Wineries, Wildlife & Water
Get ready for Picton to Christchurch: Wineries, Wildlife and Water! Grab the whole family and hit the road for this two day trip taking you from one of New Zealands's premier wine-growing regions along the east coast of the South Island.
|Airport Gateway Accommodation||Akaroa TOP 10 Holiday Park|
|Beadz Unlimited||Blenheim TOP 10 Holiday Park|
|Brancott Estate Heritage Centr...||Chateau Marlborough|
|City Worcester Motels||Dolphin Encounter and Albatros...|
|Donegal House||International Antarctic Centre...|
|Kaikoura TOP 10 Holiday Park||Lobster Inn Motor Lodge|
|Makana Confections||Mt Lyford Lodge|
|Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre...||Picton TOP 10 Holiday Park|
|The Mud House Winery & Cafe||Thrifty Car Rental|
|Thrifty Car Rental||Thrifty Car Rental|
|Whale Watch Kaikoura||Wings Over Whales|
|Wither Hills Vineyard Marlboro...|
Locations along this route include:
|Picton||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Blenheim||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Kaikoura||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Waipara||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Hanmer Springs||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Waipara||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Rangiora||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Akaroa||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Christchurch||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
Over the years, Picton has evolved from a hop-on, hop-off place into the kind of spot that makes you want to stay a few days. Away from the ferry terminal, the foreshore buzzes with family fun activities: kids can sail model yachts, have a spin on the merry-go-round, or learn to play golf on an 18-hole mini golf course. Seahorse World Aquarium has shark and crayfish feeding sessions, touch pools and entry tickets that last all day.
A 20-minute drive south from Picton brings you to Blenheim, the hub of Marlborough and New Zealand's premier viticultural region. Join a wine tour, hire a horse-and-gig ride, or customise your own cellar door to cellar door tour. Stopping into a vineyard for a long lunch is a great idea for an afternoon relaxing.
After spending time in Blenheim, head south to where tiny townships offer up lots of treats: The Store at Kekerengu, enviably situated on the beach side with extensive terraces and fabulous views;seals at Ohau Point; their pups frolicking in the pool beneath the Ohau Waterfall, a five-minute walk inland; and Rakautara's iconic 'Nin's Bin', where the freshest crayfish are peddled from a caravan embedded in the rocks by the sea.
Picton: Seahorse World Aquarium
Marlborough Provincial Museum at the Brayshaw Museum Park complex
Kaikoura: whale/dolphin/seabird watching & Maori culture
The Kaikoura Wildlife Refuge
Waikari's Maori cave art to discover; and the heritage Weka Pass Railway
Hanmer Springs: The Thermal Pools & Spa
Waipara - New Zealand's unofficial Great Wine Capital
Christchurch: Hot air balloons
Christchurch City: Funky cafés and bars in revitalised inner city lanes
Christchurch: Antarctic Centre
In Picton it's well worth driving up the Kenepuru Sound; the winding road has abundant lookouts and resorts to visit.
Enjoy a chilled glass of our world-famous Marlborough sauvignon blanc while dining alfresco on Picton's waterfront.
Just before reaching Kaikoura, be sure to check out Ohau Point. This rocky outcrop is a popular hang-out for seals and their pups.
Dine on fresh seafood in the town with a name that means 'to eat crayfish' – Kaikoura. The plentiful waters surrounding this township inspired the fitting name. In Maori, kai means 'to eat', koura means 'crayfish'.
While in Kaikoura check out Fyffe House, built in the 1850s and a remnant of Kaikoura's whaling days.
Waipara is the fastest-growing wine region in New Zealand and cellar door tastings here are not to be missed. Savour the offerings of a small boutique-style winery then dine in style among the vines with a platter for two at one of the larger vineyard estates.
Over summer, Christchurch is buzzing with events and hosts the annual International Buskers Festival, Festival of Flowers, Jazz Festival and now is also the home of the Ellerslie Flower Show in Hagley Park.
For the best views over Christchurch city, take a drive along the Summit Road, park at the Sign of the Kiwi Lookout for a spectacular sunset view.
