In which we drink beer, eat, drink wine, eat, drink more wine... and we make it to the north island
29.01.2013 - 03.02.2013 35 °C
After day one of craft beer tasting in Nelson, and with the offer of free chocolate pudding and ice cream ringing in our ears (at Tasman Bay Backpackers, our really great hostel), we decided to spend another day in Nelson before moving on. On our second day, we headed to Founders Park, which is a pretty quirky place with a replica village filled with an old church and traditional shops from the late 1800s to early 1900s. We practically had the place to ourselves, and wandered around an old fire station, general store, dentist, barber shop, photography studio and hospital... all filled with original features and products.
But the real reason we were there was to visit New Zealand's only organic brewery. Yep that's right. More craft beer. The brewery was in a lovely spot so we sat outside with a platter of food and numerous beers... what a lovely way to spend the afternoon.
Marcus favoured the Long Black, whilst I preferred the Fair Maiden ale.
We spent the evening chilling out in the hostel and enjoying that free chocolate pudding. Delicious!
The next morning we drove to Tahunanui which is a calm, quiet beach five minutes from Nelson to try our hand at paddle boarding. It was already thirty degrees by the time we arrived at the beach at 9:30 so it was great to get out on the water... and we were pretty good too if I do say so myself (I only fell in once and that was trying to gracefully 'disembark' at the end of our session... I failed miserably). Definitely something we'd like to try again.
Following the paddle boarding expedition we drove back through Nelson and on to Blenheim, right in the heart of the Marlborough wine region. The closer we got to Blenheim the more vines we saw, and by the time we arrived every road was lined with rows of grapevines either side. We had definitely come to the right place. We even stopped off at a boutique chocolate factory for free tastings of the most amazing chocolates when we arrived.
We stayed at the Top Ten Holiday Park in Blenheim and had a wander around town, although it was seriously quiet with very little going on. So we spent the evening having a BBQ and chilling out. We were really lucky to have a whole section of the camp to ourselves, so it was just us and the ducks for company.
The next morning we rented bikes from a company called Wine Tours by Bike. They gave us a map and suggested itinerary around a few of the many vineyards in the region and we spent the day riding around between the vines from one vineyard to the next, visiting each cellar door for a tasting.
We started the day with a great sauvignon blanc at the Villa Maria winery, who also did some great reds with grapes grown in Hawkes Bay.
Next stop was Fromm vineyard which was a nice setting but we didn't love the wine. For lunch we headed to Georges Michel on recommendation, which turned out to be a great tip. We did a tasting at the cellar door before munching our way through a tasty cheese platter and more wine. We had lunch with a lovely English couple we met earlier in the day so good food, conversation and wine... what more could you want? This was the setting for our delicious lunch.
The next thing we knew it was 3:15, and with an hour's ride back and lots more vineyards to see we quickly rode on. First stop was No. 1 who only serve bubbles... we ended up treating ourselves to a bottle of sauvignon blanc bubbly called Shooting Star.
We squeezed in Framingham and Gibson Bridge (who are a tiny estate with only six acres of vines) before a pretty speedy dash back to return our bikes (while trying to ride in a straight line... by this point we reckon we'd tasted 36 different wines...) All in all a brilliant day out (did I mention is was also 35 degrees without a cloud in the sky?)
We had planned to move onto Picton the next day ready for our ferry crossing to Wellington the day after, but we loved the wine region so much we decided to stay another day. We really wanted to visit the Brancott Estate because its one of our favourite wines back home, so in the morning we headed out to the vineyard. What an experience! After driving through the vines, you pull up at the foot of a hill, where a shuttle arrives to take you up the hill to the cellar door and restaurant for incredible panoramic views of the vineyards and surrounding hills.
Inside is really modern... and quite posh compared to a lot of the smaller vineyards we visited... and we were seated straight away for a trio of sauvignon blanc tasters...
... and a tasty cheese and charcuterie platter.
Its possible we've died and gone to heaven. We then did a further tasting at the cellar door, including a sauvignon gris which the woman took great delight in telling us you couldn't get in the UK. Of course it worked... and we walked away with a bottle!
Before we became fully inducted into the wino hall of fame, we thought it best to leave the wine region behind us. So on Saturday we drove to Picton, a small town, from which we got the ferry across the Cook Straight to Wellington on the north island. It took about three and a half hours and cost a small fortune for us and the van (about $280 which stung our $200 a day budget!) Its a pretty journey though, with great views of Wellington harbour as you arrive.
This left us with just one day, yesterday, to see as much of Wellington as possible. We started with an early trip to the Sunday food market, mainly window shopping. Then we spent a brilliant few hours looking around Te Papa, NZ's national museum, and probably the best museum I think I've ever been to. Really interesting exhibits on geology, native wildlife, people's impact on the land of NZ and Maori culture, all really interactive (they tell you all the stuff you need to know about an earthquake but you also get to 'experience' one for yourself!)
We also met these three familiar faces...
In the afternoon we drove up to the botanical gardens which are on a hill overlooking the harbour. It was a bit stressful trying to negotiate the Wellington one way system (the lonely planet describes it as 'the krypton factor on acid' to give you some idea) but we made it for a lovely stroll with brilliant views.
Although I must admit that the organised entertainment was somewhat lacking...
From the small amount we've seen, Wellington seems like a great city, although I have to admit I think we've become more accustomed to small towns and solitary trekking because its all felt a bit stressful (just like any city I guess). Luckily today we're heading onto Napier to stay with my friend Mike (who I haven't seen since we travelled around Africa together six years ago!) for a couple of days. And Napier is in another wine region... you know what that means...