Es­cape To

Enjoy a peace­ful re­treat along the serene wa­ter­ways of New Zealand’s South Is­land

Business Traveler (USA) - - LIFESTYLE - By El­iz­a­beth Wood Visit omaka.org.nz.

The Sounds of Si­lence – Enjoy a peace­ful re­treat along the serene wa­ter­ways of New Zealand’s South Is­land

Marl­bor­ough is renowned for its wind­ing wa­ter­ways (sea-flooded val­leys known as “sounds”), rugged wilder­ness and fine wines. Sit­u­ated on the north­east­ern tip of New Zealand’s South Is­land, this sunny re­gion only landed on mod­ern tourist maps in the 1980s af­ter the in­ter­na­tional suc­cess of its zesty sauvi­gnon blanc – a wine revered for its in­tense fla­vors and ro­bust char­ac­ter. Awash with ex­pan­sive vine­yards, rolling hills and sleepy towns, it is a re­gion of un­par­al­leled beauty and a re­lax­ing es­cape for busi­ness trav­el­ers in New Zealand.

Visi­tors can take a short 30-minute flight from Welling­ton, on a small plane the lo­cals af­fec­tion­ately call “white knuckle air­lines” for its hair-rais­ing ma­neu­vers across the straits. For those who choose to travel by wa­ter through the mag­nif­i­cent Queen Char­lotte Sound, there are reg­u­lar ferry ser­vices con­nect­ing the North and South Is­land.

I flew in for a re­lax­ing three-day break from the com­mer­cial hub and in­ter­na­tional gate­way of Auck­land. The na­tional car­rier, Air New Zealand, of­fers daily ser­vices to Marl­bor­ough’s main town­ship of Blen­heim, which is where my mem­o­rable ad­ven­ture be­gan. What fol­lows is a taste of the many de­lights the re­gion has to of­fer, from treks in the na­tive forests to the shel­tered bays of the sounds and tours of world-fa­mous wine cel­lars.

Omaka Avi­a­tion Her­itage Cen­tre

A few min­utes drive from Marl­bor­ough Air­port Blen­heim is the Omaka Avi­a­tion Her­itage Cen­tre, show­cas­ing one of the world’s largest pri­vate col­lec­tions of WWI air­craft and ar­ti­facts. On long-term loan from Kiwi film di­rec­tor Peter Jackson (the man be­hind The Lord of the Rings tril­ogy and its pre­quel The Hob­bit tril­ogy) the col­lec­tion in­cludes orig­i­nal and full replica WWI air­craft – both static and fly­able, such as the Cur­tiss MF Fly­ing Boat and the sin­gle-seat Ger­man fighter Hal­ber­stadt D.IV model.

The 32,000-square-foot ex­hibit also fea­tures a dis­play de­pict­ing the death of Man­fred von Richthofen, aka the Red Baron, who was mor­tally wounded in April 1918. The mu­seum gained in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion when the Duke and Duchess of Cam­bridge vis­ited the cen­ter dur­ing their royal tour of the coun­try last year.

Af­ter learn­ing about the ex­hibit, you may wish to ex­pe­ri­ence the thrill of open­cock­pit fly­ing for your­self. At the nearby Omaka Air­field, joyrides are avail­able in a vin­tage three-seat Boe­ing Stear­man, with hel­met and gog­gles pro­vided. The price for a 20-minute flight is NZ$345 ($235) for a sin­gle pas­sen­ger or NZ$390 ($265) for two pas­sen­gers.

Beach­comber Cruises

A short scenic drive from Blen­heim is the quaint seafront town of Pic­ton, the base for ferry ser­vices be­tween the South and North Is­lands. It’s also the gate­way to the in­tri­cate wa­ters of the Marl­bor­ough Sounds – a col­lec­tion of an­cient sunken river val­leys filled with the wa­ters of the Pa­cific Ocean.

The sounds make up a fifth of the coun­try’s coast­line and in­clude three main bod­ies of wa­ter: Kenepuru, Pelorus and Queen Char­lotte. The lat­ter is names af­ter Eng­land's Queen Char­lotte by Cap­tain James Cook, who fa­mously spent 170 days shel­ter­ing in the area. Ac­cord­ing to Maori myth, the wa­ter­ways and head­lands were formed dur­ing a bat­tle be­tween a great Maori war­rior and a gi­ant oc­to­pus.

Small-scale re­sorts dot the sounds’ many coves, as well as re­mote houses and com­mu­ni­ties that can only be ac­cessed by boat. Beach­comber Cruises, the only li­censed op­er­a­tor in the Queen Char­lotte Sound to de­liver mail and gro­ceries to the peo­ple who live here, al­low guests on board dur­ing their de­liv­ery runs.

The half-day cruise, which de­parts on Mon­day and Thurs­day be­gin­ning at 1:30 PM, stops at lo­cal res­i­dences in Ku­mu­toto Bay, Black­wood Bay, and Ruakaka Bay be­fore swing­ing past the King Salmon farm. Here you can see seals lolling

The sounds make up a fifth of the coun­try’s coast­line and in­clude three main bod­ies of wa­ter

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