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Marlborough (New Zealand)

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Marlborough is a region on the northeastern end of the South Island of New Zealand. It is renown for high sunshine hours, New Zealand's largest wine growing area and the Marlborough Sounds.


  • Blenheim - The largest town, transport hub and base to see the region.
  • Picton - entrance to the Marlborough Sounds
  • Renwick - Satellite town to Blenheim
  • Havelock - Base for the Pelorus Sounds, Greenshell mussel capital of the world.
  • Rai Valley - A rural settlement and link to the western Marlborough Sounds
  • Seddon - A small town south of the Awatea river.
  • Ward - A small town in the heart of the Flaxbourne District.

Other Destinations[edit]



Marlborough is on the east coast of the South Island. The long Wairau Valley bisects Marlborough. To the north is the Richmond Ranges and beyond, the drowned valleys of the Marlborough Sounds. To the south is the Awatere River and then the Kaikoura Ranges and coast. As the prevailing wind is westerly, Marlborough's climate is hot and dry in summer and generally dry all year round.


Marlborough has been settled by Maori for a millennium. Like all parts of Aotearoa (New Zealand), Marlborough was contested amongst various iwi (tribes). Of those tribes recognized as being in existence today, Marlborough was a Rangitane, Ngati Apa, Ngati Kuia and Ngai Tahu stronghold up until the musket wars of 1806-1845 when invading iwi from Taranaki (Ngati Toa, Ngati Rarua, Ngati Tama, Ngati Koata and Te Atiawa) used the musket against the defenders armed only with spears and clubs. While Rangitane, Ngati Apa, Ngati Kuia and Ngai Tahu were to a greater or lesser extent routed, it is argued that conquest is only part of the customary land acquisition process and accordingly the defending iwi retained rights to the land. Even the nature of the customary relationships between tribes in boundary areas is disputed with one view being that determined boundary lines were a European construct unknown to Maori.

Today all the iwi named above are recognized as having influence in Te Tau Ihu (the top of the South Island). Ngai Tahu is recognized as having a sphere of influence emanating from Kaikoura and points south. Rangitane are recognized as having influence in the Wairau Valley. Ngati Toa and Ngati Rarua have shared influence over all of Marlborough but especially concentrated on Port Underwood. Te Atiawa are recognized as having influence in Queen Charlotte Sound. Ngati Apa retained influence in Port Gore and towards the West Coast. Ngati Koata had influence on Rangitoto (D'Urville Is). Ngati Kuia has influence in the inner Pelorus Sound, with Ngati Tama having influence closer to Nelson.

The Crown went about purchasing and taking land which they required for settlers in the 1850's. Settlement continued apace. The first major industry of the region was flax. Today the remnants of the flax milling industry can be seen on the road between Spring Creek and Rarangi. Until the grape boom in the late 1980's, Marlborough sheep and beef farmers struggled with drought on stony country. The change to the province brought by grapes has been substantial.

The claim brought by Ngai Tahu against the historical actions of the Crown was settled in the late 1990s.

Get in[edit]

By Ferry[edit]

Ferries which link the North and South Islands travel between from Wellington to Picton. The ferry journey takes 3[3] to 3 1/2 hours[4], the southern portion of which is through the Marlborough Sounds. The ferries take both vehicles and passengers.

By Plane[edit]

  • Blenheim Airport at Woodbourne, 10 minutes from Blenheim and 4 minutes from Renwick on State Highway 6. Blenheim Airport is serviced by the Air New Zealand[5] with flights to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Sounds Air[6], mainly based out of Picton Airport, also has one return flight to Wellington from Woodbourne.
  • Picton Airport, located 5 minutes south of Picton and 15 minutes north of Blenheim off State Highway 1, is the base for Sounds Air[7]. This commuter airline flies to Wellington as well as offering scenic flights around the Marlborough Sounds. Picton is also used by Skydive the Sounds[8]

By Car[edit]

State Highway 1 runs from Picton south to Blenheim (20 minutes), Seddon (40 minutes from Picton), Kaikoura (2 hours) and Christchurch (4 1/2 hours). Travel to Nelson is either via State Highway 6 from Blenheim (1 1/2 hours) or from Picton via the scenic and windy Queen Charlotte Drive. Travel to the West Coast is from Renwick via St Arnaud (1 1/4 hours).

By Bus[edit]

Buses[9] and Shuttle Buses[10] run Picton - Christchurch and Picton - Blenheim - Nelson. Nelson Lakes Shuttles[11] specialise in providing transport for trampers, hikers, climbers, mountain bikers and skiers. They run on demand and scheduled services to St Arnaud, Nelson Lakes National Park, Kahurangi National Park, the Richmond Ranges as well as other tramping destinations further afield.

Get around[edit]

Public Transport is limited. The main routes through the region are serviced by buses and trains (see above). Blenheim, Picton and Kaikoura have a taxi and shuttle service. Water taxis and scheduled water transport are available from Picton for the Queen Charlotte Sound and Havelock for the Pelorus Sound.

See[edit][add listing]

  • The Marlborough Sounds, an aquatic playground with bird and dolphin watching, walking, kayaking and sailing.
  • Vineyards stretching as far as the eye can see in the Wairau and Awatere Valleys.
  • Lake Grassmere - Where seawater is turned into huge piles of salt by the sun and evaporation as well as being a birdwatcher's paradise. Between Seddon and Ward on State Highway 1.

Do[edit][add listing]

  • The Marlborough Wine Festival is held in February each year. Experience over 200 wines from around 40 wineries and gourmet food[12]. It is NZ's longest running wine and food festival.
  • Marlborough is a outdoors paradise. It can be used as a base for tramping (treking or rambling) in the Nelson Lakes National Park, the Marlborough Sounds, the Richmond Ranges.
  • Driftwood Eco-tours, +64 3 577 7651, [1]. Bird watching and eco-tours. Leisurely Kayak on the Wairau lagoons to get close to rare New Zealand wading birds. High country exploration. Walking guide.  edit

Buy[edit][add listing]

  • Riverlore Art Gallery, 1494 State Highway 6 (Between Renwick and Havelock south of the Wairau River bridge), +64 3 572-8755, [2]. M-F 12:00-16:00, Sa-Su by appointment; May-Aug: Please phone.  edit

Eat[edit][add listing]

Most of New Zealand's Greenshell mussels are farmed in the Marlborough Sounds. These mussels, a native species with Sauvignon Blanc would be a Marlborough signature match. Blenheim, Picton and Kaikoura have a good range of eating establishments.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Marlborough is New Zealand's largest grape growing region with the Wairau plains near Blenheim being the home of a number of major wineries. Vineyard tours are a significant attraction. The main varieties of grape grown are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Blenheim, Picton and Havelock have a good range of places to sleep.

Get out[edit]

Just south of the region is Kaikoura, which is famous for its whale watching. From Kaikoura, the inland route through to Hanmer Springs is off the usual tourist trail and rewards the traveller with mountain views and a soak in the hot springs.

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