Interislander Premium Lounge

Even these canines were to travel on the ferry on the same August day we did.  Both guarded Dads luggage whilst waiting on him to return outside.   Today we would travel from Picton to Wellington on the Interisland Ferry.    

As the trip was a bit over three hours, we had decided to trial the Premium Lounge.   Advertised as comfortable, over 18 only, with food and beverage supplied for the duration of the trip, the concept certainly appealed.Certainly comfortable, we were actually impressed with what the lounge provided.   Plenty of seating choice, from comfy lounge to dining suites, and booths next to the portholes.

Today we chose the porthole seating which looked so very inviting as well as allowing enough room to sprawl out a bit.  On top of that we at least had a view of the stunning Marlborough Sounds as we glided past.   Yes we were lucky on this trip as the infamous Cook Stait was not as rough as it has been know to be. This stretch of water divides the South & North Islands of New Zealand and has a reputation for being challenging to cross at times.

An added bonus of the Premium Lounge, is the location, towards the middle of ship.  The bow and stern tend to take most of the motion, whilst the middle stays more stable.

From the time we entered the lounge, to the time we disembarked, there was an endless supply of food on offer.   Firstly a buffet hot/cold breakfast, followed by scones, jam & cream, then an assortment which included sandwiches.  Help yourself to the bar fridges for water, soft drinks etc.   With coffee/tea on offer plus a stocked bar enabling you to enjoy a relaxing drink later in the day, there really was something for everyone’s tastes.All the food we sampled was fresh, hot or cold if were meant to be, and overall, quite nice.Leaving Picton as we headed down through the Marlborough Sounds for around an hour of scenery before hitting the open sea, photo opportunities abound.   The location of the Premiun Lounge, is very close to a door which takes you out to deck.  Whilst cruising the Sounds, it was no problem to pop out, enjoy the scenery and snap a few shots.A couple of times during the trip, we passed ferries heading in the opposite direction.  As we neared the last of the South Islands land mass, the brilliant blue clear waters merged into the the subdued hues of Cook Strait.   Surprisingly, there is actually a short distance between the tips of land on each island.  In fact for a while during the trip, you can see both islands.   Certainly the sea was more choppy through the Strait, however it did not affect us much in the lounge at all luckily.   Especially as we heard the staff commenting on the number of seasick travellers in the front viewing lounge.

The weather did deteriorate somewhat as we neared Wellington, and after battling the strong wind outside, I decided it might wise to continue the trip from the comfort of the lounge.   Good Choice!One interesting discovery upon booking these tickets a few months previously, was the online booking choice of laybying your tickets prior to the trip.  Not something I had come across before but certainly something which could well appeal to others, particularly those travelling on a budget.

A mention to the staff onboard and at the Picton Ferry Terminal.  All staff we encountered were friendly, helpful and professional.   Certainly no problems there at all.

A ferry trip between the islands is something you should try.    With any luck you too will be lucky enough to have a nice smooth sailing.   For that little bit extra why not add the Premium lounge.   We found it well worthwhile.   

Watch for the Wellington and North Island blogs still to come.   Thank you also to all the Dine Live Travel followers on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat!

Fox n Grapes, Upper Moutere

Hidden in the Upper Moutere is an awesome venue.  Located on the grounds of the Moutere Hills Vinneyard is the Fox n Grapes Wine Bar.   Open on Friday evenings, locals are loving this hidden delight.  We were lucky to be staying in the area, with a Friday night included in our stopover, therefore we were not going to argue with local knowledge recommending this as the venue for Friday Night dinner & drinks.

Loved how the family were your hosts for the evening and we were surprised at how busy this little venue was.   What a great idea to convert an old hops barn into an awesome venue!   With tables, lounge area and bar stools there’s something here for everyone.   Subtle lighting, highlights the wooden interior.   On a cold winters night, this venue was not only warmly inviting but very homely in its feel.   Those family members who were operating the venue tonight were simply awesome.  Personalised friendly helpful service.  Going out of their way to make your experience even more pleasurable, even if that meant sharing a drink with patrons at the bar.  Loved that touch!I chose the lamb salad which was absolutely devine.  I’m not a big beetroot fan, however, combined with the lamb and salad, plus not too much beetroot, I have to admit, it did partner well with the overall dish.

