You’d Be Mad to Miss Marlborough

cycling in marlboroughWhen it comes to fine wine, stunning scenery and fresh-off-the-boat seafood, Marlborough is in a class of its own. Here are eight reasons why you’ll want to linger:

1) Lots and lots of sunshine
The sun loves to shine on Marlborough and the region is regularly in the running for the title of sunniest spot in New Zealand. Long, hot summers are the norm – just don’t forget to pack a hat!

2) Wine aplenty
Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest wine growing region, with around 65 wineries and 290 grape growers. Sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, chardonnay, riesling and pinot gris flourish in the sunny, dry climate. Most vineyards are clustered around Blenheim – download a free guide from Wine Marlborough and map out your own sampling route. Some can be reached on foot but having two wheels means you’ll be able to cover more ground – and more varieties! The bigger vineyards, like Wither Hills and Brancott Estate Heritage Centre, also offer wine tours and dining.

3) Sparkling waterways
The sheltered coastline of the Marlborough Sounds – dotted with picturesque coves and beautiful beaches – is perfect for sea kayaking. Pack a picnic and head off on a one-day adventure…or take a tent and stay overnight at a secluded DOC campsite. If you prefer a less-strenuous way of cruising the water, hop aboard the mail run. The Beachcomber mail boat departs from Picton Monday-Saturday and is a great way to discover the bays of Queen Charlotte Sound…and spy on the locals.

4) Fresh seafood
Seafood is on every menu in Marlborough. Green-lipped mussels, paua, snapper and blue cod are all regional favourites. Local produce and fare can be found at the Marlborough Farmers’ Market every Sunday, 9am-noon at the A&P Showgrounds in Blenheim. Another highly-popular food event is the annual Marlborough Food and Wine Festival. It takes place every February at Brancott Estate.

5) Intriguing exhibitions
Visit the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, where the story of aviation during World War One is brought vividly to life. The exhibition includes Sir Peter Jackson’s own collection of WWI aircraft and artifacts.

6) Challenging singletrack
It’s not all smooth road riding – the region offers plenty of tougher terrain, too. The Queen Charlotte track is open to mountain bikers (although the section between Ship Cove and Camp Bay is closed for riding from the beginning of December to the end of February every year). Several good tracks can be found in the hills above Blenheim: the Taylor River Trail is an easy ride that runs from Burlegh Bridge to the Taylor Dam Reserve and connects with the Wither Hills Farm Park. Visit the Marlborough Council website to download maps.

7) Long (and short) walks
One of New Zealand’s best known walks, the Queen Charlotte Track, can be found in the Sounds. The trail winds its way through 71 kilometres of farmland, forest and coastal scenery and takes four days to complete. There’s a wide range of accommodation on offer along the way, from basic campsites to luxury lodges. If day walks are more to your liking, check out the Wither Hills above Blenheim and the forest tracks in the Essen Valley around Picton. DOC has a good list of walking tracks on their website.

8) Marine wildlife
To discover the secrets of the sea head to the small town of Kaikoura. It’s the best place in New Zealand to see an astonishing range of marine wildlife, including sperm whales, Hector’s dolphin, orca, pilot whales and blue penguins.

Want to discover Marlborough on a guided cycle tour? Check out our five-day North Canterbury and Marlborough tour, which features spectacular southern scenery, spa soaks and sublime sauvignon blanc.

Image: Phillip Capper