Fri, Dec 22, 2023 7:00 AM

Travel Feature: East Coast Escape


Tessa Jaine

Famous for its breathtaking landscapes, rugged beaches, and world-class vineyards, the East Coast of the Top of the South Island offers a captivating blend of natural beauty and cultural richness.

Beginning from the north, make a stop in the township of Seddon. Well known for its tranquil rural setting, with rolling hills and long rows of vineyards, it is also worth visiting for its shops, cafes, pubs, walks and gardens. An ideal place to stop, savour, stay and enjoy the rural atmosphere.

Travel south, down the coast running alongside the stunning Awatere Valley. Enjoy the ocean views, picnic at the beaches and take some snaps from the lookout points. You might even want to pitch the tent at one of the many seaside campgrounds. Soak up the coastal town charm as you pull into Kaikōura, the crayfish capital of New Zealand. Be amazed at the mecca of wildlife. From the shores you’ll spot the seals, or for the more adventurous, head out to sea with an experienced tour guide. Dine on seafood delicacies at one of the many bars and restaurants.

It’s worth looping back to the north the long way. Rounding the Awatere Valley, you’ll head inland towards Hanmer Springs. From here, take the ultimate adventure and spend a couple of days following the Molesworth home.

The East Coast beckons to those seeking an immersive and unforgettable travel experience. Read on to find out about some of the stops you should make along the way.

Main street charm in Seddon

Hair and Country Living in the old post office building on the main road through Seddon, is a delightful combination of hair salon and country gift boutique.
Owner JoJo Landman and her husband, Bevan, moved from the North Island to Seddon two years ago with their three horses, drawn by the magnificent countryside and the friendly people.

“I have always been a hairdresser and the town didn’t have a salon so it seemed a great idea to open one so I could continue doing what I love in a wonderful part of the country,” she says. In addition to the hair salon offering a complete range of hairdressing services, JoJo has incorporated an array of beautiful and quirky
gifts. “The idea behind that was to save people having to drive to Kaikoura or Blenheim when they need a gift or treat for someone,” she explains.

With a passion for everything Christmas, the store is brimming with decorations. For many years, JoJo imported exquisite European Christmas ornaments which aren’t found in many other places such as those made from recycled tin. “I love the reaction I get from people who discover treasures like these as they explore the store,” she says.

Tūpari Wines Cellar Door. Photo: BareKiwi

Taste Tūpari Wines

The Turnbull and Doonan families farm in the Upper Awatere Valley, have established vineyards producing an outstanding collection of Tūpari wines.
In Seddon, they've created a delightful haven around the historic center of the village – the railway. The Station encompasses a café, cellar door, event space, The Green, and the Tui Garden, forming a destination where the heritage Marlborough Flyer steam train regularly brings passengers—an experience internationally recognized as one of the top ten train journeys in Australasia.

Tūpari Wines are renowned for their quality and flavours, reflecting the unique characteristics of the Upper Awatere Valley. The name Tūpari, meaning cliff or precipice in Te Reo Māori, represents the land that shapes these wines. Complimentary wine tasting is available in the original ticket office, now transformed into Tūpari’s cellar door.

The onsite café will reopen in early December, eagerly awaited by locals looking forward to delicious eats and excellent coffee. Enjoy the warm Awatere days by dining among the potager gardens or in The Glade, conveniently fenced for children, or bask in the sunny charm of the café interior. If you are looking for an event space within The Station, The Waiting Room offers gracious, old-world ambiance with modern conferencing facilities. Gorgeous Edwardian styling provides an elegantly relaxed venue for business or fun!

Although you can visit The Station anytime by car, there is nothing quite like arriving in grand heritage style by steam train. The Marlborough Flyer makes regular visits, carrying cruise ship passengers (schedule available on The Station website). Check Super Sunday events, which provide locals an opportunity to ride the steam train.

The ultimate in convenience

James and Kym Bishop are the proud owners of New World Kaikoura. They take pride in offering exceptional service to both locals and tourists alike and are particularly excited about the success of their online ordering service. "With many visitors coming to explore our beautiful and unique part of the world, as well as locals planning days out with family and friends, we realized it would be beneficial to offer a delivery and click-and-collect service so that people can order in advance of a trip here or before a special event," James says. As a full-service supermarket, including a deli section with a range of pre-made salads, ready-made cheese platters, seafood, meats, and an array of beverages, the New World Kaikoura team can put together any orders customers require, with just 12 hours’ notice. “We've even been told that our bakery makes the best ciabatta in the South Island, so that definitely needs to go on your shopping list."

Delivery can be made to homes, motels, hotels, or wherever people are staying, in advance of their arrival if necessary. It is all part of James and Kym’s service ethos, which aims to make life easier for people to get out and enjoy the region to the fullest.

Heaven on Earth at Maruia

Nestled alongside the Maruia River, the awardwinning Maruia River Retreat, up to 2.5 hours from Blenheim, offers an escape from the fast-paced world, allowing guests to reconnect with nature's healing powers. Spanning a two-hundred-hectare private nature estate of high ecological significance, the property is a sanctuary for precious flora, fauna, and wildlife.

Beyond its rejuvenating ambiance, the retreat is increasingly favoured for celebrating special occasions like anniversaries and recovery from illness, providing a unique backdrop for acknowledging life events. It serves as a haven for families and groups of friends seeking connection amid peace and harmony.

The retreat features seven villas, including five Luxe Villas and two one-bedroom Master Villas, accommodating a maximum of twelve guests. Ensuring a tranquil experience, each villa is self-contained with new kitchenettes amidst the forest surroundings.

Culinary delights are integral to the experience, with the gourmet kitchen presenting an international omnivore menu featuring vegetarian, dairy, and gluten-free options. The authentic, seasonal, and nourishing cuisine stands out as a highlight of every stay.

Additional highlights include forest bathing in the river hot tub, a forest sauna, spa/massage therapy options and yoga and mindfulness retreats. For those seeking adventure, activities range from whitewater rafting and kayaking to visits to Maruia Falls and exploring nature trails around Shenandoah, complemented by world-class fly fishing.

Maruia River Retreat, acclaimed as "peace on earth," "truly magical," and an "untouched paradise," has earned recognition from the international Condé Nast Traveler as one of their recommended places to stay.

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