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Blenheim, New Zealand: Marlborough Wine Country

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In the North Island of New Zealand we stopped for a few nights in Blenheim in the heart of New Zealand’s wine country. We were there to attend the Marlborough Wine Festival, but enjoyed so much more!

Omaka Aviation Heritage Center

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.

Lydia Lytviyak, the holder of the record for the greatest number of kills by a female fighter pilot.
Photo courtesy of the OAHC. Yes, this is a mannequin.
Copyright © Jim Tannock 2006

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).

Marlborough Food & Wine Festival

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  Gewurztraminer
  • Saint Clair  Riesling
  • The Darling Moscato Inspired Sauvignon Blanc
  • Astrolabe Late Harvest Chenin Blanc
  • Riverby Estate Sali’s Riesling
  • Eliza Riesling by Riverby Estate
  • Riverby Estate Gewurztraminer
  • Wairau River Summer Riesling
  • Framingham Select Riesling
  • Spy Valley Gewurztraminer

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!

Grapes on the vine at Brancott Vineyard.
Our first glass of wine at the festival, from Yealands Estate.
The most interesting musician act – The NiVan Band, who come from Vanuatu and play traditional instruments.
Attendees of the Marlborough Food & Wine Festival could buy tickets on a helicopter ride to fly over the wineries.
Five acts took the main stage and dancing for more popular as the day went on.

Downtown Blenheim

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 walkable and there is a path along the Opawa River.

Looking straight down into the river.  The grasses look like an Impressionist painting!
David enjoying the view.
The river.
What a great public space.

Where to Stay in Blenheim

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!

Molly, the miniature horse.
Two calves in the field.
Looking forward to the back field.
Cicadas were quite loud.
The front of the house.
Backyard.
Lovely little back porch!

Watch the Video:  New Zealand’s Wine Country

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5 Comments

  1. Hi you two,

    I’ve really been enjoying your travel pictures and reading of your adventures in NZ! A great contrast to all your ocean travels as you’re really getting to know the whole country and its diversity.
    And a huge thanks to you, Amy, for sending me the family tree poster of all my family–all the branches! It was such fun looking at it, pictures and all the connections with dates, etc. It truly does give the whole “Big Picture.” Thank you so very, very much!!
    Big hugs to you both,
    Grandma Arlene

    1. I’m glad you are enjoying it Arlene. Sadly we will be back to boat stuff for a while but we’ve got some amazing locations on the agenda for this year!

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