Marlborough Sounds – wineries, water and endless wows!

Friday, 2nd June 2017

Lindi Sprenger

new zealand marlborough bay of many coves sunrise

I am a very fortunate soul. My amazing travels to the land of the long white cloud have led me to some spectacular places, incredible experiences and personal encounters with some of the friendliest and hospitable people on the planet.

My latest adventure took me to the very top of the South Island, to Blenheim, gateway to the magical Marlborough Sounds. We left Rotorua very early in the morning and flew via Wellington on a small prop plane with its tail fin kitted out in all its black silver-fern finery. With barely enough time to buckle the seat belt before we landed in Blenheim 15 minutes later, we were privileged to witness Wellington’s magnificent landscape and myriad fault-lines from the air.

The weather was glorious when we arrived, a perfectly clear blue sky sunny day and a comfortable temperature of around 16 degrees. We were lucky enough to enjoy the last vestiges of the amazing Autumn the Kiwis had recently experienced. Even in May (late Autumn) this is a wonderful time to visit.

On arrival at the airport we were whisked away by our wonderful guide, Chris, from the Marlborough Tour Company, on a whirlwind tour of the region which included a visit to the Marlborough Lodge, an historic and elegant country estate undergoing extensive renovation in typically authentic and elegant Kiwi style.

bay of many coves resort marlborough sounds new zealand

The Lodge and its charming chapel occupies a perfect setting in 16 acres of peaceful parkland. In all my trips to New Zealand I have never heard as much wonderful birdsong as I did here and the beautiful grounds are truly idyllic.

The Marlborough region, renowned by all those wine connoisseurs out there, is the home of some of New Zealand’s finest wine, especially Sauvignon Blanc. 77% of the country’s wine production happens here and there is some equally superb locally sourced food to accompany any winery visit. We had a delicious outdoor lunch at Highfield Winery preceded by a wine tasting so we could select our preferred tipple of choice – incredibly the local Riesling won out over the Sav. Highfield is in a beautiful hillside setting, reminiscent of glorious Tuscan vineyards and offers a range of hand-crafted food friendly wines.

The Sounds themselves are essentially drowned valleys, a mountainous region that sank due to geological activity and allowed the sea to flood the valleys. Today we were able to enjoy this intricate network of beautiful waterways, forested steep ridges and magnificent sheltered coves. Our preferred mode of transport from Picton– a very comfortable water taxi. Travelling this way often involves sightings of dolphins en route.

bay of many coves resort marlborough sounds new zealand bedroom view

Our home for the next two nights was the 5* Bay of Many Coves luxury resort, set in an exquisite and sheltered corner of the Sounds.

This is a place that has so many wows it literally takes your breath away. From arrival at the small jetty to immersion in incredible food and wine and awesome views this is a place you will simply not want to leave – a 3 night stay should be the bare minimum. Our hosts Murray and Elaine were an absolute delight and the food spectacular.

Wine tasting with Murray was a revelation all of its own and makes you completely re-evaluate your wine preferences.

The Resort, nestled in a pristine natural setting on 59 hectares of privately owned bush-clad hills, is Eco friendly, with each cabin very well designed and with all modern amenities, views over the Sounds are stunning and the early morning sunrise absolutely breathtaking. There is a hot tub (great for soaking sore muscles after a walk on the Queen Charlotte Track) and a swimming pool (freezing cold – but then we were there in May). There is even a heli-pad for those visitors preferring a more dramatic arrival.

