vast white sands and calm water, it seemed like a great place to spend an evening. We found the perfect spot overlooking the beach to park the van and enjoy some dinner.

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We returned to Tahunanui first thing the following morning for a relaxing yoga session, before continuing on to our next destination.

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