Don’t Miss the Best Things To Do in Marlborough New Zealand

The Marlborough region is the first place most people visit when arriving on a ferry from the North Island. Located on the northeastern coast of the South Island of New Zealand, the region boasts astonishing landscapes, where the bush meets the sea and world-class vineyards. Whether you’re a wine connoisseur, a nature enthusiast, or simply seeking a peaceful escape, you will love this captivating region. Please keep reading to discover the best things to do in Marlborough New Zealand.

View of the Marlborough Sounds and the Interislander ferry from Picton, New Zealand.
Marlborough Sounds, Picton

What is the Marlborough Region Best Known For?

The Blue waters of the Marlborough Sounds
Marlborough Sounds

New Zealand’s Marlborough region is known as a wine lover’s Eden. The region is best known for its award-winning wines, particularly its Sauvignon Blanc, which has gained international acclaim. With over 150 wineries, the region is hailed as New Zealand’s premier wine-growing region.

In addition, the region is renowned for its captivating Marlborough Sounds. The spellbinding maze of serene waters surrounded by lush forests, is a haven for nature enthusiasts. This gorgeous area, where land and sea converge, offers visitors both adventure and relaxation.

A visit to Marlborough vineyards and The Sounds are the best things to do in Marlborough, New Zealand. Keep reading for more information on these fun activities and other must-see attractions.

Prominent Landmarks

A vineyard in Marlborough, NZ
A Vineyard in Blenheim

There are several prominent landmarks that are worth exploring during your visit.

The Marlborough Sounds

The Marlborough Sounds, a picturesque network of sunken river valleys, is a must-visit destination in the region. 

The stunning combination of deep blue waters, lush green forests, and secluded bays creates a tranquil and breathtaking setting. 

You can explore the Sounds by taking a scenic cruise, kayaking through the waterways, or embarking on one of the many Marlborough walks.   

Additionally, you can explore the Sounds by the ferry transporting you from the North Island. The 3.5-hour ferry journey provides a picturesque cruise from Wellington through the Cook Strait and then navigates through the narrow channels for 1.5 hours. 

During this journey, you’ll be taken to areas that are only reachable by boat, and there is a chance to see dolphins and other wildlife as they often make an appearance. We have regularly seen dolphins on the trips we have taken on the ferry. 

The ferry to the South Island is one of the best scenic ferry trips we have been on anywhere in the 50 countries we have visited. We consider it a do not miss activity for your South Island bucket list and one of the best things to do in Marlborough New Zealand.

Queen Charlotte Track

The Queen Charlotte Track is a popular walking and cycling trail that spans 70 kilometres along the ridgeline of the Marlborough Sounds. 

It offers spectacular coastline views, forests, and numerous secluded bays. 

Whether you choose to complete the entire track or opt for shorter sections, the Queen Charlotte Track is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the region’s natural wonders.

The best part of the track is that you don’t need to rough it unless you prefer to. Besides the campsites along the trail, accommodation options range from backpackers to Marlborough luxury accommodations. 

Additionally, there are cafes and restaurants along the Queen Charlotte Track, so after a hard day’s hiking, you can treat yourself to a gourmet meal.

For anyone who loves the outdoors and longer hikes, the Queen Charlotte Track is among the best Marlborough attractions and a South Island must-do!

The Vineyards

Marlborough is known for its world-famous vineyards, and a visit would only be complete with exploring the vineyards and indulging in wine-tasting sessions. 

Take a tour through the picturesque vineyards, learn about the winemaking process, and savour the flavours of the regions renowned Sauvignon Blanc and other varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. 

Some of the best Marlborough New Zealand wineries include Cloudy Bay, Villa Maria, Yealands Estate and Brancott Estate.

Wine lovers consider the Marlborough wine trail one of the best things to do in Marlborough New Zealand region.

Towns and Villages to Visit in the Marlborough Region

Palm tree and harbour view in Picton, NZ
Waikawa Bay Wharf, NZ


Blenheim, the largest town, is known for its picturesque vineyards, gourmet food scene, and friendly atmosphere. 

Stroll through the town’s tree-lined streets, visit local wineries for tastings, and indulge in delicious farm-to-table cuisine at one of the many acclaimed restaurants.


Picton is the gateway to the Marlborough Sounds and a vibrant coastal town with a bustling waterfront and various outdoor activities. 

Explore the charming shops and galleries, sample fresh seafood at the local eateries, or embark on an adventure-filled boat tour to discover the beauty of the Sounds.

While many people only stay for a night while waiting for a ferry to the North Island, Picton has lots to offer the traveller, and it is an excellent base from which to explore The Sounds. 

We adore Picton, and visiting this charming town is one of our favourite things to do in Marlborough NZ. We recommend staying at least 2-3 nights. 

Besides the boat tours, there are many walking trails with fantastic water views.

Read Next – 20 Top Things to Do in Picton New Zealand.


Havelock, located at the head of Pelorus Sound, is renowned as the “Greenshell Mussel Capital of the World.”  

Besides seeing Havelock’s charming shops and galleries housed in colonial buildings, visit the local mussel farms to learn about the farming process and enjoy a mouthwatering seafood feast. 

Check out one of our favourite restaurants, the Mussel Pot, for delicious seafood. We have been dropping by for the past decade whenever we pass through, and when it comes to things to do in Marlborough region, we recommend you don’t miss this indulgence.

