Do you love wine, slower-paced travel, wide-open spaces and breathtaking scenery? When traveling, do you seek out hidden gems in your accommodation options, perhaps indulging in a bit of luxury from time to time? If you answered yes, read on! I am taking you to the southern hemisphere, to discover an enchanting vacation cottage located in Marlborough – New Zealand’s largest premium wine-growing region.
While visiting the south island during my round-the-world journey, with Blenheim as my home base, I had the opportunity to stay at The French Barn, a luxury vacation cottage at The Bell Tower on Dog Point.
Perched atop a hill in the Hawkesbury Valley, surrounded by vineyards in all directions, I felt as though I was the Queen of Marlborough wine country, with The French Barn as my very own castle. During my stay, I was the only person on the property and had complete solitude and privacy in the evenings. (Note: The Bell Tower on Dog Point is a well-appointed boutique bed-and-breakfast, with The French Barn as its self-catering, standalone property.)
April’s autumn colors were vivid and fresh, with blankets of yellow and orange spanning out for miles, and the odd tractor moving up and down the rows of grapeless-vines. The grape harvest had just finished over the previous two weeks and there was a noticeable calmness in the air.
The two-floor French Barn is tastefully decorated in French style, with light-coloured walls, high ceilings, spacious rooms, and plenty of natural light. There are two bedrooms (with super king beds) and two bathrooms (one on each floor), a small basic kitchenette, large dining table and living room, and an outdoor table and barbeque. Cots can be made available should additional sleeping space be required.
What a pleasant surprise to find the kitchenette stocked with a wide selection of complimentary breakfast provisions (many of which were locally produced), including (delicious) poached fruit, yogurt, cheese, crackers, bread cookies, homemade jams, bacon and eggs, assorted beverages and a bottle of Dog Point wine. This was a very appreciated special touch!
Due to The French Barn’s secluded location, guests will need their own transportation to get around. Blenheim is the nearest town, a perfect base for a longer stay in Marlborough and only a leisurely 15-minute drive away. Several rental car companies service the Blenheim airport, while Picton (30 minutes) will have a larger selection to choose from. The Bell Tower also provides two bicycles for guest use. If you’re driving, remember TO KEEP LEFT!
If you have a larger group and require additional space, The Bell Tower on Dog Point operates as a boutique bed-and-breakfast in the main house, with two large and privately situated bedrooms, each with their own bathroom and kitchenette; spacious dining and living areas, including a library/TV room with a wood-burning fireplace; and a beautifully manicured French courtyard. Guests of The French Barn are welcomed to use the public areas of the main house, including the laundry and vegetable garden.
Video Tour of the French Barn (Bell Tower on Dog Point)
Things to Do in Marlborough
Marlborough includes Blenheim, Havelock, Picton, Marlborough Sounds, and the Wine Trail, all of which are within a short driving distance from The Bell Tower. There are “heaps” of activities to fill your days, from hiking or cycling the Queen Charlotte Track or the nearby Wither Hills, to boating and kayaking the Marlborough Sounds, to photography, shopping, and of course, there is no shortage of wining and dining options.
Marlborough is a foodie’s nirvana, with award-winning wineries, gourmet restaurants and other dining options that will be sure to please your taste buds and tummy.
Be sure to visit the Marlborough Official Travel Guide which contains all the details you’ll need to plan your visit, including a listing of current events, accommodation options, suggested itineraries, and direct contact information for the various tour providers and businesses.
For the Winos
Producing over 75% of New Zealand’s wine, with over 140 wineries and 35 cellar doors to visit, Marlborough has much to offer those who appreciate fine wine. While the dominant flagship varietal is Sauvignon Blanc (which makes up 86% of Marlborough’s wine production), many fine Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and other varieties are also produced in the region.
Your visit to Marlborough will be incomplete without taking in at least one wine tour; there is something for all: guided or independent tours (driving and cycling); food and wine tours; cruise and wine tours; private or group tours; deluxe tours (heli wine and dine!); winemaker tours; and half/full/multi-day tours. While many wineries are open to the public, others offer tours and tastings by appointment only. Dog Point, Greywacke and Babich are three such wineries.
Remember to be open and try new things! For over 15 years, I had convinced myself that I disliked Pinot Noir. Knowing that this was one of New Zealand’s specialties, I remained open to the possibilities. At the first sip of Kevin Judd’s Greywacke Pinot Noir, I was converted! It turned out that I enjoyed this particular wine so much that it was the only bottle of wine I brought back with me to Canada after my 10-month long round-the-world journey!
Whether you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle or seeking an extra special getaway, The French Barn will not disappoint. Sit back and relax while sipping a glass or two of award-winning sauvignon blanc or fill your days by exploring the region; the memories of Marlborough will surely leave you with a desire to return.
Open year round, The French Barn’s high season is between October and April; it is recommended to book your stay months in advance. Rates range depending on the number of beds used, starting at CAD$415 ($450NZD) per night. Visit here for more information on The Bell Tower on Dog Point and the surrounding area.
Feel free to leave a comment below!
Note: this story was originally published in the March/April 2016 Issue of Vacation Rental Travels Magazine. Stay tuned for more from my round-the-world travels….