Hotels in Blenheim, New Zealand
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Blenheim blends fine wines, gourmet food and amazing scenery
Sun-kissed Blenheim is arguably New Zealand’s gourmet capital with its world-renowned wineries, great local produce and fine-dining restaurants. Blessed with soil conditions and a microclimate perfect for growing grapes, the town is nestled in a scenic spot between the foothills of the Southern Alps and the stunning coastline of the wildlife-rich Marlborough Sounds. Situated at the north-eastern tip of the South Island, Blenheim boasts numerous hotels and attractions. Outdoor activities like cycling, kayaking and walking are abundant in the surrounding countryside too. Moreover, Blenheim is conveniently 30 minutes’ drive from Picton for ferries to Wellington on the North Island.
Wine and dine in style
With one of the sunniest climates in New Zealand, Blenheim in the heart of the wine-growing Marlborough region is the gateway to dozens of vineyards in the picturesque Wairau Valley. Many of these wineries framed by mountain scenery produce some of the world’s finest sauvignon blanc. Others specialise in organic wines or boast swish restaurants serving modern Kiwi cuisine to pair with their vintages. Thanks to the extended ripening period offered by the stark contrast between cool nights and hot days in Blenheim, pinot noir and chardonnay wines are also produced. Further famous regional exports include green-lipped mussels harvested at nearby Havelock and oysters from tranquil Cloudy Bay. Besides increasing numbers of hotels, Blenheim boasts a growing selection of cafes, bars, restaurants and artisan food producers for foodies and wine-lovers to discover.
Organised cycling or coach tours from your hotel are one way to experience the wineries, which thrive due to the combination of warm, dry summers and crisp winters. Alternatively, visitors can explore vineyards for tours and tastings under their own steam before stocking up on their favourite tipples at the cellar door shops which many boast. Featuring Blenheim’s first sauvignon blanc plantings, the Brancott Estate Heritage Centre offers a complete wine and fine dining experience with its cellar door and hilltop restaurant complex, which enjoys superb views across the vines. Producing wines admired globally, Cloudy Bay Vineyards in Jacksons Road is another top pick, featuring a cellar door, fine food and seasonal oyster bar. Other notable wineries nearby include Saint Clair Estate, Framingham, Te Whare Ra, Wairau River, Hunter’s Wines, Forrest, Grove Mill and Giesen.
Experience outdoor activities amid beautiful scenery
Blenheim and its stunning hinterland boast much to see and do for those who like to get away from their hotels and keep active. The local terrain contains river valleys and rugged coastline plus forested hills and mountains all shaped by the endless tectonic activity of the Pacific and Indo-Australian plates, which meet nearby. Walkers can explore the countryside by following short, day-long or multi-day hiking trails, staying in huts en route. These paths, known locally as tramping tracks, include the three-hour Wairau Lagoons Walkway that crosses flat coastal terrain and passes a rusting shipwreck. Further afield on the scenic Marlborough Sounds walkers and cyclists can tackle the 43-mile Queen Charlotte Track. The Mount Richmond Forest Park north of Blenheim also features walking trails. Bigger spenders can enjoy 4WD tours of remote high country or even charter pilots to fly helicopters or vintage planes for thrilling aerial perspectives of the spellbinding landscapes. Indeed, the stunning scenery around Blenheim has attracted the attention of New Zealand director Sir Peter Jackson whose Hollywood adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit featured the beautiful Pelorus River at Pelorus Bridge off State Highway 6 north-west of Blenheim. Movie buffs may recognise it from a perilous sequence where the heroes float downstream in barrels.
The region also brims with opportunities for water-based activities due to the proximity of the unforgettable Marlborough Sounds, characterised by their sea-drowned valley landscapes and fractal shoreline that accounts for one fifth of New Zealand’s entire coastline. Besides boat tours and fishing trips, the waters of the Marlborough Sounds abound with opportunities for scuba-diving, sailing and kayaking. For a day at the beach on Cloudy Bay, travellers can head to Rarangi village facing the Cook Strait about 20 minutes’ drive from your Blenheim hotel.
The rich biodiversity around Blenheim is another magnet for visitors. Many join organised tours in the Marlborough Sounds to spot dolphins, or perhaps even swim with the fascinating mammals. The Marlborough Sounds are also a popular bird-watching haunt where enthusiasts might spot rare feathered friends like the rough-faced shag. Even closer to Blenheim, walkers and kayakers at the Wairau Lagoon can see wetland birds like the royal spoonbill. Furthermore, native birds like the tui with its exotic blue feathers can be seen in the Wairau Valley.
Blenheim possesses even more attractions that are sure to appeal to all sorts of holidaymakers. The Marlborough Museum is easily reached from most hotels and chronicles the story of local winemaking plus the early Polynesian settlement of New Zealand. Nearby, the Marlborough Farming Museum showcases vintage agricultural machinery. Additionally, the town boasts the narrow gauge Blenheim Riverside Railway, which snakes its way through the centre. There’s also plenty of green space to relax in at pretty Pollard Park, about ten minutes' walk from downtown. Elsewhere, the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre showcases filmmaker Sir Peter Jackson’s collection of vintage aircraft and aviation memorabilia strung around displays created by professional set builders from the movie industry. Exhibits include items that belonged to famous First World War pilots like the German Manfred von Richthofen, known as the Red Baron.