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U.S.FTC GUIDELINES PLEASE NOTE: we act as an affiliate for several companies that feature on our website. In some cases we may earn a commission from referrals to those companies. For further information please refer to our Privacy and Disclaimer policies which can be found in the "US" tab.

The Marlborough district is located at the top of the South Island, and is New Zealand’s largest grape and wine producing region. Year-round sunshine, a spectacular coastline (including the Marlborough Sounds), make the region a must for visitors to New Zealand.

As long time visitors to the Marlborough district, we always look forward to returning to this stunning part of New Zealand.

Located north of the Christchurch / Canterbury region, and east of the Tasman region , the Marlborough district is one of New Zealand's most beautiful.

Best known for the Marlborough Sounds, and the many wineries in the region, The Marlborough region is a wonderful place to spend a few days on your New Zealand holiday.

With relatives at Picton, we have spent a lot of time over the years exploring the region, sampling its food and wine, and visiting the many attractions that it has to offer.

A cruise ship makes its way through the stunning Marlborough Sounds - pic courtesy Rob Suisted

The Marlborough Sounds are a series of spectacular waterways that weave and wander along the coastline on the north eastern edge of the South Island.

Marlborough Sound’s calm, clear waters, forests, white beaches and coves are a paradise for those interested in hiking, mountain biking, sea kayaking or boating.

Blenheim, with a population of 30,000 is the region’s largest town. It boasts the highest sunshine hours of any New Zealand town, and is a popular holiday destination and a good base from which to explore the region.

Picton, located around 25 kilometres from Blenheim, is a small picturesque port at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound, and is the South Island access point to the Inter Island Ferry which links the North and South islands, and is a perfect launching point for walking and water-based holidays in the Sounds.

Both Blenheim and Picton have a wide range of accommodation.

And if you are looking for a little luxury, why not indulge yourself at one of the regions luxury lodges such as the beautiful Bay of Many Coves , or the equally stunning Lochmara Lodge . Both lodges are nestled deep in the Marlborough Sounds and are accessible only by boat.

There is so much to do in the Marlborough, but if you are a bit confused about where to start, why not just check out our Top 5 things to do in the Marlborough.

Getting to the Marlborough district

If you are coming from the North Island, you will catch the Inter Island ferry from Wellington (on the lower North Island), then make the three and a half hour journey across Cook Strait, to Picton, at the top of the South Island.

Domestic flights into Blenheim (Marlborough Airport) are available from Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland.

If you are traveling by road from Christchurch in the south, you would follow State Highway 1.

Please be aware though that the highway was damaged in the 2016 earthquake so it may be necessary to take an alternate inland route until repairs are completed.

Please refer to our State Highways map.

Also on this page...

There's lots of information about the Marlborough district on this page.

So, to make it easier for you to find stuff, just follow the links below:

* Our Top 5 things to do in the Marlborough

* Maori legends

* A little about food and wine in the region

* Some wildlife information

* Outdoors and the Queen Charlotte Track

* More stuff to do

* Some facts about the Marlborough district

Our Top 5 things to do in the Marlborough district

We've listened to our customers, and based on their reviews, and our own experiences, we've narrowed it down to our Top 5.

In no particular order, here they are

Peddle through the vinyards

Your full day guided bike tour is the perfect way to experience some of the region’s very best wineries.

A guided bike tour through the wineries - what a great day out!

Visiting six wineries, you’ll get to taste some amazing Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and aromatics.

Your gentle, flat ride covers some of the most beautiful country in the region, so have your camera charged.

Learn all about the history of the area and its wines, as your experienced guide reveals what makes this region so special.

The Marlborough district has some of the highest sunshine hours in New Zealand, but in the unlikely event that it rains, no need to worry as you will be transported by car.

Your tour cost includes your bike hire, collection from, and return to your Blenheim motel, and all tastings.

These tours are very popular, so don’t delay, enquire now.

