Adventures Amongst the Vines


After an easy drive south, we arrived in Marlborough, which was the epicentre of stunning New Zealand wines.  Over the years, we have road tripped through some of the top wine regions of the world… the Bordeaux and Loire Valleys of France, the Rioja region of Spain, the river Douro in Portugal, California wine territory – stateside, and Hawke’s Bay on our previous trip to New Zealand.  It was pleasing to be finally adding Marlborough to the list.

Marlborough is so picturesque. Rows of grapevines wove neatly around the hills for miles and miles, inviting you to dive right in!

It was a scorching hot day and we were just about ready for a lunch stop.  We picked up some warm, freshly baked ciabatta, some Brie and caramelised onion chutney from a little shop en route and now all we needed was a little wine to go with it!

Driving to find our perfect stop for lunch, we drove past the famous wine estates of Oyster Bay, Wairau, Cloudy Bay and Brancott Estate.  This place was wine heaven!

We decided to stop off at Wither Hills as it had a particularly good reputation for being family friendly.  We were only going for a little sampler, but of course it was important that Fin was happy and content, so we could soak up the experience.

We parked up right next to the vines and tucked into the bread and cheese for lunch.  It was probably one of our most memorable meals, even though we were just sat on the steps of the van; it was a peachy spot for our picnic.  

Walking up to the Cellar Door, it felt like the kind of place you could easily spend an entire day!  People were chilling out under a shady terrace in the manicured garden overlooking the vines.  We took our seats in the conservatory and enjoyed a few tasters of the best wines that they have to offer.

It really was family friendly here.  As soon as the staff saw Fin, they were chatting to him, gave him an activity set, and together they went to get the kids toy box out.  He was delighted!  He found a digger and we didn’t hear another peep out of him! Perfect.

The Pinot Noir was our favourite of the wines that we sampled, and whilst the going was good with Fin, we bought a bottle of the delicious red and then waved our goodbyes to the staff (before we potentially ruined the tranquillity of the place!).  

We were in the mood now to explore some more, and just down the road was the Villa Maria Estate, it would be rude not to hey!

Wow, if the last place was amazing, this place was flippin’ utopia! Nestled in the grapevines was the cellar door, surrounded by vine covered terraces with branded Villa Maria beanbags and a water feature.  

Inside was quite busy, and the bar tender greeted us with a list of the wines we could sample.  The atmosphere was lovely and relaxed.  Again Fin was given the special treatment.  Out came the toy box and he happily played by the water in the shade.  They even gave him his own ‘proper’ glass for his chilled water.  He looked so sophisticated and felt really grown up.  We of course don’t encourage drinking, and he very rarely even sees us with an alcoholic drink (we save that until he has gone to bed most of the time!), however, in this setting, he really looked the part and we didn’t mind him enjoying the moment with his water!

It was the Villa Maria Pinot Gris that was the star of the show we both agreed.  We found on the list that there was an organic private bin bottle, for a really reasonable $14.99. So we purchased our takeaway, and again, set off while the going was good!

We highly recommend a stop off to experience the wines of this beautiful area.  The estates we visited are welcoming to families despite it being a naturally more adult environment. To be honest, had we not had Fin with us, we would have easily lost ourselves for an entire day! We noticed a hop-on hop-off coach, which delivered you to most of the estates on the Marlborough wine trail and then collected you to take you to the next!  Awesome stuff!  But not for us this time.  We enjoyed our little tasters and Fin thoroughly enjoyed it too, and that was important for us, as our trip is centred around him.  So off we drove into Blenheim.  It was 32 degrees and we found the perfect end to the afternoon – a public swimming pool with outdoor splash zone!

After a VERY hot night in the campervan, we were on the road super early, for our drive further south to Kaikoura, our next stop.

Jen Skehan