Blenheim New Zealand

We arrived in Blenheim around 12:30 pm and checked into the Knightsbridge Court Motor Lodge. For a motel I had just booked the other night, it was pretty impressive. The motel room we had was very spacious, included a full kitchen and was very clean. Once settled in Lisa and I quickly connected to the internet, checked our email and then were soon off once again to visit some of the wineries in the area to do some wine tasting. Fortunately the wineries were located within close proximity of each other.

The first winery we visited was called Cloudy Bay, which was one of the more well known vineyards in the area. The vineyard is located just outside the small city of Blenheim, ideally situated near the bottom of a mountain.. Entering the building in which the wine tasting occurs, Lisa and I came to the quick realization that New Zealand’s claim to fame in the wine industry is it’s sauvignon blanc. I’m not much of a white wine drinker but I tried some of the wine and wasn’t very impressed and neither was Lisa. We left that winery pretty quickly but not before the nice host led me to the back room so I could take some photos of all the wine barrels.

Cloudy Bay Winery

Cloudy Bay Winery

Our next vineyard on the map was Allan Scott and was located just across the road from Cloudy Bay. This vineyard offered more red wines then Cloudy Bay so we decided to test some of the regions reds. Lisa and I especially enjoyed the Pinot Noir, which is hard bottle of wine to find by in Canada. Lisa and I picked up a few bottles at this vineyard and continued down the road onto our next stop on the map.

Mud House was our next stop. This was a unique stop as they didn’t just have wine but a whole little market setup for tourists to pick up other unique products such as flavoured olive oil and ice creams. I went in for the wine tasting and Lisa wandered around as she was starting to feel the effects of the wine from the previous two wineries. I had a few samples of their pinot noir and picked up a bottle to take back home. Lisa and I wandered around a few of the other shops and bought some flavoured olive oils and other alcohols to take back home with us to Canada.

Standing beside the grape vines (Cloudy Bay Vineyard)

Standing beside the grape vines (Cloudy Bay Vineyard)

While I was wine tasting, Lisa had spotted a black swan in a pond near by and so we headed down by the water and took a few pictures before leaving. By this time, I had had enough wine tasting. Too many different flavours made my stomach a little upset and both Lisa and I were a little tired. After passing by so many wineries on the way back we decided to visit just one more before calling it quits.

The last winery on the list was Hunters, which was my least favourite out of the bunch. We walked into the building were the wine tasting took place; Lisa looked around because she was out of commission and I went straight for the wine tasting booth. The hostess wasn’t all that pleasant and wasn’t very patient. There were only three other people sampling the wine at the time and I just got a bad vibe from her. I quickly downed a few of the samples and then Lisa and I were out of there.

Black Swan at Mud House Market

Black Swan at Mud House Market

We returned to our motel room and Lisa was craving some American style pizza. So we ordered from the local Pizza Hut. They didn’t have a “deluxe” pizza flavour as we do back home so we just created our own pizza. We spent the rest of the evening relaxing, I worked and Lisa watched a movie. At one point we decided to go swimming in the pool at the motel but that came to a quick stop once we dipped our feet in to test the water. We quickly retreated back to our motel room.

Day 6

The next morning Lisa and I got to sleep-in, well kind of. We awoke before the alarm which was set for 10:00 am and packed our stuff and began our long drive down to Timaru. As I was checking us out of our motel room the owner pointed out a great location on the map to stop and view some new born seal pups.

A few minutes outside of Blenheim we passed by the Montana winery. We weren’t originally going to stop but decided to at the very last moment as this is the only winery in the South Island of New Zealand that offers a tour of their wine making facilities.

Hugging one of the huge wine caskets at the Montana Winery

Hugging one of the huge wine caskets at the Montana Winery

The Montana winery was awesome. It was the best winery we visited, not only because of the wine, but because you appreciate the wine much more once you have seen the process that goes into making the wine. It was a great tour, Lisa and I and another Canadian couple were the only ones on the tour. At one point during the tour we were able to stick our fingers into a stream of grape juice as the grapes were going through the squeezing process and then got to lick our fingers. The tour guide later said that she had never even done that herself. The guide then led us into a few more buildings giving us details on the different stages and machines the wine must pass through before it is put into the bottle and onto the store shelves. We finished off the tour with a little wine sampling. The wines were pre selected but they were the best the winery had to offer. During our wine sampling the guide was giving us full glasses of wine to taste; I’m not sure if it was because we were such a small group but none of the other wineries the day before were that generous. Needless to say, I had to start taking a few sips of each and pouring out the rest as I had a lot of driving left to do and the drinking and driving laws in New Zealand are strict. Lisa and I loved the tour, I think Lisa more so then me if you know what I mean!! I would definitely recommend the Montana winery tour to anyone who will be in the Blenheim area.

Seal cubs playing on the rocks at Ohau Point

Seal cubs playing on the rocks at Ohau Point

Our next stop this day was just a few minutes outside the town of Clarence along the east coast. A little rest stop called Ohau Point Seal Colony was the location the motel owner had pointed out along the way to stop and view the seal pups. Lisa and I stopped and took a few photos and videos of the seal pups playing in the little pools of water created by the rocks below. This was the first time that either of us had seen fur seals and they were quite entreating, well the pups were anyway. The adult fur seals were a little tougher to spot since they are lazy and barely move.

Once we arrived in Kaikoura Lisa and I were pretty hungry since we hadn’t consumed anything except wine all day. We stopped at Pipi’s, a small little restaurant just on the way into town. From the outside it looked like an ordinary small town restaurant but once inside it had a real sea side feel to it. Most of the items on the menu were seafood but Lisa was craving a big hunk of beef. Lisa managed to find a cut of beef on the menu while I opted for some prawns and scallops. There aren’t really all that many flying insects in New Zealand, so most of the places you visit don’t have any screens on their windows or any windows at all, just big open entrances to the outside. Lisa and I got to enjoy our meal inside while still enjoying the fresh air and sun from the outside. This was pretty unique to us as back home in Canada when summer finally shows up, so do the mosquitoes.

Prawns, scallops and steak at Pipi's restaurant in Kaikoura

Prawns, scallops and steak at Pipi's restaurant in Kaikoura

After the early dinner at Pipis, we jumped back in our rental car and continued on our drive down the east coast to the city of Timaru where Lisa’s uncle and his wife Jen lived. Leaving Kaikoura we drove along the jagged coast line for another hour. Lisa and I were in awe at some of the views as we rounded corners on the cliffs which jutted out into the ocean leaving us with wide open spectacular views of the east coast of New Zealand. Once the highway went back inland it twisted and turned through the mountains and finally flattened out for the last hour into Christchurch. On the outskirts of Christchurch Lisa and I stopped at a gas station and fuelled up for the last leg of our journey to the city of Timaru.

From the outskirts of Christchurch to Timaru was more of a familiar drive, straight and flat, which was fine with me as my body was starting to tire of the long days drive.


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