Marlborough Travel Guide

On the north-east tip of the South Island and impossibly successful as a wine producer, the Marlborough region enjoys more sunshine than almost anywhere else in the country, as well as a global reputation for its fermented grapes.

Marlborough’s outstanding stature as a wine producing region cannot be avoided. Of all the vine area in the country, over 60 per cent of this is in Marlborough, which is recognised as the backbone of the NZ wine industry, particularly in the Wairau River area. Marlborough is famous for its sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and chardonnay, in that order. The hot, bright summer days and cool nights work wonders on the region’s grapes.

There are 65 or more wineries, 40-plus cellar doors, and 290 growers in the region, and it is not hard to find a wine tour operator.

Blenheim is in the heart of the region’s wine production, and is an excellent base from which to explore the rest. The town is also a good location from which to visit the Marlborough Sounds, a winding network of waterways taking up a fifth of the country’s coast. An excellent way to see the Marlborough Sounds is by following the 71 kilometres Queen Charlotte Track, which has sublime views of the coast, running from Ship Cove to Anakiwa. It is gently undulating, with a wide path to follow, and traverses forest, bays and ridgetops.

The Marlborough Sounds also offers potential sightings of fur seals, dolphins, and, sometimes, whales. The number of humpback whale sightings in June the Cook Straight, from Arapawa Island, has been increasing in recent years.   

February is an excellent time to enjoy what region’s food and beverage industry has to offer, with the Marlborough Food and Wine Fest - the country’s oldest wine festival - being held each year.

Marlborough enjoys a temperate climate, and is one of the driest regions in NZ. Blenheim receives 2,438 hours of sunlight a year. Its average maximum and minimum temperatures are 23.8 and 12.5 degrees Celsius for January, and 12.8 and 2.1 for July.

The nearest major airport to the region is in Nelson, 90 minutes’ drive away. It is served by Air New Zealand Link, which flies in from Auckland, Christchurch and Palmerston North.