Travel Notes: Marlborough Sound

Marlborough Sound is best known as New Zealand's largest wine growing region, which is why I'm slightly embarrassed to admit we didn’t visit a single vineyard.  With Blythe in tow and a few days of long driving, we didn’t leave time.  But, we did spend three nights in the remote St. Omer on the Kenepuru Sound.

After picking up groceries in Havelock (the closest grocery store to where we stayed, which was two hours away), we drove another curvy, narrow road to a small town on the sound.  We rented another fantastic airbnb, this one a little house adjacent to the owner’s house.  The two homes share a large deck and a huge lawn leading into the bay and we enjoyed interacting with Dot and Jon. 

Running out to Jon's boat to explore the sound from the water.

Running out to Jon's boat to explore the sound from the water.

We were able to use their kayak and canoe and Jon took us out on his boat to see the sound.  Plus, they have two beautiful Ragdoll brother cats names Bert and Ernie! 

St. Omer is only a few miles from a fancy-ish resort called the Raetehi Lodge.  We ran over there one evening and enjoyed a local beer on tap.  They host concerts during the summer with a view overlooking the sound, which we would have attended if they didn’t start at 8 PM, which is past Blythe's non-napping bedtime.  There is a full restaurant and it looks like a lovely spot to stay for a more posh option in this area.

Watching the sun set at the Raetihi Lodge

Watching the sun set at the Raetihi Lodge

Marlborough Sound is another breathtaking part of New Zealand.  There are inlets and islands and bays and the water is clear and clean and it was so peaceful.  There isn’t much to do besides relax, hike, swim, and kayak/canoe.  We had another good paddle with Blythe and went swimming, despite seeing a lot of jellyfish in the water (not poisonous, of course, because this is New Zealand where apparently nothing will harm you).  It’s one of those places where, at sunset, the mountains appear as layered shadows and look more like a painting than real.

Yes, that's a jelly fish!

Yes, that's a jelly fish!

While disconcerting, the jelly fish were beautiful.

While disconcerting, the jelly fish were beautiful.

Our host, Jon, took Rob to play golf one day. He created the local course and Rob had a lot of fun playing golf and hearing more about how Jon built it and life in St. Omer in general.

Our airbnb hosts connected us to a kind woman with three kids of her own who offered to babysit Blythe while we trail ran a portion of the Queen Charlotte Track.  If you had asked me a year ago if I’d leave Blythe with someone I hadn’t met before based on a recommendation from someone I’d known for a day (in a foreign country nonetheless), I would have told you you were crazy.  The thing is, the second I met Deb and the two of her children who were home that day, I knew Blythe was in good hands.  If I hadn’t, I obviously wouldn’t have left her.  Deb emailed me twice with updates during the day and when we returned, they were at the shore of the sound splashing in the water and it was clear Blythe was having a blast.  Deb and her family are restoring a farm on the shores of the Kenepuru Sound and watching her on the farm, taking care of the animals in her wellies, and seeing their renovation work, I caught a glimpse into what a totally different life could look like for us.  We aren't purchasing a farm and moving to a remote part of New Zealand, but it sounds so romantic.

Blythe and Bunny enjoying a picnic on the sound.

Blythe and Bunny enjoying a picnic on the sound.

The view from Eatwells Lookout

The view from Eatwells Lookout

Not only was it good to have some adult time for a day, but Rob and I loved running on the Queen Charlotte Track.  It was the most runnable of the tracks we’ve done and we had a sunny, clear day, which meant we could see all the way to the North Island.  You can get dropped off at one end and mountain bike this track as well - maybe on our next trip!

Like Abel Tasman and the Golden Bay, this is another area to which I’d return.  Airbnb is a good way to go, but I'd stay closer to Havelock or Picton than we did, but still on one of the sounds.  This would allow you to enjoy the water and hike but still access the wineries.  Whatever you do, make a point to hike part of the Queen Charlotte Track and don't miss Eatwells Lookout from which you can see the North Island on a clear day.