BLENHEIM, NEW ZEALAND
The Marlborough region is situated on the north-eastern corner of the South Island, due west of Wellington. Marlborough is blessed with a year-round sunny climate and regularly records the highest sunshine hours in New Zealand. Marlborough is New Zealand's largest grape growing and wine making region with 65 wineries, 290 grape growers and 4,054 hectares in grape production. Nearly all of the wineries welcome visitors for tasting sessions and many have a cafe or restaurant on site. Sauvignon Blanc is the region's specialty, but wines made with Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are also highly acclaimed. Wine trail maps make it easy to find your way around the vineyards. Boutique Bed and Breakfast accommodation can be found throughout the wine growing area.
With a population of just over 25,000 citizens, Blenheim is town with a difference. A city centre long ago claimed, piece by piece, from a then wayward river has resulted in a street layout with spirit and character that abounds with quirky lanes and sunny gathering places. The clear, spring-fed Taylor River, which flanks the town, is now an attractive friend where sightseeing riverboats retrace the route of steamboats that once carried produce.A miniature railway runs alongside the river carrying passengers to Brayshaw Park.
Central focus of Blenheim is The Forum, with its historic bandstand watching over an area where shoppers rest and street markets buzz. The Forum also provides an occasional amphitheatre for a wide range of performing arts. The modern shops and cafés that surround The Forum are a sample of a town that is deserving of the praise it receives from visitors. The wide range of shops feature everything from imported high fashion to the works of the many artists and crafts people who live in the area.
The foresight of its residents, past and present, sees Blenheim blessed with many attractive parks. Seymour Square, close to the town centre, is a feast of colour with carefully tended flower beds surrounding the stone memorial clock tower and a cooling fountain. At night, the Seymour fountain, colourfully lit, makes a spectacular sight. Pollard Park, just a few minutes walk from town, is a large area of trees and gardens through which meanders a spring-fed creek. Pathways wind through the contoured grounds providing numerous delightful vignettes. A children's playground and picnic area help to make this an ideal place to lunch after a morning in town.
On the outskirts of town, Brayshow Historic Park preserves the province's pioneering endeavour. Relocated colonial buildings in a recreated turn-of-the-century street keep company with a modern building housing archives and a museum. The vintage farm machinery museum, where faithfully restored tractors and other machinery are displayed, is world renowned.