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‘Heart of Marlborough’

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By Morgane Solignac

The sights and sounds of locomotive travel are making a comeback in time for the returning cruise ship passengers, with the heritage steam train taking them to the Awatere Valley for the first time, and showcasing “more of Marlborough”.

Pounamu Tourism Group managing director Paul Jackson, who operates the Marlborough Flyer service, said adding Seddon and the Awatere Valley to their tour was making the excursion more spectacular than before. We give them a train journey that goes deeper into the heart of Marlborough and is much more enjoyable for them.

“From a rail excursion perspective, we are offering them more of Marlborough, and we are giving them a better experience,” Jackson said.

Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas will be the first cruise ship back in Picton after Covid when it arrives on October 26 after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus.

From Picton, the steam train will go up the town’s elevation, through the Para wetlands, across the Wairau River into Blenheim, and then head to Seddon through the Dashwood Pass.

“Unmistakably the Dashwood Pass in the Awatere Valley is majestic, it’s just so beautiful, seeing a sea of vineyards in the Awatere Valley with those majestic Southern Alps in the background, and crossing another river.

“You’ve got that steep elevation coming out of Picton as well, and when the engines are really working hard, and there’s lots of sound, it’s dynamic and spectacular.

“The drama of that mixed with the beauty of some of those other parts of Marlborough, which we didn’t have in the past, definitely adds more to the train journey and enhances that experience,” Jackson said.

The steam train, which is fully booked with 250 passengers from the Ovation of the Seas, would cross the historic Awatere River Bridge and have an hour in Seddon.

“We are going to be welcomed, with open arms with the community getting involved there.

“It’s a very exciting opportunity for Seddon. There are lots of wine brands out there that don’t have cellar doors, so they have an opportunity to showcase what they do,” Jackson said.

Built in 1902, the station in Seddon had been converted into a cafe and tasting room for Tūpari Wines.

Tūpari Wines general manager Olivia Doonan was organising a market to welcome the tourists and showcase the town.

“We’ve got some live music, a petting zoo, coffee carts, we will do wine tasting at the Tūpari Wines cellar door … It’s various.

“We are hoping that the vintage car club will come out, although we’ve just had two weeks to pull it together, so [we’re] just finalising what exactly will be happening, but we are really excited to have the opportunity to work with this market.”

Doonan said they would have stalls in different locations to create a “bit of vibe” throughout the town.

“We have got the shops on both sides of the street of the main road, so we will be trying to entice people to enjoy the whole area.

“We want to make Seddon a destination that people want to come to.”

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