Walk the famous Queen Charlotte Track and kayak in the sounds

The Marlborough district is best known for two things. It’s award winning wineries, and of course the spectacular Marlborough Sounds.

Stunning views from the Queen Charlotte Track

And this exciting tour focuses on the sounds.

From the waterfront in Picton, your adventure starts with a guided sea kayak tour through the stunning, calm, western section of  Queen Charlotte Sound. Explore the bays and beaches along the way, and keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife and birds.

After a few hours you arrive at Anakiwa, where you swap your kayak for your boots.

After some instructions, you are on your way on the famous Queen Charlotte Track.

Your hike covers an eleven kilometer section between Anakiwa and Mistletoe Bay.

It’s a beautiful section of the track, taking you through native bush, and offering wonderful coastal views.

At Mistletoe Bay your water taxi collects you for the return trip to Picton. What a great finish to your day.

These tours are very popular.

Click on the button below to learn more about this awesome trip:

Swim with the dolphins in the Marlborough Sounds!

This is one of those things that you remember for the rest of your life.

The calm, clear waters of the Marlborough Sounds are home to five different species of dolphin, and entering their domain is a very special privilege.

Swimming with dolphins in the Marlborough Sounds - it's good for the soul!

After meeting in Picton and being fitted out with your swimming gear, it’s into the Sounds to go dolphin spotting!

Once a sighting is made, your experienced guides (who are accredited by the Department of Conservation) will cruise over to them, and, if conditions are right, prepare you for your swim.

Once in the water you will be amazed by the social nature of these beautiful marine mammals.

After your swim, your guides are on hand to provide a snack and hot drinks, before heading back to Picton.

All you need to bring are your swimmers, a towel, and of course your camera!

To read what others thought of this great tour, just click on the button below:

What a combo! Cruise the Sounds then visit the wineries!

The region is famous for the Sounds and for the wineries.

Come aboard for this amazing cruise through the Sounds.

And on this full day adventure you will see both.

Your morning is spent cruising on a modern catamaran, through the calm, clear waters of Queen Charlotte Sound.

That’s followed by lunch at a local winery, then wine tastings at several more.

Your relaxing cruise includes a stop over at Ship Cove, where the Endeavour, skippered by Captain James Cook, moored in 1770.  

Learn all about the region, its people, and wildlife, as you watch the world pass serenely by.

After the cruise, it’s back to Picton for lunch at a winery, then onto several others to sample some wonderful Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noirs and aromatic wines.

To top the day off, you’ll stop at a local chocolate factory, before heading back to your motel.

Learn more by clicking on the button below:

Visit the locals on an actual mail boat cruise through the Sounds

Yes, that's right, a working mail boat.

A mail boat cruise of the Marlborough Sounds is a unique way to experience this pristine paradise

Sit back and enjoy amazing views as you visit remote parts of the Marlborough Sounds on this working mail run.

Hear stories of the area's history and wildlife (you might even spot some dolphins or seals), as you gain an appreciation for this beautiful part of New Zealand.

The tour includes a stop at Ship Cove, where Captain James Cook moored the Endeavour in 1770. There are several large carved Maori statues at the cove, together with lots of local bird life, so have your cameras ready!

Tea and coffee are provided, and of course, no extra charge for the views!

It's a unique tour that gives a remarkable insight into living in the Sounds.

Check out the tour by clicking on the button now:

Maori Culture / History in the Marlborough District

Maori legend has it that the great Polynesian navigator Kupe formed the Marlborough Sounds. While fighting a giant octopus called Te Wheke, Kupe grabbed onto the South Island for support. As he did, his fingers gouged out the many bays and coves of the sounds.

Stroll along the beautiful Picton waterfront

Eventually he defeated the octopus, split its body in two, cut out its eyes and threw them into the ocean.

The Maori people inhabited the region from the 12th century. Over time, the land was contested by different iwi (tribal groups), so today eight tribes are affiliated with the region as tangata whenua or ‘people of the land’.

