Travel

Indulge your senses in New Zealand's Marlborough

Take in spectacular sights at New Zealand's Marlborough Sounds and taste award-winning wines in the region

What do you do when you are living in a remote part of the world where power comes out of a homemade hydro-electric generator, and there are neither roads nor cellphone coverage, much less a supermarket?

In the beautiful but sparsely-populated Marlborough Sounds on the north-eastern end of New Zealand's South Island, your lifeline may well be the mail boat that comes by faithfully every week.

Along with the snail mail, the Pelorus Mail Boat - one of the last of its kind in the world, and which celebrates its 100th year of service next year - carries supplies, books for the home-schooled kids, visitors and sometimes an animal or two, to Pelorus Sound.

Pelorus Sound is one of three main bodies of water that make up Marlborough Sounds - the other two being the Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds - and only a small number of locals live on its lush, steep hills surrounded by a network of flooded river valleys.

This is a place unlike any other, with its sheltered inlets, serene bays, calm waters and tiny beaches. The sound's residents are hardy folks accustomed to living off the land and working with their hands in their isolated homesteads.

It is a tough but bucolic lifestyle they have chosen, not least because the marvels of the latest tech gadget simply cannot touch the incredible experience of actually living amid such glorious, rugged land masses and amazing variety of wildlife.

Thanks to the Pelorus Mail Boat, skippered by Mr Jim Baillie, visitors can join the mail run and meet some of the residents while learning a little of their stories.

There are colourful characters, such as the 73-year-old zoologist who runs his mussel farm and built much of his equipment - including a windmill - himself.

Throughout the day-long mail run, one will likely encounter all sorts of fascinating birds and sea life.

In the beautiful but sparselypopulated Marlborough Sounds on the north-eastern end of New Zealand’s South Island, your lifeline may well be the mail boat that comes by faithfully every week.

According to Mr Baillie, dolphins are spotted on 70 per cent of the trips. True enough, we had the pleasure of a large pod swimming playfully around us at one point.

Meanwhile, the 500-plus mussel farms in the sound, whose rows of floats are prime sunning spots for seals, have made the little township of Havelock, from which the mail boat departs, the Greenshell Mussel capital of the world.

WINERIES

While the mail boat ride is the highlight of a Marlborough visit, most tourists spend their time in the region's wineries.

Marlborough is New Zealand's premier wine district, with its Sauvignon Blanc winning international acclaim.

The region produces 77 per cent of the country's wines and has more than 40 cellar doors where visitors can enjoy wine tastings and tours. Some wineries run their own restaurants, so one can enjoy delicious meals, including fresh local produce, seafood and lamb.

Of course, the recent earthquake had some impact on the wineries.

There are reports of some damage to tanks and barrels, but thankfully, it appears that the destruction was not severe.

Cellar doors remain open and business is back to usual at this time of year - the busy summer season.

The South Island is for those who love large open spaces, plenty of nature and lots of fresh food, as well as blue skies dotted with fluffy white clouds.

With Marlborough's gorgeous scenery and relaxing pace of life, it remains a fantastic destination for a much-needed getaway.

This article is adapted from The Business Times Weekend, Dec 3-4.

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