For many travellers, Marlborough and Nelson will be their introduction to what South Islanders refer to as the ‘Mainland’. Having left windy Wellington, and made a white-knuckled crossing of Cook Strait, folk are often surprised to find the sun shining and the temperature 10°C warmer.
These top-of-the-South neighbours have much in common beyond an amenable climate: both boast renowned coastal holiday spots, particularly the Marlborough Sounds, Abel Tasman National Park and Kaikoura. There are two other national parks (Kahurangi and Nelson Lakes) amid more mountain ranges than you can poke a Leki stick at.
The two regions also have an abundance of produce, from game and seafood to summer fruits, and most famously the grapes that work their way into the wine glasses of the world’s finest restaurants. Keep your penknife and picnic set at the ready.