Top 10 Things to do in Marlborough
Marlborough's forested hills, fiord-like sounds and award-winning vineyards offer the perfect balance of adventure and relaxation. You'll also discover this region has a passion for wildlife and aviation. Put it all together and you have a holiday destined to rejuvenate body and soul.
1. Explore the Queen Charlotte Sound Track
Walk or bike this wonderfully scenic 72km track, which runs between Ship Cove and Anakiwa. Along the way you'll visit historic bays and climb through native forest to massive views of the Marlborough Sounds. The Queen Charlotte track typically takes four to five days to walk, but sections can also be experienced on a day hike. Some of the water taxi operators will transport your main pack between overnight stops, so you only have to walk with a day pack. There are Department of Conservation campsites along the way and a wide range of private accommodation providers to choose from.
2. Choose one of the Outward Bound adventures
Reset your course in life by booking an Outward Bound adventure. Set around the Anakiwa back country and pristine waters of Queen Charlotte Sound, these highly-rated experiences are designed to challenge you mentally and physically. Working as a small team, under the guidance of professional instructors, you'll learn how to overcome the seemingly impossible, discover what's really important to you and experience your true potential. There are courses designed for teens through to older adults, ranging from 5 to 21 days.
3. Explore Marlborough Sounds
This network of steep river valleys is filled with water from the ocean, creating a magical land of sheltered waterways, sandy beaches and native forests. With 150km of coastline to explore and more than 50 reserves managed by the Department of Conservation, the sounds are a haven for kayaking, boat trips, short walks and multi-day hikes. Five of the main tracks are also open to mountain bikes. Guided cruises, walks and kayak tours make it easy to discover the best spots and learn about the fascinating history of this area.
4. Discover Lochmara Lodge
Lochmara Lodge is a centre for wildlife recovery and the arts that offers overnight accommodation and day trips. There are no roads to the lodge, which is located on the water's edge in the Marlborough Sounds, so you have the fun of arriving by water. Enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner in the café, experience the underwater observatory, follow a sculpture trail through a 10-acre outdoor gallery, explore a series of nature walks or hike a 3.5km trail to the Queen Charlotte Track. If that sounds a little too energetic, a blissful massage or relaxation therapy will hit the spot.
5. Take off to the Omaka Airshow, Blenheim
Classic Fighters Omaka brings together rare vintage and classic planes from Omaka, around New Zealand and overseas. Held over the Easter weekend every second year, the show has a focus on military aircraft through the ages. Classic Fighters combines aerobatics and precision flying with theatrical equipment to create an incredibly engaging, entertaining and informative three-day spectacle. A few steps back from the action you'll find trade stalls, delicious food, Marlborough wines and a playground for children.
6. Visit Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre
This 'living' aviation museum is a must-visit attraction that's open seven days a week. Two major exhibitions feature original, flyable and replica examples of some of the world's rarest aircraft. Incredibly realistic and engaging, the displays are bought to life with dioramas by Wingnut Films, life-like mannequins created by Weta Workshop and immersive multi-media experiences. The 'Knights of the Sky' exhibition uses film director Peter Jackson's collection of World War I aircraft and fascinating memorabilia to transport you into the chivalrous world of early air combat. 'Dangerous Skies' focusses on World War II, including some lesser-known aspects such as female fighter aces and Russia's all-women 588th Night Bombers regiment, known to the Germans as the Night Witches.
7. Experience the best wineries in Marlborough
The Marlborough region is the perfect place to taste beautiful examples of your favourite wine varieties and discover a few more. Producing more than three quarters of New Zealand's wine, the region specialises in award-winning sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, pinot gris, riesling, chardonnay and sparkling wines. More recently, a few breweries have popped up to keep hop-happy visitors contented. Book a guided wine tour or ride one of the vineyard cycle trails for an unforgettable day of wine, craft beer and delicious food platters among the vines.
8. Unwind in Pollard Park, Blenheim
Exploring Pollard Park is one of the best free things to do in Blenheim. It's a 26.4 hectare haven with gardens, open spaces, mature trees and a babbling stream. The large rose garden is a local favourite, along with spring daffodils and planted flower beds of colourful annuals. If you're travelling with children, they'll love letting off steam in the playground and feeding the ducks along the banks of the stream. Tall native trees provide welcome shade for picnics or simply dosing off with a book. In autumn the exotic trees provide a blaze of colour as their leaves turn every shade of red, orange and yellow.
9. Visit Picton's Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary
Highly rated among the things to do in Picton, this 40-hectare sanctuary on the edge of Picton Harbour is the creation of countless local community volunteers. A predator-proof fence is ensuring all kinds of native wildlife, including many rare and endangered birds, are flourishing in the native forest. Kaipupu is only accessible by water. You can take a 10-minute boat ride from Picton or paddle a kayak to the floating visitor jetty. From there, a 2.7km loop track leads through forest and the latest restoration zones to spectacular Marlborough Sounds views. Along the way you'll meet some of the resident tui, fantails, bellbirds, woodpigeons, little penguins, weta, skinks and geckos. In winter and autumn, keep an eye out for fur seals relaxing on the wharf.
10. Hike to the top of Mount Stokes
From Titirangi Road on Kenepuru Head you can hike to the summit of Mount Stokes, the highest point in the Marlborough Sounds. Walking through lush forest that gradually morphs into a sub-alpine environment is a really special experience and the views from the top are stupendous. Allow half a day for this adventure.