Hubby tried the Scotch Fillet and loved it…..

How delicious does this beef and fried potatoes look?   Like a roast vege salad – don’t tell Hubby he actually had a salad :).

We were lucky this worked into a Friday night, however it if doesn’t for you, make sure you visit the Moutere Hills Vineyard and Cafe.  Overall the whole venue has had a lot of thought and hard work put into it.   Their wines are certainly worth tasting, very nice.  Stop by for a visit, you won’t be disappointed.

Nelson Area – New Zealand

Our drive to Nelson was via the Wairau Valley, with a visit to Saint Arnaud.  Near St Arnaud, lies the Rainbow Skified.  As we rounded a corner towards St Arnaud, it was very fitting to see a Rainbow over the its namesake Skifield!

You can’t drive this way through to the province of Nelson, without a stop at Lake Rotoiti which is only a mere few kilometres past the turnoff to Nelson.   Right in the township of St Arnaud is the entry to the Lake.  Very popular in the summer, with the area offering  incredible photo opportunities at any time of the year.

Today the wind cut right through to the bone marrow, even with layers of clothing.  Only the residents seem unperturbed, but then I guess if you’re a somewhat portly duck with a thick coat of feathers, who has become accustomed to the weather, it probably isn’t an issue.There was no shortage of ducks and drakes with a sprinkling of swans.   All so used to interacting with humans, they didn’t bother to get out of your way.   Obviously so well fed, there were no demands for food, although I’m sure if food was offered to any of this lot, it would be consumed forthwith.

We stopped off for a warming cuppa at the servo in St Arnaud.  Elaine’s Cafe was warm and well sheltered from the bitter wind.   I’m sure those outdoor tables would be very inviting in the summer, this time however, we barely noted them, scurrying past to enter the warm building.Aaah, so much better!   Our sneaky morning tea was simply delicious, and did I mention warming? ??   Down to earth service, hot, hot drinks, delicious food,  and the topper for me, tea leaves instead of tea bags.  Well done!

Continuing our drive towards Nelson, we were immensely happy to be encased in a warm vehicle again, having been warmed to the core with the morning tea stopover.  Our next couple of days in Nelson included a nice drive around the area.

First stop, Tahunanui Beach, with sand stretching towards the port and Nelson city providing a backdrop, there is a lot to see around this area.   In the summer this is another popular area, overflowing with tourists and locals alike.   Swimming slides, playgrounds, Natureland, plus the bonus of this fabulous beach.  Tahunanui has plenty for all.   For those wanting a nice stroll and peace & quiet, then winter time seemed to be the time to visit.  Very few people around and still those fabulous views.walk and photo shootAfter a quick walk  and photo shoot, we headed into the city itself, looking for somewhere nice for lunch.  Today’s choice was a neat little venue, Sprig and Fern, in the main city itself.   Here $10 meals were on offer which saw hubby indulging in one of his favourites, bangers & mash.Keep in mind it was winter during our visit, in fact the middle of August.   Therefore you may consider the next decision somewhat strange.  Off to visit Mapua, were informed that this was the place to enjoy an awesome ice cream. Ok why not.  Let’s do it!Loved this ice cream!  As we watched the local ferry battle the outgoing tide whilst returning from Rabbit Island, we consumed these delightful treats from Alberta’s at Mapua Wharf.  Yes I’m cold now, but it was nice!

Mapua is a beautiful area.  Clean, tidy with a delightful wharf, a short little ferry trip over to rabbit island and overall a nice clean part of the Nelson/Tasman province to visit.   We were informed there is a bicycle track which runs from Nelson city through to Rabbit Island. Here the ferry meets you and delivers you in a quick few minutes to Mapua Wharf.  Fabulous idea for those who enjoy their cycling. Keep this in mind cyclists!

Before we returned to base, our local guides took us for a scenic drive through Kaiteriteri and really, Just look at the sand, this tells the story.  Pure gold.last stop was Marahau. Devoid of human life on the foreshore, peaceful, beautiful.  Before this blog closes, watch for the review on a hidden Upper Moutere  Winery- it’s a gem! 

