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Marlborough – at the top of the South Island – is New Zealand’s largest grape and wine producing region. Year-round sunshine, and a diverse natural landscape of extensive coastline and huge stands of untouched native forests make Marlborough an outdoor adventure destination.


View Marlborough region maps   

Maps and local travel information for Marlborough.

Queen Charlotte Sound

Queen Charlotte Sound’s blue waters, green forests, white sand beaches and little coves are a holiday haven for hiking, mountain biking, sea kayaking and boating adventures.

Blenheim (pop: 30,000) is Marlborough’s largest town. Often boasting the highest sunshine hours of any New Zealand town, Blenheim is a popular holiday destination and a good base for exploring Marlborough attractions.

Picton, a little port at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound, provides access for the inter-island ferries that link the North and South islands, and a launching point for walking and water-based holidays in the Marlborough Sounds.


Marlborough - Queen Charlotte Sound
Marlborough - Queen Charlotte Sound

Māori Culture / History

Māori legend credits the great Polynesian navigator Kupe with the formation of the Marlborough Sounds.

While in the ocean battling a giant octopus called Te Wheke, Kupe grabbed onto the South Island for support. As he hung on to the land, Kupe’s fingers gouged out the many intricate bays and coves of the sounds. Eventually Kupe defeated the octopus, split its body in two, cut out its eyes and threw them into the ocean.

Māori inhabited the Marlborough region from the 12th century. Over the centuries, 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 history goes back to 1770 when British explorer Captain James Cook arrived. Settlers, who were attracted by the rich coastline, arrived in the early 1800s to set up whaling stations. Farmers and miners followed after the discovery of antimony in Endeavour Inlet.

Marlborough - pioneer cottage
Marlborough - pioneer cottage

Food and Wine

Marlborough’s 100-plus vineyards produce more than half New Zealand’s wine. While Marlborough sauvignon blanc with its distinctive herbaceous notes is internationally recognised, other varieties such as chardonnay, riesling, pinot noir, pinot gris and gewurztraminer are gaining ground.

Many Marlborough winery restaurants offer locally-sourced food to go with their wines. Visitors can explore the vineyards on self-drive, bicycle or guided tours, enjoy cellar door wine tastings from over 40 cellar doors and alfresco dining.

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

Marlborough - vineyard
Marlborough - vineyard

Nature and Wildlife

Marlborough Sounds is noted for its scenic beauty, and abundance of bird and marine life in the forest and water.

Passengers on cruises or guided sea kayaking trips in Queen Charlotte Sound see dolphins, seals, whales, king shags and blue penguins playing in their natural environment. The five dolphin species found in the sound include the rare Hector’s, Dusky and bottlenose varieties.

Marlborough is 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.

Marlborough - hiking in the sounds
Marlborough - hiking in the sounds

Adventure / Outdoors

Marlborough is a natural playground for outdoors enthusiasts. Walking, mountain biking, sea kayaking and sailing are the best ways to experience this environment.

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. While walkers can start or finish at any point along the way, Ships Cove to Anikiwa is a popular choice.

Walking the complete Queen Charlotte track takes 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.

Marlborough - sea kayaking
Marlborough - sea kayaking


  • Marlborough is home to New Zealand’s largest farm - 180,476ha Molesworth Station.
  • Marlborough Sounds has 1500km of coastline, or 20% of New Zealand's coast.
  • The king shag - one of the world's rarest birds - is only seen in the Marlborough Sounds.
  • Marlborough contributes more than 75% of New Zealand's total wine production.