243 Days on the Road
The top of the South Island is so fascinating. New Zealand is so appealing to travellers because you can have different experiences in totally different landscapes within a two-hour driver of each other. The last eight days have been all about the wildlife in Kaikoura. Seriously, we’ve been swimming with seals, swimming with dolphins, whale watching from a boat AND by plane. We also got closer than ever to the world’s largest seabirds. As we leave the Dusky Lodge in Kaikoura today, we know we are leaving the overwhelming wildlife experiences behind and stepping into a whole new region something completely different on offer: wine!
Wandering into wine country
As the road wedges between fields and fields of perfectly spaced vineyard rows, we know we have hit the wine country of Blenheim. Blenheim is the main hub of the Marlborough region, surrounded by vineyards using every piece of flat land available until they reach rolling golden hills. (These hills would be green in any other season, but with the dry hot summers that give Marlborough the fabulous wine, it also adds a wash of gold to the landscape).
With a ton of foodie-orientated activities to come in New Zealand’s wine capital, we figure we’ll start our time in Blenheim doing a classic – something that should be done during every stay in a town to get an awesome perspective of the place: go on a hike!
Wither Hills Farm Park
When we arrive in Blenheim, we drive straight to the Rifle Range Place entrance to the Wither Hills Farm Park. The council-run recreational area is pretty luxurious for an entrance to a walking and mountain bike park! Car parking rows are separated by quaint planted trees, there are garden areas surrounding sheltered seating, and Robin really digs toilets “with a bar of soap!” too.
Starting the Rotary Walkway
There is quite a variety of walking tracks in the Wither Hills Farm Park, but considering we have arrived in Blenheim mid-afternoon, we go for a relatively short and easy options: the Rotary Walkway. It’s just a 25-minute climb to a lookout and we can make a circuit by joining the Gentle Annie walk (about 15 minutes) back to the car park.
Hills of golden grass
Although we talk about “dry golden hills”, Blenheim did just receive a heavy downpour on our way over here. With that, we walk into a damp pine forest with a pungent smell of pine amplified by the humidity in the air. There are all sorts of exotic plants and trees in this short section of forest that abruptly end halfway up the hill. We then reach a huge exposed area carpeted in long golden grass. An interpretation board explains how sections of this tussock area have been planted by local schools since the 1980s. Signs indicating the names of said schools are just about seen being swallowed by the thriving grass. We can’t resist lying in it for a while.
Have you ever seen fields more golden than this?!
Sheep? In a Farm Park?!
Getting back onto the path, walking through the tussock disturbs all these white moths that create quite a bizarre sight as they scatter before us with every step we take. But moths (and us) are not the only ones enjoying the grass. We almost bump into a small flock of sheep just sitting and eating among the tall grass along the track. We don’t know why we are so surprised, this is Wither Hills FARM Park, after all.
Herding the flock
As we walk further up the track, we somehow end up herding the sheep further up the hill too. Robin is delighted to be “doing such a good job” of herding the sheep. Laura thinks that the sheep dogs we saw rounding up REAL flocks in Oamaru and Fairlie did a better job…
Vineyard views and fancy lookouts
We are not surprised, however, about the higher up the hill we climb, the more amazing the views get. A funky carved seat is well-placed to look over the town of Blenheim and the unusual pattern of vineyards on the land.
Just a little further up the hill is the Rotary Lookout and the end of the Rotary Walkway. The “fanciness” of the Wither Hills car park below us is even found up here in a tall triangular shelter with a water fountain and interpretation panels. They display information on the history of the land we see before us, from the early Maori settlers to the establishment of Blenheim.
Treading on Gentle Annie
To loop back to the beginning, we take the “Gentle Annie” walk. We don’t know who Gentle Annie is, but she features on A LOT of walks in New Zealand. Whoever she is, the name usually indicates an easy gradient to walk, which this exactly is.
We make our way past more sheep lapping up the views of Blenheim, then end up back in the forest – this forest having a bit of a different feel than the pine section we started in. Black fungus clings to the trunks and branches, and the air is filled with the smell of gum.
Ah, the convenient loop walk…
The walk ends back where we started in that “fancy as” car park where we pack up our gear and head on to check into our holiday park accommodation for the next five days.
Join us tomorrow, where we’re going on a winery crawl around the vineyards of Blenheim. See you then!
An easy climb to the lookout Theta 360 Loading...
That’s awesome! If you liked this blog post, maybe you’ll like these articles:
- Marlborough – Guide for Backpackers
- Accommodation Guide to Blenheim
- The 9 Great Walks of New Zealand
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See you tomorrow!