Marlborough: Not just wine country

Marlborough is known as New Zealand’s Wine Country and is one of the premier wine regions in the world, but did you also know it's an ideal family holiday destination? Isobel Benesh discovered plenty of kid-friendly activities on land, in the air, and at sea.

EAT

Eating out when travelling with toddlers and little ones is never easy, but finding kid-friendly restaurants that allow both adults and children to be enjoy themselves can truly make or break your vacation.

Vines Village

A family-friendly café with a beautiful outside area for lakeside dining and a playground where the kids can safely run around within sight of their parents. Our boys loved the dirt bike track that was set up and pushing the giant dump trucks up and down the dirt mounds by the Village. We liked that the Vines Village Café is nestled in the heart of the artisan hub, which also has a design store, New Zealand-made gifts, a gelato shop, and a boutique with plenty of local products that are labelled with colours so you know where they are all from. vinesvillagecafe.co.nz

Wairau River Winery

Here you will find a laid-back, family-run winery with picnic tables on the lawn. There’s a wide variety of dishes, from duck confit to burgers and pizzas. There is plenty of grass for the kids to run around on, and a petanque pit to keep them entertained. wairauriverwines.com

   

Feeding the Kakariki at Lochmara Lodge

ACTIVITIES

Brayshaw Heritage Park

This heritage park which is full of vintage cars and machinery and Beavertown, a replica street scene from history. brayshawpark.org.nz

Lochmara Lodge

This is a great place for families to spend an entire day. Take the Picton water taxi out to Lochmara Lodge, nestled in the Marlborough Sounds, and you will find an outstanding café with the best local food and wine, conservation projects, nature walks, feeding encounters with various animals, native birds, and wildlife, a flying fox, art galleries, a sculpture trail, and an artist studio. You can also enjoy the kayaks, hammocks, and rope swings down by the beach. Our little ones loved taking the kayaks out into the Sounds and enjoyed feeding the pigs and eels! For older children, enjoy the three-hour return walk to the panoramic Lochmara Lookout on the Queen Charlotte Track, with a 360-degree views of the Sounds.  lochmaralodge.co.nz

Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary

About a 10- to 15-minute boat ride from Picton, this Wildlife Sanctuary was set up by the community to create a safe haven for local wildlife. It has a 2.7km walking track among native bush with plenty of spots to take breaks, including a lookout point overlooking the Marlborough Sounds, with a picnic table or places along the water. kaipupupoint.co.nz

EcoWorld Picton Aquarium

At EcoWorld, the knowledgeable staff help you discover, learn, and have fun with some of New Zealand's amazing native animals that live in the Marlborough Sounds. ecoworldnz.wixsite.com/ecoworldnz

Wither Hills Farm Park

This local park is a great way to enjoy an afternoon in Blenheim, with beautiful views and lots of sheep running around. We took our kids on a short walk among the mother and baby sheep.

Flying high above the sounds on the Coast to Coast helicopter

GETTING AROUND

Coast to Coast Helicopters

A family-run business that operates out of their hilltop lodge with 360-degree views of the Sounds. Children of all ages will enjoy this once-in- a-lifetime experience and the opportunity to get a bird’s-eye view of the Sounds. We were offered coffee, juice, and homemade muffins before our flight, and there’s an option of landing the helicopter at a lookout point for a picnic. coasttocoasthelicopters.co.nz

The Blenheim Riverside Railway

This is great activity for little ones (especially toddlers who love trains) to take a kid-friendly ride to Omaka Station from Brayshaw Park. It only runs a few days a week, so make sure to check the schedule before heading to the railway. brrnz.webs.com

Beach Comber Cruises

For general sight-seeing in the Sounds, a Beach Comber Cruise is a great option for families. You may even catch sight of dolphins, seals, or a blue penguin while you're out on the water. beachcombercruises.co.nz 

Sunset on the inter islander Ferry

GETTING THERE

We travelled via the Interislander ferry from Wellington to Picton, which takes about three hours, and if you have kids, this is a great way to go. There is a playground on board the ferry that is located at the back on the lower level and which helps make for a smooth ride. There’s also a café with plenty of options for snacks or a meal, and once you get into the Sounds, head up top to take in one of the most picturesque rides in the world. interislander.co.nz 

Heading out on the kayaks at Lochmara Lodge to explore the sounds and search for dolphins.

KIDS’ FAVOURITES

Very impressive

The view from the Coast to Coast Helicopter

Magical

Seeing dolphins out in the Sounds while kayaking

Treat

Gelato at the Vines Village Café

Scary

Feeding the freshwater eels at Lochmara Lodge

Laugh

Watching the kunekune pigs eat at Lochmara Lodge

Isobel Beneshe is a Kiwi, married with three littlies, who has recently returned to live in NZ from California. She is a writer, stylist, and lifestyle blogger, and you can find more of her work on Instagram at @belandbeau and on her blog belandbeau.com.
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