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New Zealand - Interisland and Wine tasting

Wellington to Picton by ferry (across Cook Straight into Queen Charlotte Sound, Arapawa Island), Picton to Blenheim, wine tasting afternoon

Our Trip to South Island, New Zealand 31st January- 11th February 2016

Sunday 31st January 2016 Interislander ferry Wellington to Picton, Picton to Blenheim
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We woke early in Wellington and found it easy to get to the Interislander ferry terminal. After blocking in half the rental cars due to no space, we checked in our cases at 8am and waited for the ferry. The boat arrived promptly though it was a while before we were able to board ready to leave at 9 am. We managed to find a good warm spot at the front inside and settled down to watch the 92 km trip across. We had a great view of Wellington from the boat, spotting the innovative Beehive Parliament building, the Waterfront and Te Papa Museum building along with Government House. In the distance we could see up to Mt. Victoria (Bree in LotR and Hobbit). The city was named in 1840 after Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, although its Maori name is Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara or Great harbour of Tara. It’s nickname, Windy Wellington, comes from its location at the mouth of the narrow Cook Straight and its accompanying gales. The Maori founder of NZ, Kupe may have explored the area in the 10th C, but it had no settlers until c1280. Europeans landed in 1839 /40 on the Aurora. In 1865 the capital of NZ was moved from Auckland to Wellington due to concerns that the then more prosperous and populated South Island would form a separate colony. Wellington was seen as neutral ground, standing as it does in the centre of the two islands. A major fault line and several smaller ones run through Wellington, but only produce “slow” earthquakes every 5 years with little damage.
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We left Wellington harbour in the early morning sunlight and steamed across the bay, past Matiu/ Somes Island, various rocks and out to the strait separating North and South Islands. Wellington harbour became Fitzroy Harbour and past Pencarrow Head on top of which is New Zealand's oldest lighthouse (1859). Then it was into Cook Strait itself. Shortly after we passed Owhiro Bay and Sinclair Head (Rimurapa) where there is the large Red Rocks fur seal colony. It is called red rocks due to the colour of the rocks, created when an outcrop of ancient volcanic pillow lava was embedded in younger greywacke, along with red and green siltstone. As we began to head away from North Island we looked back to see a deep bay, Oteranga Bay, which is also the site of NZ’s fastest wind speed of 268 kph. (see pics next page)

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Surprisingly we never lost sight of land as we quickly spotted South Island before we lost sight of North Island. The Cook Strait with its Sounds (correctly named sounds as they were created by the sea) was a pretty way into South Island and in the distance we could see the Kaikoura Ranges. The entrance was Marlborough Sound, a region of bush covered mountains, small islands, crystal clear waters and secluded bays, and then into Tory Channel. We had a quick coffee and bacon butty in between taking photos on the front “promenades”. The first land we spotted properly was Arapawa Island (with small rocks and islets on its coast side) and opposite it the peninsula of West Head, forming an entrance to the area. The land here was more rugged and barren, but the bird and boat life was abundant! Passing along the length of Arapawa we saw its small homestead and pontoon. On our right (Arapawa Island) we passed Okukahi Bay/ Whekenui Bay, Fishermans Bay, Te Awaiti Bay, Jacksons Bay, Kotoitoi Bay (inlet), Ngamahau Bay, and thin Deep Bay, while on left at West Head, starting with a very thin land spit, was Thoms Bay, Titi Bay (opposite Kotoitoi), Te Rua Bay (just after Deep Bay opposite), Oyster Bay (so large it looked like an island edge), and Te Pangu Bay (opposite the bulge of Arapawa Is), The end of Arapawa
Island on the right was Te Iro Bay and Komini Bay and left Te Weuweu Bay, a very, very narrow spit of land with small Moioio Island at end, huge Erie Bay, Te Weka Bay (between Te Iro & Komini opposite), Onapua Bay (largest & makes look like island).
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GPS at the exact halfway point

We then took a right hand turn around the end of Arapawa Island, passing left Hitaua Bay and Maraetai Bay. From here the boat headed north through two arms, left and right. In the distance we saw Snake Point and Bay of Many Coves (Miritu Bay) on the right, then turning left again we passed right Ruakaka Bay, Blackwood Bay, Kaipapa Bay (somewhat behind)
and left East Bay (opposite Ruakaka Bay), large Kahakatea Bay, small Monkey Bay, shallow Green Bay, Motueka Bay, huge Whatamango Bay, Karaka Point and Waikawa Bay (very large). This brought us to Allports Island (with a smaller islet in front) as we began to turn left again. Behind Allports was right Kumutoto Bay, followed by Kaipakirikiri Bay, large Torea/ Moua Bay and aptly named Double Cove with left Whatamango/ Waikawa Bay. Here we began to hug the left coast, with right Lochmara Bay & Onahau Bay (both large, edge of view) and Grove Arm (very large, straight ahead) and to left a series of smaller bays Karaka Bay, Titoki Bay. The port at Picton was visible ahead, with its small Mabel Island in front.
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Entrance to Marlborough Sound Arapawa Island (homestead) Te Weuweu Bay (Curious Cove)

Three hours later, at 12.30, we had arrived at Picton. On arrival we left the ferry and whilst Steve collected the luggage I went to the EuropCar office. Steve won!

