If you’re looking for some child-friendly wineries, then Marlborough in New Zealand is a great option. You don’t need to be a wine expert to know that Marlborough is one of the premium wine regions of the world. Known as the New World’s answer to the Loire Valley in France, 75% of New Zealand’s total wine production comes from Marlborough, so you know you have come to the right place for wine tasting. And if you are a Sauvignon Blanc fan like me, then you are really in luck, as Sauvignon Blanc accounts for 85% of all Marlborough’s wine output.
However, with more than 150 wineries to choose from, knowing where to start can be a challenge… so here we narrow it down to five of the best family-friendly wineries in Marlborough, New Zealand.
Wairau River was our first stop in Marlborough. We had just driven nearly two hours through torrential rain from Kaikoura, but as we arrived in the Marlborough region, the clouds cleared and bright sunshine welcomed us – they do say that Blenheim is one of the three sunniest places in New Zealand. So we were delighted to be able to head out into the garden of this beautiful winery and take in the views across the surrounding vineyards to the mountains.
Large picnic tables adorn the lawn of this laidback family-run winery, where you can tuck into a selection of dishes such as Duck Confit, Mussel Chowder, Double Baked Blue Cheese Souffle, or go casual with burgers and pizzas – all paired with fabulous wine of course! There is plenty of grass for the kids to run around on, and even a petanque pit to keep them entertained.
It seems a bit of a cliché to visit Cloudy Bay when you’re in Marlborough. But on the other hand, you can’t come to Marlborough and NOT visit Cloudy Bay, right? And it just so happens to be one of the most child-friendly wineries we visited.
Arguably Marlborough’s most famous wine label, Cloudy Bay has helped forge Marlborough’s stellar reputation for its Sauvignon Blanc throughout the world, and it graces the wine lists of restaurants in over 30 countries today.
If you visit on a sunny day, you are in for a treat. There is plenty of lounge seating on the decking, which overlooks a vast lawn with swinging egg chairs and shady tress. They also have croquet, petanque and various bats and balls for the kids to play with. The menu is a simple selection of nibbles and ‘raw’ plates such as freshly shucked oysters, cheeses, salads and snacks – and of course ice-cream for the kids.
My only issue with Cloudy Bay is that they are one of the only wineries in the area to charge for tastings. Considering this is one of the most successful wineries in New Zealand, you would think that parent company LVMH could stump up a few bottles for tastings every day. But such is the arrogance of a company whose reputation ensures that people will flock through their doors no matter what.
Owned by Doctors John and Brigid Forrest, Forrest is a charming little Marlborough winery, set within a beautiful park setting. The landscaped gardens include willow trees and a duck pond, with picnic benches and beanbags for relaxing on.
The staff are super friendly as they guide you through the three labels – Forrest, Doctor’s and their Otago label Tatty Bogler, named after a Scottish scarecrow, paying homage to the Scottish settlers of the Otago region. A selection of picnic nibbles are on offer, including cheeses, antipasto and smoked mussels – and even better – there’s a toy box in the tasting room.
Wither Hills was one of our favourite wineries for visiting with the kids. Nobody batted an eyelid when my two kids emptied the toy box in the middle of the tasting room, and staff went out of their way to find a table for us, even though we had made no reservation, it was a public holiday and they were also catering for a wedding.
The setting is fabulous (no wonder they are popular with weddings), with sweeping views over the vineyards, and a lovely grassy courtyard filled with beanbags and umbrella shading. The menu is filled with fresh, seasonal, local produce such as Wakanui Ribeye, Waitoa Free Range Chicken, Cloudy Bay Clams and fresh market fish. Plus, their Sauvignon Blanc was the best I tried in the Marlborough region for less than $25.00 a bottle. Definitely a winner.
Probably the best meal we had in Marlborough was at Hans Herzog. I am trying to forget the fact that my toddler had a one-hour-long teething-inspired tantrum and we had to take it in turns to sit in the carpark with him so as not to spoil the tranquility of the restaurant. The Cellar Door Bistro at this organic winery is in such a beautiful garden setting, bursting with roses, lavender and wisteria, that you feel you have been transported to the South of France – where of course toddlers don’t throw tantrums.
Treat yourself to a Chateaubriand or a Duo of Canterbury Lamb, while the kids tuck into fish and chips or explore the nooks and crannies of the landscaped gardens. Wash it all down with some of New Zealand’s most highly acclaimed wines – Hans Herzog boasts an impressive collection of over 29 different grape varieties. My husband still raves about their Montepulciano (even though he can’t pronounce it!)
Love wine tasting? Check out our article Child-friendly Wine Tasting in the Margaret River.
Heading to New Zealand’s South Island? Check out our favourite Things to Do in Queenstown with a Toddler.