European influence can be traced back to 1770 when British explorer Captain James Cook arrived. European settlers were attracted by the rich coastline, and arrived in the early 1800s to establish whaling stations. They were followed by farmers and miners after the discovery of antimony in Endeavour Inlet.

Food and Wine in the Marlborough District

The region is home to over 100 vineyards which produce more than half New Zealand’s wine. The region is famous for it’s sauvignon blanc, but other varieties such as chardonnay, riesling, pinot noir, pinot gris and gewurztraminer are gaining increasing popularity worldwide.

Stop for a meal - fresh New Zealand Green lipped mussels are a speciality at the unique Mussel Pot in Havelock

Many local winery restaurants offer locally-sourced food to go with their wines. Visitors can explore the vineyards on self-drive, bicycle or guided tours, and enjoy cellar door wine tastings or alfresco dining.

The deep, clean waters of the Marlborough Sounds provide ideal conditions for the farming of New Zealand green shell mussels, and the region produces 80 percent of New Zealand’s aquaculture exports such as king salmon, pacific oysters, paua (abalone), kingfish, and koura (crayfish).

If you are traveling between Blenheim and Nelson on State Highway 6, be sure and stop for a meal at the quirky Mussel Pot. They specialize in New Zealand green lipped mussels, and their food is delicious!

Adventure / Outdoors in the Marlborough District

The Sounds are noted for their beauty, and abundance of bird and marine life. If you are fortunate enough to take a cruise or guided sea kayaking trips in Queen Charlotte Sound, you may encounter dolphins, seals,

whales, king shags and blue penguins in their natural environment. There are five dolphin species found in the sound including Hector’s, Dusky and bottlenose varieties.

The Marlborough district is also a bird-watching paradise. Predator-free Motuara Island bird sanctuary is home to rare and unique birds, including blue penguin, South Island saddleback, kereru, bellbird, kakariki (yellow-crowned parakeet), and South Island robin. Many seabirds, including a rare king shag found nowhere else in the world, nest on Marlborough’s offshore islands.

The Marlborough Sounds aerial shot

Walking, mountain biking, sea kayaking and sailing are the best ways to experience the natural environment.

The Queen Charlotte track, between Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru sounds, offers 67km of stunning views, contrasting land and seascapes, and wide variety of native bush and wildlife. Walkers can start or finish at any point along the way, but Ships Cove to Anikiwa is a popular choice.

Walking the complete Queen Charlotte Track can take three to five days, and mountain biking takes two to three days.

Accommodation on the track ranges from cheap backpackers to luxury B&Bs serving fine food and award-winning wines. Pack transfers between accommodation providers let travellers enjoy the views unencumbered.

Things To Do In The Marlborough District

Here are a few suggestions:

Walking Through TheSounds Courtesy

* Visit a winery - best to take an organised tour if you plan to sample a few wines,

* Take a guided cruise on the Marlborough Sounds, and learn about the local area and wildlife,

* How about sampling the local seafood on a fishing charter?,

* Cycle through the sounds on a guided mountain bike tour (you can even cycle the Queen Charlotte Track),

Tim and I with some yummy fish and chips at Picton

* The region is home to dozens of walking tracks including the Queen Charlotte Track,

* Fly over the region on a scenic flight,

* Visit the EcoWorld aquarium in Picton, great fun for all the family,

* Have some local fish and chips by the water,

* Take a scenic drive through the sounds,

* Swim with the dolphins,

Did you know:

* The region is home to New Zealand’s largest farm - 180,476ha Molesworth Station.

* Marlborough Sounds has 1500km of coastline, or 10 percent of New Zealand's coast.

* The king shag - one of the world's rarest birds - is only seen in the the Sounds.

* The region contributes more than 60 percent of New Zealand's total wine production.

For more information on the Marlborough district, please click here to go to the Tourism New Zealand web site.

State Highways Map

Marlborough district location map

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