As a British visitor this whole area is a fascinating step back in history to the intrepid travels of Captain James Cook. In 1770 Cook landed on Motuara Island and declared British sovereignty over the South Island. Today Motuara Island is a bird lovers’ paradise, home to some of New Zealand’s most endangered birds; a predator free wildlife sanctuary (apart from the occasional stoat that dares to swim across from a neighbouring island). On our morning visit we were lucky enough to hear and see saddlebacks, South Island robins and Bellbirds. The highlight of the day though went to the three pairs of Little Blue Penguins nestling shyly in their nesting boxes. The steep climb up to the lookout tower was worth it for the incredible 360 degree views of the surrounding islands.

new zealand marlborough queen charlotte track

From Motuara we pushed onward to the Queen Charlotte Track, to hike part of this magnificent coastal walkway. Most visitors with more time on their hands choose to do the 4 day walking option. Strategically placed throughout the 71km length of track is a range of accommodation options to suit all tastes and the “lodge to lodge homestay” experience provides a unique walking holiday.

The Track passes through undisturbed stands of beech and rimu, around coves and inlets and along skyline ridges, with glimpses through the tree canopy of stunning views down into Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds. Thanks to the region’s climate walking conditions are good here all year round.

The walk is quite challenging in parts with some fairly steep climbs at the start and rough track – so good walking shoes are a must. We encountered quite a few fallen trees on the track thanks to high winds the day before although these were easy to navigate our way around.

We enjoyed our packed lunch at a picture perfect viewpoint and were rewarded by the appearance of a very inquisitive and friendly Weka who was more than happy to mop up any crumbs. Thanks to Jill, our expert guide, and the Cougar Line team we had the perfect day!

There are many places in New Zealand that defy the written word. My expectations of what I would find at the top of the South Island were easily surpassed. Here the choices are endless, from indulgence in wine and gastronomic delights, hiking the Queen Charlotte Track, visiting protected wildlife sanctuaries, sailing or cruising or merely relaxing and admiring the view. As you can probably gather I’m a fan!


Feeling inspired?

For help with planning your New Zealand adventure, contact our Travel Specialists on 01737 214 250 or make an enquiry.

See all New Zealand holidays

Popular blog posts

UPDATED Aurora Prediction Alert – December 2018!

In October our northern lights experts predicted the chances of seeing the northern lights would be extremely high from the 2-7 November 2018 due to a strong auroral storm occurring. It happened and looks likely to occur again in early December...
  • Northern Lights

Friday, 9th November 2018

Jess Weatherson

Cathy Harlow: Hiking in East Greenland Tour Highlights

In summer 2019, Wanderlust award-winning guide Cathy Harlow is travelling again to the wild and remote East Greenland coast to guide our nine-day ‘Hiking in East Greenland’ adventure. There’s so much about East Greenland that inspires Cathy but there are a few truly special experiences that make this trip stand out, read on to find out more…
  • Adventure
  • Inspire Me

Wednesday, 24th October 2018

Cathy Harlow

Icehotel 2018/19 Designs Unveiled!

With every new year comes a brand new edition of Sweden’s iconic Icehotel and after months of deliberation, the designs for the 29th Icehotel have finally been revealed (we heard one was even designed on the back of a napkin!). Let us give you a sneak peak of what is to come!
  • Icehotel

Tuesday, 21st August 2018

Becky Masih

Other blogs you may like

The Essential New Zealand Bucket List

With so much to see and do in New Zealand, planning the perfect itinerary can seem like a daunting task. With 35 years' experience and expertise, we've collated our essential New Zealand bucket list.
  • Inspire Me

Wednesday, 31st May 2017

Destination Specialist

16 must-see highlights in Australia and New Zealand

Discover Australia and New Zealand's 'eight greats' with our in-house Travel Writer, Will Gray.
  • Destination Insiders

Thursday, 23rd November 2017

Will Gray

Mark Carwardine: in search of New Zealand’s wildlife

Zoologist Mark Carwardine went on a whirlwind tour, travelling the length and breadth of New Zealand in search of a particularly outlandish menagerie of animals dubbed the ‘Small Five’.
  • Wildlife

Monday, 7th April 2014

Destination Specialist

Discovering Aotearoa in the Autumn

Dawn, our Head of Sales & Operations, tells us why she simply loves New Zealand in the autumn - particularly after her journey to Central Otago...
  • Travel Stories

Wednesday, 24th May 2017

Destination Specialist