Marlborough is known by many as one of the the best wine regions in New Zealand, but there is so much more to it. There is a large range of things to do for visitors both local and international, Marlborough is an ideal destination for its food and wine, natural beauty and breathtaking scenery.
No matter how many days you have to spend in the Marlborough region, we have you covered. We’ve created itineraries for those looking to visit for 3, 5 and 7 days with activities ranging from learning about history to kayaking on the river – you won’t be disappointed.
We hope that these suggestions will assist the first-time visitor in formulating an efficient and highly enjoyable Marlborough sightseeing plan that assures no essential sight is left unseen, and that your time in the Marlborough region is maximised to its fullest!
Catch the ferry across to the picturesque Picton after flying into Wellington. It’s a beautiful trip and very scenic once you get across the Cook Straight, so have your camera at the ready. The ferry ride only lasts a few hours and provides those on board with a relaxing journey from the North Island.
If you want a little extra comfort on your trip, it’s recommended you upgrade to Premium Plus. For approximately $AU36 you will gain access to a range of exclusive facilities on board including a private lounge with comfortable chairs, TV, newspapers, magazines and free beverages and meals – in our opinion it is definitely worth the money.
One way tickets vary in price from Wellington; approximately $AU68.87 for adults, $AU41.56 for children aged 2 to 17 years. An additional fee is incurred for those requiring vehicle transport; $AU57 for motorbikes + bike trailers, $AU212.56 for camper vans and $AU200 for cars, minibuses and trailers.
Depending on the time of year you are travelling, the ferry departs at several points throughout the day – check the website for specific dates and times.
Spend the second half of your day exploring the beautiful region by kayak. Embark on a self-guided kayak around the stunning Marlborough Sounds thanks to Wilderness Guides. This company will provide you with everything you need and need to know in order to have an enjoyable time on the Sounds. All safety equipment is supplied including lifejackets, paddles, dry bags for your items, flares, pumps and spare paddles. Most, if not all, of the safety gear is new or near new, as are the kayaks themselves, designed and made in New Zealand.
The team at Wilderness Guides know the area like the back of their hands and are there to help you plan your trip around the sounds. They will point out the best things to see along the way and help you plan the best trip according to the weather conditions. Perfect for you and your travel buddy, kayaks are rented out in pairs; unfortunately solo paddlers can’t hire a kayak for safety reasons. This is the perfect way to start off your adventure in the Marlborough region and to get a taste of the beautiful scenery that is to come.
This is a must-do experience in the Marlborough region! Embark on a day’s worth of a walking trek along the Queen Charlotte Track. While it takes several days to do as a whole, a small sampler still returns some great visual rewards. There are various walking trails that will give you a scenic taste of the area without completing the whole 71 kilometres. There are a range of short, half day and full day walks to suits a collection of fitness levels, each producing hikers with stunning views of the area.
The Anakiwa to Davies Bay walks is an easy, short walk taking approximately 2-hours return. The track follows an old Anakiwa bridal path through the forest to finish at the bay. Davies Bay is complete with a range of facilities including barbecues, toilets and camping areas and provides walkers with a beach to swim and cool off safely.
There are six different half-day walks to choose from around the Queen Charlotte Track including the Torea Bay to Mistletoe Bay walk. This track -totalling around 3 hours – is a moderate level of fitness is required as is a track pass to access the area. The start of the hike is reached by water taxi from Picton, from there it is a steep climb to the track’s highest point. The climb lasts for around 45-minutes to an hour, however it is well worth it once you reach the top with stunning views of the area. Camp Bay to Eatwell’s Lookout is another half-day trek, suited to hikers with a moderate level of fitness.
Taking around 4 hours to return, this track also guides you up two separate steep climbs to lookouts with amazing views. You can enjoy the breathtaking 360-degree views of area before you turn around to make your way back down the track.
For those looking to spend the entire day hiking through this beautiful area, there are a total of four full-day tracks you can follow. The shortest of the four is the Ship Cove to Head of Endeavour Inlet; a one-way 5-hour walk. Access the start of the track y water taxi from Picton before you climb out of Ship Cove for great views of Mortuara Island bird sanctuary. The trail will lead you through Resolution Bay to overlook Endeavour Inlet before descending down through the forest to the head of the Inlet.
Hikers are usually relieved when they learn they don’t have to back track as the water taxi will pick you up at the Furneaux Lodge wharf. The Anakiwa to Te Mahia Saddle Lookout is a moderate level trail totalling 8-hours return. Accessible by road, hikers require a track pass to access the trail. You will climb up through the forest walking through open farmland until you reach Te Mahia Saddle. As you continue on to the lookout you will be treated with stunning views of Kenepuru andQueen Charlotte Sounds before you turn around the start the downhill trek back.
These self-guided walks are the perfect way to see the region and get a taste of this iconic hiking trail. The hiking durations are just guides and average times, however as you aren’t on a schedule with a tour group or guide you are free to hike at your own pace and stop at any scenic sights along the way.
