I’ve been in New Zealand for the last week. The official reason for the trip was to present a couple of talks at the biodynamic and organic wine conference in Blenheim, but while I was here I thought it would be fun to take a few days’ holiday, exploring the Nelson-Tasman region at the top of South Island. I don’t often take holiday – some might rightly say that my job resembles a holiday quite closely – bit this was a lovely break. I had the benefit of some local knowledge, which helped: I was travelling with a local winemaker friend (the talented Natalie Christensen from Yealands).
We began in Nelson, which even in the middle of winter has a lot of charm. We were just there for one evening, but we did it well. Drinks at Urban: a nice space with a great selection of wines and beers. Dinner at Hopgood’s: fine dining, really well executed, with a good but not great wine list (the food deserves a wider and slightly more eclectic selection). Then after dinner drink at Cod & Lobster. The cocktail list here is quite stunning, with a whole page of negronis, of which we tried two. They were lovely.
The next day we headed over to Golden Bay. Follow the road and climb a few hills and you hit some wonderful coastline here.
We stayed at Little Greenie, which is one of the properties that forms Golden Bay Hideaway, on Wainui Bay. This is a small eco-friendly house with a composting toilet and a clever heating/insulating system that uses very little power. There is also an outdoor bathtub, which is perfect for drinking Champagne in (the various properties are very private, so you aren’t overlooked, which is an advantage if you plan to take a bath outdoors). There are no internets here, so it really is like a holiday.
Some highlights. First of all, Wainui Falls. There’s a really stunning walk from the car park, through some verdant green scenery and rushing streams. Cross a slightly wobbly suspension bridge, and then a couple of minutes later you are at the falls. Powerful, beautiful, energising.
Then the remoteness of Wharariki beach. We had it to ourselves. So moody and atmospheric.
A must see: Te Waikoropupu springs, known colloquially simply as the Pupu springs. It’s hard to describe this place and impossible to capture it in pictures. It’s an incredibly pure spring system pumping out large volumes of astonishingly clear water, and it’s beautiful. It’s also quite spiritual, in an indefinable and hard to explain way. There just seems to be a lot of energy here, and even though I’m a scientist, and supposedly rational, I felt something.
And there’s also the famous Mussel Inn, which is an old, atmospheric brewpub, famous for nailing mobile phones to a tree, as well as some excellent beer and epic nachos.
After a couple of nights, we moved on, to Kaiteriteri. In the middle of summer this would be heaving, but in late June it was quiet and really pretty. We stayed at a spa resort and ended the day in an outdoor hot tub looking at the stars. I think everyone was watching the rugby, which is a religion in New Zealand.
Back to Blenheim for the conference, I felt rested and energized, full of great experiences. I need to take more holidays.