Rachel Grunwell

Rachel Grunwell is a fitness writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Marlborough: Sounds idyllic

Rachel Grunwell enjoys a weekend escape in Marlborough.
The Saint Clair Half Marathon takes runners through some of  the region's wineries.
The Saint Clair Half Marathon takes runners through some of the region's wineries.

There's so much to see and savour in Marlborough. I managed to fit in a vineyard run, a cruise to glimpse wildlife and see salmon flipping out of the water on a salmon farm in Queen Charlotte Sound, and of course, relish the fine food and wine the area is renowned for.

I'm on the Odyssea launch, bubbles in hand, looking out over the sparkling, aqua-coloured waters of the Queen Charlotte Sound. As the giant double-decker luxury boat pulls up to the salmon and mussel farms, everyone starts to get excited. Not about the seafood but about a group of seals in the sea with their flippers waving out of the water. Cameras go crazy and everyone acts like they're at a wedding. I snapped several frames of those show-off marine mammals, too - I'm a sucker for cuteness.

What a thing to see in the wild. You're almost guaranteed to see seals by the salmon farms on the Odyssea's lunch cruise, says skipper Ryan Godsiff.

"They're often hanging around and tempting themselves with the salmon," he says.

Dolphins, penguins and orcas are sometimes spotted around these waters, too. You never know how much wildlife you might glimpse.

Godsiff says tourists sometimes ask him "how many dolphins do you think we'll see?" He responds, chuckling, that "I'll use my phone to call the dial-a dolphin-line".

But seriously, what he loves about his job is that every day you never know what beautiful sight will delight. He vows that his clients see boundless beauty on every cruise. Oh, and birds.

We stop for 30 minutes so clients can opt to walk through the Kaipupu Point Sounds Wildlife Sanctuary, a safe haven for wildlife on a peninsula near Picton.

Here, you might see bush robins, saddlebacks, kereru, weka, silver eye, grey warbler or fantails. I see and hear tui and the beloved bellbird and then my breath is taken away, not from all the walking steeply up hill; it's the views.

Shakespeare Bay is captivating with its sparkling water and coastal bush.

Volunteers work here daily to ensure this place is predator and pest-free and Godsiff tells us they hope that one day the kiwi will roam free here.

Other highlights include Godsiff and his crew stopping the boat to educate us about the salmon and mussel farms. Some people choose to get off the boat for a short walk around the floating farms to feed the fish. Then the crew whips up a lunch and Godsiff cooks his special Marlborough salmon fillets on a barbecue, accompanied by a zingy citrus aioli sauce.

Also for lunch are salads and vegetable dishes, fresh ciabatta bread, chicken yakitori skewers and mussels with fresh wedges of lemon.

My trip to Marlborough is part of a "run-cation" - a holiday planned around a run/walk event - organised by GetRunning Tours, which specialises in half-marathon and marathon tours within New Zealand and overseas.

GetRunning Tours kicked off in 2008 after Gaz Brown co-wrote Short Fat Chick to Marathon Runner with Herald on Sunday columnist and Newstalk ZB host Kerre McIvor. McIvor co-hosts the tours and entertains with her crazy humour.

On board the Odyssea she donned an apron with the crew and helped serve lunch - just for a giggle - regaling everyone on board with tales from talkback and her adventures running with different groups.

The boat tour and McIvor's charm are just the cherry on top of this tour.

The excuse for the getaway (at least to my husband) was running the Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon through some of the 140 registered wineries of the region, 40 of which have open cellar doors for you to visit and sample the wines, post-run.

This scenic event is in an area renowned for producing award-winning sauvignon blanc and is so popular it sells out fast.

Walkers and runners go through numerous vineyards and are spoiled with locally produced food to eat along the course as bands play to entertain them.

At the finish line, every participant gets a bottle of Saint Clair wine and it's a festival type atmosphere with food, coffee, music and wine stalls. It's a great time of year to visit this area.

The run took me under two hours so the rest of the weekend was about enjoying the region and its offerings.

The tour was based at the boutique Vintners Hotel in Blenheim, nestled within a vineyard and with rugged mountains as a backdrop - bliss.

The hotel is just one of 143 accommodation options in the area to choose from if you drive and catch a ferry to this part of the country by yourself, from backpacker and holiday parks and houses to lodges and even farm stays.

We also drove to the Moa Brewery in Blenheim to sample the liquid menu.

On the Sunday we had some free time, so in the sunshine I hit the small streets of Picton, drank coffee and enjoyed looking at the sea.

It's so pretty and there's so much to do. I'd love to return and sea-kayak, bike, do more walks and devour more of the gourmet food and wine around town and in those leafy vineyards.

Odyssea launch skipper Ryan Godsiff's NZ King Salmon recipe

Zest of a lemon
Pinch of flaky sea salt
1 tsp brown sugar
Salmon fillet
Citrus aioli

1. Rub the zest, salt and sugar over the flesh side of the salmon fillet. The salt helps the fillet retain its natural oils and the sugar caramelises when cooked. Chill for 90 minutes.

2. Barbecue both sides of the salmon fillet and serve with citrus aioli.

NEED TO KNOW

Pounding the pavement: Check out up-coming GetRunning guided half-marathon and marathon tours including New York (November 2), Queenstown (November 22) and Paris (April 12). The next Saint Clair Vineyard Half-Marathon is on May 9, next year. It's a beautiful and flat course and an "experience" that walkers/runners of all abilities can enjoy.

Accommodation: The Vintners Hotel, set in a 2.43ha vineyard, features luxury suites with kitchenettes or you can dine in its restaurant.

Marlborough Travel Tours and Cruises: See marlboroughtravel.co.nz.

In Blenheim: Visit the Moa Brewery.

Further information See lovemarlborough.co.nz.

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