Picton to Blenheim
Our car had little luggage space and a GPS that didn’t fit, but luckily we had a map and common sense. Following the valley south we headed a short distance (25km) to Blenheim and our motel, Waterfront Motel. It was shut. The emergency phone number on the outside didn't work. Luckily we found another number and the lady tried to open up- to no avail. She said she'd look after our cases, and give a free bottle of wine whilst we went on our wine tour. The wine people picked us up promptly in the mini bus and off we set. Blenheim is right at the heart of New Zealand's largest wine producing region, Marlborough and so ideally located to enjoy an afternoon sampling the local produce. It is one of the sunniest towns in New Zealand, with an average 2,438 hours of sunshine a year. Mountains frame the area and trap the summer heat (temperatures over 30 °C are quite normal in February and March). There are more than 20 wineries within driving distance of the town, and most of them welcome visitors for sampling sessions and cellar door sales. Having heard good things about Sounds Connection Wine Tour we had booked a trip to leave our hotel at 1.50pm and take us to 4 different wineries, with a guided tour.
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Blenheim is certainly the wine capital of NZ! Just about every square metre had a vineyard- large or small. The pretty roses planted at the end of every row were an old method of checking for pests- pests that attack vines tend to be the same as roses making a quick check easier. Our guide said that Blenheim/ Marlborough had the most sun and least rain in all NZ (though local aquifers meant water currently wasn't an issue). It is also a popular retirement area due to the climate and the fact that it is one of the last small towns to still have its hospital. He explained the various methods used locally to keep off frosts from the cheap (small windmills to move the air) to the expensive ( a helicopter to do the same). We drove to Raparua Road, which is the main road through the vineyard region.

Our first call was to a large winery, Hunters, http://hunters.co.nz/visit-us/ (set in a nice garden) where they pushed the boat out, giving us a good dozen samples and talking through them all- we preferred the white wines, especially the Sauvignon and Gewurztraminer. We tried an extensive range of wines including Méthode Traditionelle Sparkling Wine MiruMiru, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Rosé, Pinot Noir and Kaho Roa Sauvignon Blanc. Sadly the Irishman who had started this vineyard died young in a crash, but his widow Jane Hunter, who is famous in NZ carried on.
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Our next call was to the much smaller Huia winery http://huia.net.nz, a totally organic vineyard named after an extinct bird, the pretty Huia. The more informal setting was well run by the daughter who offered some great wines, especially the botrytised Riesling.
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After this it was round the corner to Forrest Wines, http://www.forrest.co.nz also called “The Doctors” (as the owners were indeed two doctors) in a beautiful wooden open room. Again plenty of choice (they have 4 labels- The Doctors, Forrest, TattyBogler and Newton) and this time we bought a botrytised riesling and a champagne methode Sauvignon.
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Our final call was to a huge multinational, Drylands, (sadly missing Cloudy Bay whose wine we really like), which was nice but too slick for us http://drylands.co.nz/ although we enjoyed some of their wine later. Our guide said “don't have too much, we're off to a chocolate factory”. I thought he was joking, but no, he wasn't. The factory, Makana, had some lovely stuff! Still the chocolate was delicious and we bought some dark macadamia to eat later. https://www.makana.co.nz We passed the small airport on our way back from Renwick to Blenheim.
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Finally we rolled back to the Waterfront motel and our room was ready with the free wine chilling. Although it had an unimposing exterior the room was lovely, backing onto a park and the small Taylor River, replete with ducks. Dinner was tricky as it was a Sunday and apparently everything closes on a Sunday. However, to Steve’s delight we found an Indian/Malaysian (Mango) http://mangoonline.co.nz and ate a curry. Heading back we passed their park/ historical centre of Seymour Square before bed. Only two minutes walk from Blenheim's town centre, Seymour Square was a picturesque park of floral gardens, a 15m historic stone clock tower and a memorial fountain, with a multi-coloured night display. Seymour Square was named after Henry Seymour or possibly Arthur P. Seymour, the Provincial Council member for the Wairau. Henry Seymour and Alfred Fell held title to land upon which The Beaver (Blenheim) was built. In 1928 Seymour Square won the vote for the proposed Marlborough War Memorial, culminating in the WW1 Memorial and Clock Tower which is Marlborough’s monument to 419 residents killed in WW1. The 16.5 metre clock tower cost £4450, paid for by public subscriptions. The stone used was collected from all over the Marlborough region to represent the contribution of all its towns. Australian sandstone symbolises the co-operation between New Zealand and Australian forces. The nearby memorial fountain commemorates those who served in WW2, and is the centre of ANZAC Day celebrations.
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Posted by PetersF 04:01 Archived in New Zealand Tagged queen island south wine picton ferry sound wellington tasting cook charlotte blenheim straight arapawa

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