You need to visit these areas, it’s pure, natural, rugged, and there. It’s New Zealand.

Kaikoura  New Zealand

Boardered by rugged mountains on one side, open ocean stretching further than the eye can see on the other, lies  the township of Kaikoura.  The State Highway runs between the mountain range and the sea, providing access to Kaikoura from the South and the North.  

With limited time to spare, we chose a day trip from Blenheim to Kaikoura.  A very easy day drive, less than 2 hours each way.  However if you have a little more time, make this stunning area a place to stop over.

Coming in from the North, we were greeted with spectacular scenery, as in the photos.   Suddenly from a road winding next to the sea, we turned the corner onto a straight, where your first reaction is “Wow”!  Really the photos do not do the area justice especially as sheer, snow topped mountains sprang into view.

With its name meaning “Meal of Crayfish”, it is no wonder Kaikoura is renown for its Crayfish.  Unfortunately for Hubby it was the wrong time of year for the fresh Crayfish however, so he missed out on this round.  Next visit though, we will ensure we have better timing to enjoy the fresh ones!Time to stretch the legs, with a wander on the foreshore to drink in the beauty of these vistas, before strolling back through the township itself.  Luckily for us we had chosen one of the most beautiful days to visit.  Yes it was chilly, however the sea itself stretched out before us, amazingly flat with the smallest waves lazily lapping the sandy beach.

Another plus was the sheer lack of people enjoying the area.   Certainly nothing was crowded here, although this may be different at times of the high tourist seasons.   After walking up an appetite, it was time to seek a venue for lunch.

The Main Street was sprinkled with cafes, a few were shut for the off season, one pub didn’t actually open until 3pm.  We did however decide upon the Adelphi Hotel.  Here the welcoming, enclosed balcony looked like a nice sunny, sheltered place away from the chill breeze.  Both of us decided upon the Blue cod, one battered with mash, one pan fried.

We made the right choice, both of these meals were delicious!  The pan fried blue cod was delightfully light and a pleasure to eat.   Hubby loved his battered cod and, thankfully, assisted with the consumption of my chips.

Our decision to enjoy a quiet meal and drink in the Adelphi was a good choice.   Here you could watch the world go by, without feeling cold.  In fact the winter sun rays filtering through the window, warmed you through to the bone marrow.

Eventually it was time to head back to Blenheim.   As much as we had enjoyed our outing, we just did have the time to linger.  However if you do, there are a number of activities you can check out in the local area.    

Our last stop after leaving the township, was at the Ohau Point Seal Colony.  With a moving canvas of slippery seal bodies, the seal colony is entertaining and only requires a stop on the side of the highway.  We could have watched these amusing creatures for longer, if it weren’t for the sun dropping behind the mountain, causing the air temperature to rapidly drop.  Still, during the time we were there, we did see a rock pool full of baby seals, playing, ducking, diving and amusing themselves, whilst the majority of adults caught up up on some sleep.Some were too tired to make it very far, simply resting on the nearest rock…

Others chose a more comfortable setting…Pay a visit to Kaikoura, even if it is just a brief stop.  There’s a lot to see, and it strikes you as one of those areas you need to see in all weathers.   As well as the township,  don’t  forget to check out the seals.  Great free entertainment for all!

Marlborough, New Zealand

World renown for Savignon Blanc, green lip mussels, stunning scenery, crayfish, wineries, and more .  This area is a must visit.Like an oil painting, the canvas of mud flats at Havelock, roll into the distance, providing a different view of one of the Sounds entrances.  Every part of region varies greatly.  Here you will find everything from sandy to gravel rugged beaches, rolling foot hills to mountains, beautiful sounds sea waters to pounding coastal waves, long valley roads to those that wind their way around the hills.   As you round every, corner a new vista awaits.

Travel through the Queen Chalotte Drive from Havelock to Picton, ensuring you allow plenty of time to stop along the way/. You will have to stop to drink in the pure beauty of the area.   As you wind your way through the Drive to Picton, the passing scenery constantly changes from bays to hilltop views, even a sprinkling of paddocks.  To miss this drive would be a shame, it does give you an idea of how the Sounds are  formed.

