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Marlborough – Blenheim & Wine Country

From Hamner Springs we headed further north, along the very scenic coastal highway towards Blenheim, which is the “big city” of Marlborough region. Marlborough is globally famous (not just NZ world famous*) for its vineyards, specifically its Sauvignon Blanc. It is also nationally known for its aviation museum.

But first we drove trough and had lunch in the tourist town of Kaikoura. It was not a pleasant day – cold, rainy, bleak. Unfortunately that meant we did not get a real feel of how bustling this coastal down must be in summer, nor did we get to partake in any of the famed whale watching. Next trip?

Coastline near Kaikoura on a bleak winter day
Coastline near Kaikoura on a bleak winter day

Approaching Marlborough the vineyards started up, lining the highway. Blenheim itself has a surprisingly bustling downtown area given it only has 27,000 residents! Many shops line streets, filled with people. There is walkway along a small river, as well. Few small towns in US still look like this. NZ has big box stores, too. You can’t go far without seeing a location of The Warehouse (like a Walmart). Many places boast K-Marts too. (Weird fact, only 34 K-marts remain in the US. There are 20 in NZ.). However downtowns remain with a mix of local and chain shops from what we have seen on the South Island, at least. I wonder how long that will last?

Main square In Blenheim
Huia Vineyards
Huia, home of our favorite Sauvignon Blanc. Like many businesses, their cellar door (store) was closed by the pandemic, only reopening after we left.
Sheep grazing in the vineyards, sheep really are everywhere!
Fields upon fields of this…

The aviation museum (hopefully our last for awhile?) focused on planes from World War I and World War II and includes a number of planes/items owned by film director Peter Jackson, who is an airplane buff. Some of the mannequins were made by Weta, the movie effects company. They were incredibly lifelike!

Recreation of the Red Baron's crash site at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Center
Recreation of the Red Baron’s crash. The soldiers looked real.
Diorama at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Center

*There are a few brands here that have “World Famous in NZ” on their labels.

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