When my husband and I moved to New Zealand from the UK we looked forward to the time when family and friends would head Down Under to visit. It took some years before my husband’s sister and brother-in-law were able to make the trip. That made it all the more exciting – and challenging for us. We thought long and hard about where we would take them and which parts of the country they would most enjoy.

 

The one thing not in question was that they had to see the South Island. Although an obvious first choice is Queenstown and that area, we settled instead on Nelson and the Marlborough region. It’s a fabulous part of the country and Nelson is perfectly situated, granting the town a climate to envy and an entryway to the stunning Abel Tasman.

 

We were fortunate to have a flawlessly clear day for our flight down to Nelson. Try if you can to get a window seat. The views as you cross Cook Strait and fly over the Marlborough Sounds are nothing short of spectacular.

 

For our first full day in sunny Marlborough we decided to drive to Picton and take a cruise on the Queen Charlotte Sound. If you’ve never driven the scenic route from Nelson to Picton before it is well worth navigating the twists and turns as Queen Charlotte Drive winds through the Marlborough Sounds. And if you’re feeling peckish, make a stop in the small town of Havelock and pop into The Mussel Pot Café where you can enjoy the very delicious Green Lip mussels the region is famous for.

 

As we neared Picton I tracked carefully the brooding clouds that were moving in. When we reached Picton and stepped out of the car it was actually quite cool, with a light shower falling. “But this is February!” I cried with frustration. You must understand that the pressure of delivering stellar weather is doubled when your guests are English. They’re used to holidaying in the likes of Spain and the Greek Islands where the weather is all but guaranteed. Don’t get me wrong – for the most part New Zealand delivers a great summer but to say the weather is ‘guaranteed’ would be a stretch. As we started to put on jackets and cardigans I had a horrible sinking feeling. This is going to be a disaster!

But the most incredible thing happened. By the time our ferry was cruising out into the Queen Charlotte Sound the clouds vanished, the sun shone, the water sparkled and we got to see the sound in all its shimmering glory. Of course it would be beautiful clouds or not but I do think it’s particularly perfect on a cloudless day.

Day 1 – success.

 

Day 2 and how to compete with the Queen Charlotte Sound? We took a drive to Kaiterteri, home to one of the country’s most famous beaches. My husband and I did some kayaking a few years before in the Abel Tasman and we thought it was an experience not to be missed.

You need never have kayaked before. Just head down to the beach and look for the line up of kayaks. They’ll take great care of you and give you plenty of help and instruction before you head out.

We were lucky to have a perfect day and the sea was relatively calm. Our kayaks sliced through the serene waters as we paddled up to beaches that were stunning by anyone’s standards. The stretches of golden sand had the most incredible backdrop courtesy of the native bush that surrounded them. Often the beaches would be virtually empty – barely a soul on them. It was so peaceful. We felt a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of normal life.

When we returned my sister-in-law was keen to get in some beach time to work on her tan – and what a beach! Kaiteriteri really is quite spectacular as beaches go. When the photographs of the day hit Facebook that evening they were in stark contrast to posts going up from our friends and family in the UK. We were sunning ourselves on golden beaches while they were wrapped up to ward off a cold English winter.

Day 2 – success.

 

Day 3 and something different. Although the Marlborough region is undoubtedly known for stunning scenery and beaches, it is also famous for its vineyards and wineries. We thought a trip to Marlborough wasn’t complete without visiting a local winery. We chose Seifried Estate, one of the oldest family wineries in the South Island.

 

Nelson delivered another stunning day for our visit. We started with a spot of wine tasting (and purchasing) at the cellar door and then were shown outside to a glorious area where we could lunch al fresco among the vines. Beautiful food; beautiful wine; beautiful day. It was kind of perfect actually.

 

Day 3 – success.

 

Day 4 and it was time to go home. Sigh. But what an amazing few days we had and what a fabulous introduction to the South Island for our family.

 

If you are heading to the South Island the Marlborough region is definitely worth a visit. No matter your interests there is something for everyone. And for those of you living abroad who hear stories of New Zealand’s outstanding beauty, the Marlborough region is a perfect example. Yes, my country really is that beautiful.

 

Do it now – put New Zealand on your list of must-see places.

Published by Tracey O'Brien