Conquer your fear at Adrenalin Forest – it's best described as a multi-level aerial obstacle course. Negotiate a series of rope bridges, Tarzan swings and flying foxes from platforms constructed in the tree canopy – take up the challenge!
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From here, it's on to surfing the legendary breaks of Mangamaunu in the company of rare Hector's dolphins, before arriving in the whale-watching capital, Kaikoura. Book a place to stay in this amazing town for the night; there's a great array of attractions to keep everyone entertained here.
After a hearty breakfast, it's time to spend half a day or more viewing sperm whales, dusky dolphins, royal albatrosses and, occasionally, orca and blue whales, as they feast here above the Hikurangi Trough – a huge, submarine chasm where warm northern waters mix with a nutrient-rich Antarctic flow to attract a wealth of marine life.
From whale-watching tours to swimming with dolphins, albatross watching, snorkelling, diving, sea kayaking, and rides in glass-bottomed boats, Kaikoura offers a marine-based activity for everyone. For landlubbers there's the local arts and crafts trail, the Maori Leap Caves, wine tasting, skydiving, Maori Tours, quad biking, the District Museum, horse trekking, golf and much more.
In the afternoon, take the Inland Road westwards to Hanmer Springs and Hurunui, following the Waiau River. Soak up the alpine village atmosphere and enjoy a relaxing dip in the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and a spa treatment.
If you enjoy something a little more adventurous, try one of Hurunui's many mountain bike trails, quad biking or jetboating.
Heading back down south, you'll come to the Waipara Valley, where pinot noir, riesling, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc grapes thrive in a warm microclimate.
Mt Cass Walkway offers glorious views from its unusual limestone landscape, while inland there's Waikari's Maori cave art to discover; and the heritage Weka Pass Railway.
As you continue southwards, you will discover that the Canterbury region has a huge amount to offer tourists. Magical scenery combines with a vast range of activities here, making Canterbury truly extraordinary.
When you reach Christchurch, take time to enjoy the atmosphere. Known as The Garden City, Christchurch boasts an upbeat cosmopolitan vibe; it's brimming with eclectic cafés, high-street designer studios and hot lunch spots along the Avon River.
Be sure to catch a footy match – this city is rugby-mad and the atmosphere is unbeatable. Try punting on the Avon River,enjoy a scenic gondola ride, take in the breathtaking vistas from a hot-air balloon at sunrise, experience the vibrant nightlife to be found in a network of inner-city laneways, meet the locals in Hagley Park and just plain enjoy yourself. Road trips are all about the journey, but in this case, the end destination is just as exciting!
Swimming with dolphins is an experience worthy of many superlatives, but above all it has to rank as one of life's great privileges. Being in the water as inquisitive dolphins swim among your group is truly humbling.
Hector's dolphins, the smallest of them all, are extremely friendly. Unlike their cousins, the dusky dolphins, they approach humans easily.
Yet the dusky dolphins that inhabit the waters off Kaikoura year round are one of the most playful and acrobatic of all the species, and their mad antics are also extremely exciting when viewed from a boat.
Soon after the dolphins spot an audience, they leap out of the water and flash their luminous white bellies. As they become more excited, their tricks increase – there's side-slapping and spins, and somersaults both forwards and back.
They put on such an amazing display and seem to enjoy it so much that it's hard to believe that they're wild.
With snorkelling gear and wetsuits provided, there's no excuse not to take to the water for an experience to long remember.
Even better news, the Kaikoura coastline offers a wealth of other wildlife too. Eco-tourism activities abound, from albatross spotting to seal snorkelling and whale watching.
While Akaroa is a charming, laidback village, don't be fooled into thinking there's a shortage of activity here. Rather, this French-influenced town is a brilliant family destination.
A walk in the town centre reveals a generous number of quality restaurants, and boutique shops are in abundance. Much of this activity is along the foreshore, the ideal setting for a picnic.
The scenery is fantastic and there are countless vantage points to take in the beautiful views of Akaroa and its harbour, which is famous for its wildlife. Akaroa is the only place in the world where you can swim with Hector's dolphins – the world's smallest and rarest – and this is an experience you'll treasure for years to come.