The town is also a great starting point for scenic kayaking trips, fishing excursions and road trips.

Make sure to visit the nearby stunning Pelorus River and the Havelock Museum showcasing the town’s gold mining history.

The Best Things to Do In Marlborough New Zealand

Room with a view of the stunning blue water in Marlborough Sounds.
One of our favourite things to do in Marlborough Sounds is stay at a waterfront resort

In addition to its landmarks and charming towns, there are many activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy.

Marlborough Sounds Cruises

Immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of the Sounds with a scenic cruise.

Explore the hidden bays, watch dolphins playfully swim alongside the boat, and marvel at the lush forests surrounding you. 

Cruises range from short to full-day excursions, allowing you to soak in the serenity and discover the abundant marine life that calls this area home.

One of the most highly sought-after is the Mail Boat Marlborough Sounds. The Queen Charlotte Sound Mail Boat Cruise from Picton is an NZ Post rural delivery boat providing a one-of-a-kind adventure. Join the tour and deliver post, groceries, and freight to the inhabitants of Queen Charlotte Sounds and witness the locals’ daily routine. 

Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre

For history and aviation enthusiasts, the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre in Blenheim is a must-visit Marlborough attraction. 

The museum houses an impressive collection of meticulously restored World War I and World War II aircraft, along with immersive exhibitions that bring the stories of these historic aircraft and their pilots to life.

Outdoor Adventures

Nature lovers will find an abundance of outdoor activities to enjoy. 

Hike through the native bush of the Wither Hills Farm Park, where panoramic views of the region await. 

Cycle along the Marlborough Wine Trail, pedalling through vineyards and taking in the stunning landscapes. 

For those seeking an adrenaline rush, try sea kayaking or embark on a thrilling jet boat ride along the rivers.

Stay in Waterfront Accommodation at Marlborough Sounds

For those who prefer relaxation over hikes and tours, the region offers some world-class accommodation options, many with epic water views. 

We think the best place to stay in Marlborough Sounds is accommodation with a water view. You can choose a bed and breakfast option and meet locals, rent a bach or holiday home or stay in one of the waterfront campgrounds on the Marlborough Sounds.

Alternatively, you can stay at one of the stunning resorts offering gourmet restaurants, 4- 5 star facilities and outstanding views.

Our favourite Marlborough Sounds resorts include Lochmara Lodge, Punga Cove Resort, Bay of Many Coves, Furneaux Lodge, Te Mahia Bay Resort and The Portage.


Besides the ferry trip, one of our very favourite things to do in Marlborough NZ is to explore the many roads where you will find a stunning view at every turn. That is what the best road trips are made of!

Best Places to Eat

Plate full of deep fried mussels from the Mussel Pot in Havelock
Marlborough mussels in Havelock, New Zealand

You will find a diverse range of dining options in the region. Here are a few recommended establishments.


Ranked in the top 2 restaurants in the Marlborough region on TripAdvisor, Arbour offers an exceptional dining experience featuring dishes crafted from locally sourced ingredients.

If you visit Blenheim, the 8-course degustation menu will provide you with an exceptional fine dining experience that will be one of your best in New Zealand.

Wairau River Wines Restaurant

In Rapaura, a ten-minute drive from Blenheim, Wairau River Wines Restaurant offers a delightful setting overlooking their vineyards.

Indulge in their delicious seafood dishes, including their famous green-lipped mussels, while enjoying the ambience and delightful wine offerings.

The Mussell Pot

Havelock’s iconic restaurant has served green lip (green shell) mussels for many years. Additionally, they do many seafood options such as fish and chips, calamari, burgers, and various pasta paired with Marlborough wines.

If you love seafood, treat yourself to the mussel platter, which allows you to experience this delicacy cooked in 8 different ways.

They also have outdoor seating.

Special Events

There are several annual special events showcasing the region’s vibrant culture and local talents. 

However, one of the best events is the Marlborough Food & Wine Festival, held in February each year.

For wine enthusiasts, this event is a highlight. It provides an opportunity to taste wines from more than 30 local wineries, savour gourmet street food, and enjoy live entertainment in a picturesque vineyard.

Getting There

Green bush meets green water in Punga Cove, Marlborough Sounds
Punga Cove

If you’re flying in from other parts of the country, the nearest airport is Blenheim Airport.

Alternatively, you can drive from other major cities in New Zealand, such as Christchurch or Nelson, enjoying the scenic beauty along the way. It is a 4-hour drive from Christchurch to Blenheim and only a 2-hour drive from Nelson to Blenheim.

It is 30 minutes drive from Blenheim to towns such as Picton and Havelock in the Marlborough Sounds.

Buses from many South Island towns service the region. Additionally, a train travels from Christchurch to Blenheim and Picton. The Coastal Pacific train travels along rugged coastlines and panoramic landscapes. This exceptional tour is our recommendation if you will be travelling on public transport from Christchurch.

However, travellers mainly reach the Marlborough region via the ferry from Wellington on the North Island to Picton, the gateway to the South Island. If this is your choice, Congratulations; this is one of our most favourite things to do in Marlborough NZ – the ferry trip.

Is Marlborough NZ worth a visit?

Dazzling green water of Pelorus River
Pelorus River

The region’s natural wonders, world-class wines, outdoor adventures, epic sea views, and vibrant culinary scene make it a must-visit destination. 

Marlborough is one of our 3 favourite regions in the South Island. We highly recommend you do not miss this unique part of the world.

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