This region is home to the earliest human settlement in NZ, on the Wairau Bar, and later, Captain Cook found Ship Cove very pleasing too.
No wonder: Marlborough has sealife, tranquil waters, fertile soil and beautiful views in abundance.
The clean, green waters of the Sounds are the perfect place to fish, dive or kayak. Charter a fishing trip and you might catch snapper, blue cod, trevally and gurnard. In summer you can snorkel the rocky shorelines and reefs, home to a range of underwater life. Diving for succulent scallops, mussels and paua is also a popular pastime in the Sounds.
Diving attractions include marine reserves for the eco-conscious, wrecks to explore including the famous Mikhail Lermontov, and abundant marine life to photograph. Diving instructors and equipment are available for half and full day dives.
Experience the Marlborough Sounds up close and view the marine life by taking a guided tour of Queen Charlotte Sound. You could enjoy a unique swim with dusky, bottlenose and common dolphins, and the rare Hector’s dolphins. Duskies are only found in the Southern Hemisphere and are considered one of the most acrobatic dolphins in the world. The waters of the Marlborough Sounds and Cook Strait are nutrient rich and group sizes here range from 5 to 500 dolphins! Along the way, you are likely to see New Zealand fur seals; a variety of seabirds, such as penguins and Australasian gannets, and you may even encounter orca and migrating or feeding whales.
With a great network of waterways, inlets and 1500km of coastline to explore, the Marlborough Sounds are a truly remarkable sea kayaking destination. Seals, dolphins and penguins are a common sight. Look up to native bush-clad hills with overhanging tree ferns, and discover gorgeous hidden bays, inlets and beaches.
Marlborough wines - famously delicious
Awatere Valley, photo credit: Destination Marlborough
Marlborough is the ideal location to take a wine tour, being New Zealand’s largest and best known wine producing region. Marlborough’s reputation has been driven by the world leading Sauvignon Blanc that is grown here, but the region also produces superb aromatics, fine Methode Traditionelle, elegant Chardonnays and award-winning Pinot Noir. Tour and taste at more than 55 wineries, where you are able to talk first hand with the people who grew the grapes and made the wine, pointing out the individual characteristics of their wines, offering invaluable advice on the vintages, cellaring potential and food matching. Many wineries are open all year round so join a winery tour or spend the day cycling around the vineyards.
Queen Charlotte Track
Queen Charlotte Track, photo credit: Destination Marlborough
Stretching between Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds, Queen Charlotte Track is a unique and beautiful 70km track that can be walked or biked, with options for luggage to be transported for you to lodges along the way. The views of the Sounds are unbeatable. You’ll work up a healthy appetite hiking or biking up and down the hilly track, with wonderful coastal forest, historic bays, and great local food to enjoy along the way. You can do a section as a day walk from some baches, if you don’t feel like the full 70km experience.
Explore Marlborough’s History
The Wairau Bar in Marlborough is a fascinating and important site for archeologists, as it contains the earliest grave sites in the country, from about 1250 A.D. You can learn more about Marlborough’s history, from early Maori times, and the Rangitane iwi, through early European settlement, to the current day, at the Marlborough Museum.
Where to stay
What to do
- Tour round Marlborough’s famous vineyards - by bicycle
- Kayak or take a cruise in the Marlborough Sounds
- Explore the Mikhail Lermontov on a diving expedition
- Walk or bike the Queen Charlotte Track, with its stunning views
- Rent a bach that’s only accessible by sea
- Visit Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, where WW1 memorabilia and aircraft have been brought to life by the team behind The Lord of the Rings
- Charter a fishing boat and catch your own dinner
- Sample local delicacies at the Marlborough Farmers’ Market