Sunday, February 2, 2014

January 30th – Picton and the Marlborough Sounds

In a country of amazing natural beauty, you don't get many better arrivals than sailing into the small port of Picton, through the stunning landscapes of the Marlborough Sounds. We passed through a convoluted topography of steep hills, forested islands and remote bays, our way being led by a troupe of dolphins leaping playfully ahead of us – it was magical.

Being mainly a transport hub for the interisland ferries linking the South and North islands, the town of Picton is a fairly unremarkable place, so I joined a tour to see what the Marlborough region does best – wine and scenery. Actually, on the way, we went to see an attraction that most people wouldn't expect in this wine-dominated region – the Omaka Aviation Centre, which showpieces a great collection of World War One aircraft. I'm no aeroplane buff, but what made this museum so good, is that it's largely the collection of the Film Director, Sir Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings fame), which means that it's got a budget out of proportion with its small size, and its displays feature loads of special effects to bring it all to life.

In addition to some well-preserved survivors from the early days of aviation, Jackson has got his creative geniuses from the Weta Workshop in Wellington to reproduce old aircraft, and to produce some wonderfully life-like dioramas to re-create dramatic scenes from the war. It was all really well done – enough to keep an aviation philistine like me well entertained.

From there, we went to the main event – to visit a Marlborough winery to taste some of the legendary Sauvignon Blanc that's produced here. Marlborough receives the most sunlight in New Zealand, and its fertile soils and favourable climate are just about perfect for growing Sauvignon Blanc – as we got to experience, as we chugged our way through a whole variety of wines at the Forrest Winery, a small-scale boutique winery.

Of course, the more wine you drink, the more hungry you get, so the tour finished with a stop at a chocolate factory (another small-scale operation), where we munched our way through various free samples in an attempt to soak up the wine.

Our time in Marlborough was short, but we got to experience everything that's good about the region – spectacular scenery, well executed tourist attractions, tasty food, and most importantly, delicious wine.