7 Reasons Blenheim is the Perfect Base For Exploring the Marlborough Region
True confession, I had never even heard of Blenheim before we started putting together our New Zealand itinerary. I knew we planned to visit all of the usual suspects: Mt. Cook, Milford Sound, Queenstown, but Blenheim? Blenheim is essentially in the heart of the Marlborough Region at the northeast end of the South Island. Marlborough is the largest wine region in New Zealand and has gained worldwide recognition for its Sauvignon Blanc! Although there are many more great wine regions in New Zealand (North and South Island), we decided this would be a fantastic place to start our trip because of the warm climate and great location for fun activities!
The region is mostly flat, surrounded by the Wither Hills. Here are seven reasons we chose to stay in Blenheim to explore the Marlborough region!
1. It’s one of the Sunniest places in New Zealand
Nothing says vacation like abundant sunshine! This place was perfectly warm and sunny during the day, pleasantly cool at night! Blenheim gets an average of 2,438 hours of sunshine a year!
2. You can stay in a cottage on a vineyard
We stayed in the most magical cottage: St. Lenards Vineyard Cottages. If you enjoy places where you can rediscover the simple joys in life, like picking your own oranges or grapefruit straight off the tree, this place will suit you! Without a doubt, this was my favorite place we stayed on our trip (and there were lots of great places)! Our hosts, Marcus and Michele were so warm and kind! We had an amazing view of the vineyard right outside our front door. Our cottage included a kitchen which was stocked with plenty of fresh eggs, bread, milk and juice! I enjoyed cooking breakfast every morning (typically someone that does not want to cook on vacay)! Then of course all the farm animals: sheep, chicken, alpacas! We enjoyed watching them eat and look at us with funny expressions on their faces!
Blenheim offers plenty of boutique B&B’s! Check out this page for more info.
3. Access to Over 30 Wineries/cellar doors
In New Zealand they call wineries “Cellar Doors”. I don’t know why, but this sounds way cooler! Even if you aren’t a fan of Sauvignon Blanc, fear not, there are plenty of other great wines to try: Chardonnay, Pinto Gris, Rosé, Pinot Noir! Most tastings were anywhere from $15 NZD to $25 NZD. It’s totally fine to share a tasting too! Some of the wineries also offer food and light bites too. For more fun ways to explore the cellar doors…keep reading!
4. Easy going Vibe
Ok to be fair it’s pretty much the vibe throughout most of New Zealand! It was the perfect way to ease into our trip and recover from our long journey! I think wine regions in general are pretty laid back!
5. CLose to Marlborough SOunds & The Queen Charlotte Track
The Queen Charlotte Track is a 67 kilometer coastal track overlooking the gorgeous Marlborough Sounds!
On our final day in Blenheim we decided to drive to Picton because we wanted to explore the Marlborough Sound and hike on the Queen Charlotte track! Blenheim is just 30 minutes away from Picton, which is sort of your launching point to the sounds!
From there we booked a cruise through the Marlborough Sounds to Resolution Bay. It was so easy to book the ferry and there were maybe 12-15 people on board with us. The ride was wonderful and they offered coffee and tea aboard!
There are some great day hikes from there. We decided to do the 10 km hike from Resolution Bay to Furneaux Lodge. There are also options for mountain biking as well which looked pretty fun! Obviously you can cover more ground (and more scenery on a bike). The hike might have been one of my favorite hikes of the whole trip! It’s so different than what I expected! The hike itself is pretty easy, I think we covered it in about 2 hours and 45 minutes. There wasn’t extreme elevation changes. It’s really nice because you get great views of the sounds and the water along the hike!
Lunch at the lodge was really nice. It’s quiet and peaceful, a perfect rest after the hike! We had enough time to walk around and snap a few pictures before embarking on the ferry back to Picton!
If you want to book this tour ahead of time (we were totally spur of the moment) you can go to their website, here. We did the 3 hour cruise and walk option. If you have more time, you can definitely do a longer one! It was about $90 (NZD) per person and the price is the same for the longer ones too! I guess they mean hiking time, because the cruise itself will be about an hour or so (but don’t worry there are bathrooms on board)! I thought the 3 hour hike was perfect for us!
Here’s the official website of the Queen Charlotte Track, for more info!
6. The Marlborough Wine TraiL
The Marlborough Wine Trail is a designated bike trail for exploring outstanding wineries. On our first full day we decided to do a self-guided bike tour along the Trail! We used the company Wine Tours By Bike. They picked us up at St. Leonard’s and set up us with our bike! Before you start biking you a little video summary of the different wineries to help you pick which ones you want to visit (or make the decision even tougher because there are so many good ones)! They provide you with a map of the wine trail and then you have about 4 hours to explore! You can do guided or self-guided bike tours too! What better way to explore this amazing scenery than to sip some world famous Sauvignon Blanc!
For you visual folks, here is a link to the map of the wine trail!
Wineries we explored:
Very small and quaint setting. Win-win! We were the only people there! We got a great variety in our tasting, and we got to try several which was awesome! Their wines were really interesting and unique.
A small, single vineyard specializes in Pinot Gris. I adored this place! It was definitively my favorite winery of the day! With just a few other couples tasting, we got a lot of interesting detail about how they grow the wines here!
Great place for a light lunch or cheese platter. We just had lunch here, but it was really nice! The platter in the picture above was from Giesen. We had several different pates, smoked salmon, cured meats and cheeses. Basically, all things delicious!
This place was gorgeous, definitely the busiest of the wineries we went too. They offer lunch here and the outdoor seating is lovely! We probably would have eaten here if we hadn’t just had a huge platter at Giesen! It was busy, so we got the least information about the wines. It wasn’t bad at all, just not as fun compared to the other ones! I like smaller places where you get a little more personal experience. But it’s definitely worth visiting because the grounds are so beautiful!
Booking your tour: When you book a tour you can choose three different time options. They offer pick up and drop off if you are within 15 Km radius of their shop!
The tasting fees are not included with the bike hire, so just remember that!
Most of the bikes had wine-carriers so it’s easy to store bottles if you purchase wine. The wine tasting was fun, but the scenery here deserves a major shout-out. I couldn’t believe how green everything was! Doing this tour really gave us a great way to enjoy everything at our own pace! We’ve done several bike + wine tours before, but this was our first self-guided one! It was great too because your on a designated bike trail so no worry of other cars which made it even more enjoyable!
Also check out: Wither Hills and Mahi. Not a part of our bike tour, but we did tastings here our first day!
7. Gorgeous scenery
It honestly blew any other wine region I’ve scene out of the water. Typical New Zealand. If you follow our 2 week itinerary, it only gets better from here, so yeah!
A direct flight from Auckland to Blenheim in less than 90 minutes. It’s a tiny airport so it was really easy to get a cab to our hotel which was probably 10 minutes away! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to our hotel from the airport so fast!
Blenheim was not originally on our list of places we wanted to visit on this trip. I am so glad we added it because it was marvelous! I feel like the start of a big trip can be a bit hectic if you’re based in a large city, so it was a really nice change to start in a smaller town that was laid back and easy going. Blenheim was a great base because it was centrally located to these other great areas to explore!
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