Crystal blue waters host the yachts and boats moored near the cosy, nestled houses.  Even in the winter the chill, the Sounds look amazing.   Every twist or corner, each bay fills your eyes with new vistas.And so it continues through to the outlook overlooking Picton.  Time this right and you will have photo opportunities with either one or both ferries docked in the Port.Acres upon acres of vineyards occupy Marlborough.  As far as the eye can see, rows of  vines stand proud against their wires.

 And yest, the backdrop behind some of these rows, or their neighbouring paddocks, can be breathtaking, to say the least.The pure diversity of this region is not only in the surrounding areas, but in the produce arising from this area.   

 If you’re a wine buff, time your visit with the annual Wine & Food Festival in February.   Popular with locals and visitors alike, the festival showcases Matlborough and its produce.

Enjoy your visit!

Zealong Tea – Gordonton, New Zealand

Imagine our surprise when we stumbled upon a tea farm as we were exploring the Waikaro region recently.   Now if you know me well, then you will definitely be well aware I drink three things, water, wine and green/herbal teas.  Only a couple of times a year would I try a juice, milkshake or smoothie.  Sorry coffee but I’m just not a fan.

With some spare time up our sleeves we stopped into this complex to take a look.  What wonderful, inviting staff we encountered at the retail building.   Here I was provided with an intriguing insight into this operation.   We also discovered this complex had only opened a couple of weeks previously.   What wonderful luck on our part!

This proud fellow is one of the carpark guards.  Someone has put a lot of work and thought into the sculptures which have been set in different areas, many depicting the story of tea.

A line of teapots and matching cups in front of the restaurant carpark was just fascinating.  Loved how one end had the dragons head, and the other end his tail.  

One piece of advice we were given by staff, was to visit the onsite restaurant where we would be able to trial their tea,and enjoy a bite to eat if we so desired.   Hubbys ears pricked up at the mention of food, plus having recently branched away from his normal caramel lattes into trialling chai tea, he was interested in stopping by.

Wow!  What an impressive place the Zealong Tea Estate Restauarnt is.  Comfortable, high class surroundings, with a fabulously relaxing view across the estate and dam.

Again I’m going to mention the staff here, service was of an extremely high standard, impeccable, yet still friendly, professional and very helpful.  Certainly nice to be in such fabulous surroundings, and made to feel at home.

After perusing the menu, our wonderful attendant had recommended we trial the high tea as there were so many things we wanted to try!  Surprisingly, Hubby agreed.   With our separate tea choices, we had been shown how to pour and brew our teas, in our  personal cups & strainers.  These partnered with  a very large teapot of hot water, which nested in a box upon its own burner, next to the table.  Each person received four cups of tea, quite generous in itself.

The food was delectable, tea was most enjoyable, and, to hear Hubby rate this as one of the highlights of our trip was fantastic.  I think the fact this was such an unexpected find, certainly had us come in with no expectations.   Next time we visit, we will join one of the informative tea tours.  

If you are a tea lover then you will love this place.  Even if you’re not, go give it a try, there’s a wine list and other beverages to choose from.  We did purchase a sample of the teas, which are enjoying sampling.   A shame this place isn’t closer for us, but I guess it means another visit to NZ!    We will be back…..

Allan Scott Winery

Marlborough.  A name and place world renown for wine, seafood and stunning scenery.  Before our recent visit to the area, we were advised by a number of people, both local and visitors to the region, “You cannot visit Marborough without going to Allan Scotts for a meal”.   The choice of cuisine in Marlborough is broad ranging, to say the least, however, we were told the Seafood Chowder here was the very best!

With so many recommendations, comes curiosity, we had to try this venue ourselves.  And, with a philosophy like the one above, how could I possibly resist now!

With lunch comes the opportunity for a free wine tasting, to aid you in deciding what you would prefer to partner your meal with.  With such a broad range to choose from, including coffee flavoured wine, you will find wines to partner to your meal.  Oops that should be wine however, the final decision can be difficult ….

Boasting a massive alfresco dining area, indoor and even upstairs seating, there was plenty of space in a venue where the ambiance was superb.  We chose the outdoor area, as the winters sun chose to shine today, and the outdoor seating is well sheltered from those winter breezes with a nip of chill in their tips.

