After our fun in Christchurch, we needed to head north for our next scheduled event – the Marlborough Food and Wine Festival in Blenhiem. Unfortunately there was an earthquake last November north of Christchurch, and Route 1, from Christchurch to Picton, is closed just north of Kaikoura. We really debated about driving up to Kaikoura anyway, even though it would add quite a bit of time to the route, but decided not to.
We stayed our first night in a very quite campsite at Amberley Beach. Then we drove to Hanmer Springs, where we checked into the Top 10 Campsite. The rain kept us inside (thankfully they have a lounge). The next morning we walked through Hanmer, a cute little alpine town. The weather was nice for our drive and we stopped at the Maruia Falls.
The plan was to stay the night at the West Bay DOC site in Nelson Lakes area. We paid for our spot and started to put our tent up and were absolutely bombarded by sand flies. These nasty buggers have been a problem almost everywhere but this was WAY worse than we had ever seen. It didn’t take long for us to realize the spray wasn’t keeping them away and if we set up camp here, we’d spend the entire time in our tent not enjoying nature. We quickly found a backup plan – our Airbnb in Blenheim was available a day early, so we packed up and took off! Consider it our donation to the DOC.
Our Airbnb in Blenheim was amazing! The house was originally built in 1908, but the host has been updating the inside. Once again, we found ourselves surrounded by quiet beauty and farm animals!
With an extra day in Blenheim, we had two goals: I was craving a proper kiwi pie, and we’d heard about the Omaka Aviation Heritage Center (OAHC). We stopped at The Burleigh, where we shared a steak and blue cheese pie and a pork belly pie (both were AWESOME). The OAHC was pretty amazing too. It’s broken up into two sections, one for WWI and one for WWII. Many of the planes are owned by Peter Jackson, and the sets are done by the Weta Workshop (the special effects studio responsible for Te Papa and the Tolkien movies). The mannequins in the exhibits were extremely lifelike. In the Te Papa Gillipoli exhibit, the mannequins were giant sized, but here they were life-sized and just as life-like.
We both learned a lot about aviation during both the wars. I particularly liked learning about the Night Witches of WWII. David liked hearing about New Zealander James Hayter, a pilot in the RAF who was shot down over England only to parachute into the middle of a garden party. We both appreciated this video illustrating the number of deaths in WWII (it is a staggering tally for the Soviet Union).
The real attraction for us was the Marlborough Food & Wine Festival. This was a great way for us to experience several different wineries all at once. There were 43 wineries in attendance and we tasted 12 wines:
- Peter Yealands Sparkling Blush Pinot Gris
- Villa Maria Riesling
- Giesen Gewurtraminer
- Saint Clair Riesling
- The Darling Moscato Inspired Sauvignon Blanc
- Astrolabe Late Harvest Chenin Blanc
- Riverby Estate Sali’s Riesling
- Riverby Estate Eliza Riesling
- Riverby Estate Gewurtraminer
- Wairau River Summer Riesling
- Framingham Select Riesling
- Spy Valley Gewurtraminer
My favorite ended up being The Darling Moscato Inspired Sauvignon Blanc. We enjoyed the live music and David had a lamb burger, I tried a whitebait fritter (eh…), and we shared some Indian food. Oh, and don’t forget the ice creams!
We left our Airbnb and went into downtown Blenheim on our way to catch the ferry back up to the North Island. It’s a small town, but it is very walk-able and there is a path along the Opawa River.
Next we get all nerdy and explore some Lord of the Rings sites!