We enjoyed a pleasant crossing of the Cook Strait to return to the North Island. We dove east through the Rimutaka Forest Park, a mountain range with twisting switchback roads full of mid-day traffic. The area is meteorologically isolated, creating a pleasant climate in the Martinborough area but a challenging drive to reach the area.

The small town of Martinborough is known as a weekend destination for wine-tasting excursions. The shaded central square with its old hotel, boutique shops and wine bank provides a quaint setting for a town devoted to wine tourism. A number of small vineyards are within walking distance of the town square and can be easily visited in an afternoon.

Ata Rangi Vineyard was recommended to us, and we enjoyed an interesting private tour and tasting. A visit to Luna Vineyards was next to sample wines that are exported to China.

Olive trees grow along the roads.

An hour’s drive south of Martinborough is the resort town of Lake Ferry and the Cook Strait. This coast is rough surf, huge waves breaking on a stony beach. We spotted a lone fur seal basking in the weak sunshine. The landscape is dramatic cliffs made of layers of clay and rock from long-gone river beds and steep-sided valleys and lowland pastures, dotted with sheep.

A fur seal

Before we left Martinborough, we enjoyed a special treat, a delicious 3-course dinner at Tirohana winery. Even better, van service is provided so we were free to enjoy the cellar’s wonderful vintages.

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