Cycle around Blenheim
Your next stop is the Marlborough town of Blenheim, just 25 minutes from Picton here you will embark on a bicycle tour through a handful of vineyards. In our opinion this is the best way to see the vineyards as you are outside amongst the paddocks of vines letting you get up close to the beauty that surrounds you. Visitors often enjoy this option as it is a fun and relaxing ride through the grounds at a comfortable pace.
The bike paths around the grounds are flat without any strenuous riding necessary and most are close enough to each other that you can cycle between some of the biggest names in the wine industry.
You have the option of a half or full day tour, however we recommend taking part in a full day tour as a half-day isn’t nearly enough time to see (and taste) the true beauty of these places. The full day tours also include a delectable lunch at one of the wineries, paired with the perfect wine (of course). In our opinion, the best way to tackle this tour would be to organise half a day guided in the morning through the vineyards and then the other half unguided, giving you the flexibility to do as you please for the afternoon.
There are various packages available for full day tours through the vineyards. You can choose from a standard guided tour, deluxe guided tour or unguided tour – it’s up to you. Prices start from around $AU114.
While in Blenheim you can’t go past the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre – a definite must-see in the area. Displaying a range of artefacts and aeroplanes from World War I, most of which are personally owned by the director of Lord of the Rings, Sir Peter Jackson. Located on the Omaka Air Field, the centre has various displays showcasing important aircrafts from 1910 and artefacts from as early as 1908.
The centre also conducts vintage joy flight rides from their Omaha Airfield base. The three-seater Boeing Stearman will glide over the scenic vineyards showing off New Zealand’s beautiful landscape.
The Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre is open to the public seven days a week for an admission fee – starting from $12. Staff conduct guided tours through the centre explaining the exhibits twice a day, at 10:30am and 2pm for $45 (including admission), or visitors can just explore the exhibition at their own leisure.
Keep the educational visits going with a visit to the popular Marlborough Museum. Showcasing a range of exhibits, you can learn about the heart of Marlborough through the various artefacts and collections on displays. Browse through artefacts from the region’s 700 year old Polynesian arrival site, learn about the whaling days back in the 1820’s and 30’s and learn about the region’s rich wine history.
The museum is a stop not to be missed and fits in perfectly with a visit to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre. Less than a 5 minute drive from each other, these two centres are perfect for those interested in the rich and interesting history of the region. Marlborough Museum is open daily from 10am until 4pm with a small cover charge at the door; $10 for adults and $5 for children.
Explore the beautiful Pelorus River – one of the recognisable locations from The Hobbit – by kayak. Your friendly and experienced guides will take you on an aquatic journey through the ‘real’ Middle Earth to explore from the iconic movie locations. You will following the same route as some of your favourite characters did in The Desolation of Smaug, stand on the same rocks as Bilbo Baggins did and pass by some wonderful waterfalls.
Your guide will be there to point out all of these iconic sites and provide insider information about the filming process. Even if you aren’t a Lord of the Rings fan, exploring this stunning river by kayak is an experience not to be missed, the dose of fresh air and spectacular New Zealand scenery is like no other.
Pelorus River is one of the most picturesque in New Zealand and well worth the trip, especially via kayak. Everything is included in the price, all you’re asked to bring is your open mind and exciting (and swimmers, suitable footwear, towel, water bottle, change of warm clothes and camera). Prices start from $AU147.
Embark on a full-day bike ride up one of Marlborough’s challenging mountains. This isn’t an activity for the faint-hearted with tracks proving an exhilarating journey for riders.
There are three different day trips available, the first is from Ship Cove to Camp Bay – perfect for riders seeking an exhilarating challenge. The track is wide but steep in places with drop offs and rocky areas along the majority of it. This track is available to bike throughout the year. The second track, Torea Saddle to Camp Bay offers great ridge line views, however like the first has a number of short steep hill climbs. The final track, Torea Bay to Anakiwa has great bush and beach views and eases up in difficulty towards to the end.
Parts of the tracks are suitable for those less experienced of confident riders while others are saved for those with a considerable amount of technical experience. However, no matter which track your abilities suit most people end the ride with a smile on their face. All tracks have a duration of between 4 and 5 hours. Prices start from $AU133.
What better way to end your 7-day trip to the Marlborough region than with a relaxing cruise? Enjoy a 3.5 hour cruise around the Marlborough Sounds while you indulge on a selection of fresh local seafood. Departing Picton, you’ll jump aboard a luxurious cruising vessel for an unclose view of the famed Queen Charlotte Sound.
The local seafood being served is one of the reasons Marlborough is famous, enjoy fresh Tio Point oysters, Regal salmon and more while you savour the taste with a glass of their other well-known product, Sauvignon Blanc. Guests have the choice of indoor or outdoor seating to make the most of this beautiful experience. Encompassing all of Marlborough’s best assets, seafood, wine and picturesque scenery.
On top of the luxurious and delicious cruise, you will pay a visit to a local Marlborough salmon farms here you will gain insight into the farm’s operation process as well as the beautiful environment you’ve been cruising, the Marlborough Sounds. Cruises depart daily from 1:30pm and arrive back at the Picton dock at 5pm. Prices are approximately $AU56 for children and $AU137 for adults.
In addition, if you are looking for further ideas on activities, attractions and other things to do in Marlborough, check out our main region guide for an extended catalogue of things to do!