Top 14 things to do in Marlborough

Image: Only Marlborough

Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre. Image: MarlboroughNZ

Queen Charlotte Track. Image: MarlboroughNZ, @BareKiwi

Beachcomber Cruises Mail Boat Cruise. Image: MarlboroughNZ, @BareKiwi

E-Ko Tours. Image: MarlboroughNZ

Image: MarlboroughNZ

Top 14 things to do in Marlborough

This sun-drenched corner of the South Island is the largest wine-growing region in New Zealand, and you should take full advantage by visiting a few wineries and sampling the famous Sauvignon Blanc.

There are plenty of opportunities to experience the magnificent Marlborough Sounds, whether it’s on a kayak tour, cruise, or hike. Absorb some of the region’s fascinating history at Picton Museum or the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, and sample the local fare at Blenheim’s farmers’ markets.

Tour world-class wineries

Let’s just say that if a winery tour is not top of your Marlborough to-do list, you’re doing something wrong. The region is overflowing with beautiful, world-class wineries where you can stop, sip, and soak in your surrounds at a leisurely pace. Hiring a bike or joining a winery cycle tour is a great way to get from vineyard to vineyard – many of them are within a 5-kilometre radius. The Golden Mile is a popular ride, encompassing nine wineries over 6km, and you can even win a prize by crossing at least five of the official stops off your list.

Strap in at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre

Blenheim’s Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre boasts an incredible collection of WWI and WWII aircraft, including Sir Peter Jackson’s personal collection of WWI planes, dioramas and rare memorabilia. Many of the planes are still flyable and take to the skies every second year at Easter for the famous Classic Fighters Airshow. For an absolute once-in-a-lifetime thrill, there’s also the option to take a Joy Flight in a vintage WWII plane from the Omaka Airfield.

Shop like a local at the weekend markets

The Marlborough Farmers’ Market is the place to go for top-quality, super fresh seasonal produce, artisan goods, baked treats and hot food and drinks, straight from farm to stall. The market is on every Sunday morning until 12 at Blenheim’s A&P Showgrounds. If you’re looking for gifts, or something nice to take home for yourself, the Marlborough Artisan Market sells 100% local crafts, including woodwork, pottery, and natural body products. Find it at the Wynen Street car park on Saturdays from 9am – 1pm.

Take a walk and a visual journey at Wairau Lagoon

Feel like you’re walking through a painting on this easy, flat walkway, where the golden grasses and blue water make for a stunningly picturesque scene. You can choose to do a section of the track, or the entire loop, taking approximately three hours. Keep an eye out for royal spoonbills and godwits.

Walk or bike the Queen Charlotte Track

This well-known coastal track winding 72km from Ship Cove to Anakiwa is a spectacular trail for either walking or biking. You’ll discover historic bays, lush forest and panoramic views over the three-to-five-day walk, and there is also the option to hop aboard a water taxi on any given day if you feel like a break from walking, and the taxis can also transport your gear to your accommodation. You can get to the start of the track at Ship Cove on a boat from Picton.

Step into the past at the Picton Heritage & Whaling Museum

See a diverse collection of Māori, maritime and whaling artefacts. Immerse yourself in what life as a whaler was like, discover historical collections dating back to the 1700s and gain a deeper understanding of the early settlers of this area.

Paddle among the penguins

Navigate the waves and see abundant wildlife and stunning vistas on a sea kayaking expedition through the Marlborough Sounds. Sea Kayaking Adventures has options for both self-guided and guided kayak tours, giving you the chance to choose the perfect tour to suit you. A half-day tour showcases the best Queen Charlotte Sound has to offer, from its natural beauty to its wild inhabitants, including stingrays, seals, penguins, dolphins, and maybe even orca. A full-day tour allows you time to explore more fully, taking you to secluded beaches and alongside native bush, with a homemade picnic lunch included. There are also multi-day excursions available.

Help deliver the mail on a Marlborough Sounds mail boat cruise

This may be the most scenic mail route you’ll ever get the chance to tag along for – The Beachcomber Cruises Mail Boat Cruise and The Pelorus Mail Boat are the only two official licensed NZ Post rural delivery services by water in the Marlborough Sounds. Joining the mail boat for a cruise as it delivers mail, groceries and other essentials to residents without road access is a unique glimpse into life here, as well as a chance to see parts of the sounds that are considered ‘off the beaten track’.

Swim with dolphins in the sounds

An experience you’ll never forget – sharing the water with wild dusky, bottlenose, and Hector’s dolphins in the calm, blue waters of the Marlborough Sounds. E-Ko Tours is the only operator in Picton offering the chance to swim with the dolphins, and you’ll likely see seals and a variety of sea birds on your way out as well. E-Ko Tours also has an exclusive no seasickness guarantee, so no worries about being too green to enjoy your journey!

Walk the boards of the Edwin Fox in Picton

See a unique piece of history in dry dock at Picton – The Edwin Fox is the last surviving ship that transported convicts to Australia, the oldest wooden vessel that brought immigrants to New Zealand, and the oldest merchant ship in the world. Visit the Edwin Fox Ship and Visitor Centre for the chance to walk the decks of this heritage ship and imagine what life might have been like on board.

Dive a shipwreck

Meet locals like dolphins, seals and stingrays in their natural habitat in the Marlborough Sounds, and join a guided expedition to dive the Mikhail Lermontov wreck, one of the world’s largest diveable wrecks.

Kayak locations from The Hobbit

Get yourself in a kayak and head down the Pelorus River to get a first-hand look at the location where the famous barrel scene in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was filmed. Pelorus Eco Adventures offers a fully guided tour of the location, complete with background info on the history of the area, and you’ll also get the chance to stand on the same rocks and pass the same waterfall as seen in the movie.

Dine in style on a Greenshell Mussel Cruise

Try the local delicacy of greenshell mussels in the stunning surrounds where they are grown. The half-day Greenshell Mussel Cruise cruise departs from Havelock and serves freshly steamed mussels perfectly paired with a glass of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc while you drift through the magnificent Pelorus Sound on a comfortable catamaran.

Catch a water taxi to D’Urville Island

Head from the beautiful French Pass to D’Urville Island on a water taxi to enter a world of adventure. The 200-hectare bush island is home to excellent walking and mountain biking trails, glow-worm grottos and stunning bird life. For the anglers among us, the island is perfectly positioned next to some very productive fishing grounds, which are best taken advantage of on a D’Urville Island Wilderness Resort Fishing Charter.

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