If you would rather stay out of the water, you can watch dolphins from the boat or take a nature tour where fur seals, white-flippered and yellow-eyed penguins and other birds can also be spotted.
The likes of walking and tramping, swimming, surfing, sailing, horse trekking, fishing, kayaking and mountain biking should keep you busy.
At a more relaxed pace, the Akaroa Museum delves into the town's Maori history and its French connection. Or you could take an audio tour to learn about the past while enjoying a pleasant stroll around Akaroa.
If you're a food and wine devotee, then dining among the vines at a Marlborough winery is an absolute must. It's well known that the region produces amazing sauvignon blanc, but to really take advantage of Marlborough's tasty treats, you need to indulge in a meal at a picturesque winery. With around 50 wineries in Blenheim alone, there's plenty to choose from!
It's been said that no wine anywhere in the world tastes like the wine of Marlborough – the balance of extraordinary purity and intensity of flavours and aroma is superb. When you dine at a vineyard, an expert will be able to recommend one of these exquisite local wines to complement each dish, taking your meal to another level altogether.
And what can you expect in the way of cuisine? Seafood is definitely on the menu here – the region is known for producing delicious oysters, green-shell mussels and scallops, as well as fish. If you're not into seafood, don't worry – there's also an array of dishes available at vineyards to suit your tastes, whatever they may be.
If you've seen any of the Jurassic Park movies you've probably wondered what it would be like to live in the dinosaur age. Now, you won't see a T-Rex in Kaikoura, but you might see the closest thing to one! Giant sperm whales that usually patrol the deep seas are drawn in to the shallow sea shelf just off the east coast of the South Island by strong currents attracting marine life.
Opt to watch the whales from a tour boat at sea level, or gain a bird's-eye perspective of these ocean giants in a flightseeing plane. Whether by air or by sea, you have a 95% chance of sighting the majestic sperm whale. Operators even provide partial refunds if you don't see one at all! Not bad, considering this is a unique opportunity to witness a prehistoric species at large.
While the sperm whale is undeniably the star of the show in Kaikoura, there's a cast of other creatures that you're likely to see too. Dusky dolphins, fur seals, wandering albatross and other migrating whale species may also be cruising through Kaikoura on your tour – heading for Antarctica or simply playing in the South Pacific.
Bienvenue à Akaroa! If you're not up to speed on your French, what we're trying to say is that you'll be extended a warm welcome when you reach this charming Banks Peninsula town. So why the French greeting? Well Akaroa is the site of the only attempt to establish a French settlement in New Zealand, which is immediately evident upon your arrival.
Take a stroll down Rue Jolie or Rue Lavaud – these French-inspired street names are just the start; much of the architecture, shop names and restaurant cuisine have an obvious French, feel while the blue, red and white flag is not out of place here.
The town best celebrates this heritage with the standout Akaroa French Festival, held biennially in October (the next one is due to take place in 2011), when a host of French-themed events see the town come alive.
To learn more, make a beeline for the Akaroa Museum, which delves into the town's French connection. Or you could take an audio tour to learn about the past while enjoying a pleasant stroll around Akaroa.
Half an hour from The Square in Christchurch, Godley Head sits guard at the entrance to Lyttelton Harbour. Built in 1939 as a coastal defence fort, Godley Head is one of the top ten coastal defence heritage sites in the country – Christchurch's answer to Devonport's North Head. You can explore this ancient defence zone on foot with two memorable walks.
From Godley Head, trek up the hill above Breeze Bay, along the saddle across Summit Road where the city stares back at you, and across the Heathcote and Avon estuaries and New Brighton Beach. The track then joins up with the Pilgrims Way walkway along which you can easily spot cave dwellings.
The Tunnel Walk takes an hour all up, and starts by joining an original Army zigzag track steeply sloping to Mechanics Bay. It then leads through a 120-metre tunnel illuminated by natural light. In ethereal style, the Godley Head Lighthouse can be seen at the end of the tunnel, a beacon of direction and history.