Time to dine.  My salmon meal above was superb to say the very least. Intrigued by the fabulous pops of colour and texture throughout the dish, it seemed such a shame to spoil this work of art by eating it, however, I did and was not disappointed in any way.

And to the seafood chowder.  Definitely declared by Hubby as the best ever!   I very much doubt there was anything left in the bowl to wash out as he literally cleaned up every single drop. Full of seafood, not just a few bits floating around, deliciously thick and cteamy, Hubby savoured every morsel.

Staff here was so very helpful, friendly,  and catered well to our group.  Late next year we happen to have a wedding in the area and look forward to returning!  

In the meantime though we cannot recommend a visit here highly enough.  Now a new challenge has been set, between now and October next  year, Hubby will be trying to seek out a seafood chowder to better this one….are you up for the challenge??

Bamboo Gardens Chinese Restaurant ~ Blenheim

For many years Bamboo Gardens Chinese Restaurant has been a part of Blenheim’s restaurant culture.   Having risen from the ashes after fire destroyed the original restaurant, there appears to have been no long term damage to the popularity of this venue.

On this occasion, we chose one of the group set menus priced at $38 per person , which began with this delicious chicken & corn soup.  Thick, full of chicken and corn, this tasty soup was a nice start to our meal.

Prawn dumplings with sweet n sour wontons, followed the soup .  These were what you would expect taste and presentation wise. 

Nine dishes made up the main meal, with usual fried rice plus variations of fish, chicken, duck and pork dishes. Every dish was fresh, tasty and filling.

The presentation of this crispy duck was delightful, plus it was one of the most popular dishes at our table.   Service throughout was polite, efficient and at no time did we find service lacking in any way.

Each group meal finishes with an ic cream sundae, which of its your birthday, will arrive with a small candle😄.

Having many years on the Blenheim restaurant scene under their belt, keep this one in mind if you’re looking for a Chinese meal in Blenheim.

The Slip Inn – Havelock South Island NZ 

Slip on in to the Slip Inn at Havelock for a tasty meal or simply to enjoy a coffee with friends.

On this particular occasion, we had a large group arrive within an hour of breakfast menu closing.  A quick query to the kitchen and there was no problem ordering from either breakfast or lunch menus.  Not a lot of dining venues would accomodate this, however there simply didn’t appear to be any issue at all.  Impressive in itself.

For those who are not aware, Havelock and surrounding Sounds areas are renown for  beautifully fresh green lipped mussels.  This mussel chowder was a popular choice at our table, and I’m told, a most enjoyable dish.

In keeping with the mussel theme, I trialled the mussel fritters. A most delicious dish, certainly full, juicy, tasty and nicely offset with the crunchy salad.  

Other meals included breakfast meals which were all well presented, fresh and tasty.

Given the standard of service, delicious meals, inviting venue all topped off with a stunning view across this country marina, you really should add this one to your must visit list while in the Marlborough area.

With a boat ramp located next to the outdoor seating, there would no doubt be plenty of free entertainment.  Anyone who has sat and watched a boat ramp will know exactly what I mean 😄.  Don’t miss a chance to Slip on Inn by, you won’t regret it!

Raupo – Blenheim, New Zealand

After a flîght from Auckland, we were treated to a lovely evening at Raupo, located in the main town area of Blenheim.  Overlooking the fountain sprouting from the Taylor River, Raupo is a comfortable restaurant, with the welcoming open fire in the corner, and friendly helpful staff.

Here we enjoyed the comfort on this chill winters evening complimented with lovely meals.

This scallops ravioli dish was divine albeit presented very differently to what I expected.

Chilli & Lime Prawn Salad with just the right amount of chilli ensuring it was not to hot.

Crispy rolled pork belly partnered with a crunchy coleslaw
The salmon fillet was also a hit at our table, how could it not be when paired with these wonderful mix of winter veges

Affagatto Dessert only because dinner should finish an essential dessert!

Thank you to Raupo staff for an awesome dining experience, complimented with fantastic service, food and fabulous company.  Definitely check this one out when it Blenheim,  not one to walk past!