Wine Tasting & Wildlife in New Zealand…

The Marlborough region of New Zealand is probably best known for producing great wine – in fact this is where 70% of all the wine in New Zealand comes from. Being quite partial to a glass or two ourselves, we decided to take a little detour into the wineries district of Marlborough as we headed down the East Coast towards the town of Kaikoura.

We turned off the highway just before the town of Blenheim. Luckily the weather was fine that day so we managed to experience Marlborough at its best, driving past beautifully trim vineyards and their majestic mountain backdrop.

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Our first stop off was Drylands Marlborough – the second biggest wine producer in the region. We tried about six different wines ranging from an old favourite of mine (and New Zealand’s most popular wine) Sauvignon Blanc, to the intriguing and fruity Gewurstrimner – a wine that neither of us had ever heard of, let alone tasted.

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In stark comparison to Dylands, we next visited a boutique, family run winery called Ta Whare Ra, run by Anna and Jason Flowerday. We timed it just right and arrived with a tour group who were just starting their tasting session and we were able to benefit from the talk that the owner, Anna, was giving about each wine. Anna and Jason bought the winery around seven years ago and specialise in creating their own new blends of wine – it was great to hear the passion with which she spoke about their business and we were persuaded to purchase a bottle of their unique ‘Toru’ blend as soon as we tasted in. Toru means ‘three’ in Maori and is named after the three grapes they used to create the drink – Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Gewurstrimner.

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Satisfied with our tastings and conscious of the fact that Richard still had to drive the rest of the way to Kaikoura we decided to finish our tour and continue our scenic drive down the coast. The east coast of the South Island was pretty breathtaking and the road wound right past the beaches and bays, passing just inches from the waves that crashed onto the shore.

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An unexpected highlight of our drive was at Ohau where we noticed a few cars that had pulled into a layby. It turned out that we were at one of the island’s Fur Seal colonies and that people had stopped to look at the seal pups playing by the rock pools. There were absolutely loads of them – all basking in a shallow pool while the adult seals lay idly nearby. It was fantastic to watch them in their natural environment, yet so close to the main road!

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Once we got to Kaikoura we drove to Point Keen – a stunning peninsula which was home to yet more fur seals!

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Here, we took a long walk across the cliff tops, bordered by mountains on one side and sea on the other.

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Once we’d finished our walk it was time to head back into town to shop for supplies. We then camped at a remote campsite run by the Department of Conservation – around 15km out of town at the foot of a mountain range. The quiet setting was a great end to a great day and we relaxed with a couple of glasses of our new Marlborough wine, before settling down for the night…

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