11 May 2018

Marlborough, New Zealand and Tetiaroa, French Polynesia – March 2018

I was beyond excited to visit two of my favorite South Pacific destinations, and now that the trip is over, I can confidently say it lived up to all expectations. I spent time hiking and wine tasting in the Marlborough region of New Zealand followed by some rest and relaxation at The Brando, an exclusive resort on the island of Tetiaroa in French Polynesia. I had been wanting to personally visit and share my review of The Brando for quite some time, so this was truly a dream bucket list-type trip and it just continued my love affair with each of these destinations.

The first leg of the trip started off with the long journey to Auckland. I chose to fly the direct route from Los Angeles on American Airlines, as I used my systemwide upgrades to jump from Premium Economy to Business Class. The route is flown in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, so the jet is new and extremely comfortable. After a long day of traveling to Los Angeles, an 11pm departure, copious amounts of champagne at the club, and lay flat seats, I very easily got a solid 8-9 hours of sleep on the flight. So, when we arrived in Auckland, I was well rested and ready to go. Of course, that ready to go attitude was put to the test when we found out our flight to Blenheim was delayed by four hours. Thankfully, we were able to wait out our delay in the domestic Air New Zealand lounge.

Upon arrival into Blenheim, we were supposed to have met up with Coast to Coast Helicopter for our transfer to Elevation Lodge. However, the delay in arrival along with deteriorating weather caused us to keep on the ground for the 30 minute drive to the Lodge. Sarah and Alister, the owners of Elevation Lodge, also own Coast to Coast, so arranging helicopter transfers or tours during a stay at Elevation is easy! If you are unable to fit in a helicopter ride, the views at Elevation will give you an aerial view that is a close second. Elevation is a B&B type accommodation, so you are essentially personal guests of Sarah and Alister. They are fantastic hosts, ensuring that your personal preferences are met throughout your stay. They prefer to have guests in their home who want to interact with them so they can share their love of the area with you. So, when staying at Elevation, you must love cats (they have one very spoiled baby!) and good conversation over a bottle or two of local wine. We only had one night at Elevation, but on our way to our next stop, Sarah took us to Karaka Point, which requires a short hike to a stunning look out over the Marlborough Sounds. We were thankful to get a glimpse of the views to come later in the trip!

After enjoying the views at Karaka, we were dropped off at Escape to Picton for a tour of the property and lunch at their top rated restaurant. Escape to Picton is a boutique property overlooking the Picton marina. The location is one of the best when needing a place to stay prior to heading out to Marlborough Sounds. The property, which was once a bank, only has three suites, each with a different vibe. Chose from a simple sea room with tasteful coastal decor, or an expansive modern suite with a chic lounge, gas fireplace, and two person shower. The owner of the property is also the head chef of the property’s restaurant. The restaurant focuses on using only fresh South Island ingredients, so it’s a truly local experience. In between meals, the hotel also offers various wine tour activities, all through their own tour company, Escape to Marlborough.

Following our afternoon in Picton, we were transferred to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre in Blenheim for a private tour of the museum. As an avid early aviation enthusiast, the museum was my husband’s one and only “must do” on this trip. I am mostly interested in modern aviation, so I was more intrigued by the collaboration between Sir Peter Jackson, Weta Workshop and WigNut Films. Omaka is home to one of the most extensive early aviation collections in the world, but what makes this collection so unique is how it is presented. The collection is arranged to tell a story, and in some cases, re-create actual historical events. Weta Workshop, located in Wellington, is known for their extraordinarily life like mannequins and props. The display at Omaka is an excellent showcase of their talent.

Following our visit to Omaka, we were transferred to our next hotel by Duncan of Blenheim Shuttles. Duncan is the owner of this small local business as well as the primary driver. As such, as you receive exceptional personal service on each transfer. Our short and prompt shuttle service took us to Chateau Marlborough, which is a larger boutique property located in the heart of downtown Blenheim. The property has 80 rooms ranging from a studio to a penthouse suite, as well as a day spa, pool, conference rooms, and a well reviewed restaurant. This property is an excellent base to explore the entire area and presents a great overall value.

The next day was what I was most excited about – the full day wine tour! We had a private luxury wine tour arranged through Marlborough Tour Company.  The Marlborough Tour Company offers a variety of wine tours as well as cruises around the gorgeous Marlborough Sounds and even options to Nelson and Kaikoura. Our guide, Allan, picked us up in a Mercedes Sedan and chauffeured us around to several wineries – Saint Clair, Brancott, and Cloudy Bay. A typical tour would offer you the opportunity to explore the wineries of your choice, however, a very special day was planned for me (note- I can plan the same day for you, too!)

More information to follow. Please contact me if you have any questions.

***As a travel agent, I received special considerations on this trip. The flights were arranged as a member of the general public.***

Meet me

    • My name is Janelle and I'm a luxury travel consultant with Luxe Island Escapes by Easy Escapes Travel and an avid traveler!

      I specialize in customized luxury travel to the South Pacific, whether it be a quick get-a-way, honeymoon, or a bucket list adventure. In addition to being a Certified Tahiti Specialist®, I am also a certified specialist for Fiji, The Cook Islands, New Zealand and Australia. To learn more about me, my services, and my certifications, please visit the About page.

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