“You go out under a painted brush sky, and you can see for miles… then these New Zealand migratory birds pass by, or drop down in front of you for a feeding session."
top Must Dos
Drink craft beer & eat pizza
Wither Hills Farm Park
Kayaking the Wairau Lagoons on a balmy evening means views to Wellington, sightings of extraordinary birdlife, and a seldom found peace. “You go out under a painted brush sky, and you can see for miles, right up to the head of the Wairau and over to Wellington,” says Will Parsons of Driftwood Ecotours.
“Then these New Zealand migratory birds pass by, or drop down in front of you for a feeding session.” There are 90 species of birds in the wetlands, including godwits, herons and royal spoonbills, but the “majesty” of the lagoons is as much about their history as it is their wildlife. The remnants of fish traps, built here by New Zealand’s early Maori settlers, remain, along with stories of moa hunters. “It’s beautiful and it’s empty and it’s spiritual. A lot of people are moved by it, but they don’t know what they are moved by.”
Considering the history of a place, along with its geology and wildlife, frequently yields a more memorable experience, says Will, who urges visitors to “turn over the stone to look underneath” while in Marlborough. That might mean exploring the KT boundary at certain places on Marlborough’s east coast – marking the mass extinction of non-avian dinosaurs – or walking from Marfells beach to Mussel Point – a place of early Maori occupation.
The east coast, where Will’s family roots are, has a rich geology and rich history of pioneer farmers, who forged roads through the mountain ranges to get to Canterbury, he says. He suggests visitors explore the Wither Hills, the Awatere Valley, and the beautiful Sawcut Gorge in the Ure Valley. “It’s the best short walk in New Zealand, in my opinion.”