Marlborough is located in the north-east of the South Island and is a unitary authority, both a region and a district, with its council located at Blenheim. Marlborough is known for its dry climate, the picturesque Marlborough Sounds and sauvignon blanc wine.
The Marlborough region is situated due west of Wellington, across Cook Strait. Blessed with a wonderful sunny climate that regularly records the highest sunshine hours in New Zealand. Marlborough is the country's largest grape-growing and wine-making region with 65 wineries, 290 grape growers and 4,054 hectares in grape production, most of which are very close to Blenheim and Picton. This is a wonderful area with so many things on offer, from the Marlborough Sounds and valleys that are home to all kinds of wildlife to Queen Charlotte, Kenepuru and Pelorus sounds, which can be explored by boat, ferry, runabout, luxury charter launch or kayak from Picton or Havelock. Both are great towns from which to explore or base yourself. Fantastic diving can be found everywhere in the Sounds or you can admire the spectacular scenery during stunning walks in the bush. The scenery is spectacular as the mountains rise straight from the sea and crystal waters entice you for a swim. The Marlborough region is a place where you can do just about anything - from outdoor adventures, to wine tastings around some of the world’s best vineyards. Or you can check out some fantastic arts and crafts, history and gardens or marine pursuits.
There are many restaurants, cafes, hotels and lodges in the Marlborough region. Blenheim is main city and close to all vineyards while Picton is the base for the Marlborough Sounds and the town has many hospitality businesses of all varieties. The busiest time in this area is summer and the region is a wonderful place to work if you love water sports and the great outdoors. Employment is also available at wineries, or on boat cruises. The region's economy is based on wine, plus seafood, agriculture, forestry and horticulture. Boutique bed and breakfast accommodation can be found throughout the wine-growing area. Marlborough can lay claim to having started the modern New Zealand wine industry. Here in the late 1970s, Marlborough produced sauvignon blanc, among other varieties, which inspired the confidence that New Zealand could produce exciting wine. Today the Marlborough wine region represents 62% of total vineyard area in the country. The king varietal here is sauvignon blanc, closely followed by pinot noir and chardonnay.
Population: 45,000 June 2009 estimate
Marlborough is in the northeast of the South Island of New Zealand and its main city is Blenheim, which has a population of 30,000 (June 2009 estimate). The census-based estimate of usually resident population for the Marlborough Region totalled 41,700 as at March 2003. According to official projections, the resident population of Marlborough District is anticipated to increase to 45,100 by 2016. The Marlborough Regional Development Trust and associated organisations are actively pursuing strategies to enhance the region's rate of growth. As at March 2001, there were an estimated 3.8 people per square kilometre compared to the New Zealand average of 14.1 people per square kilometre. Marlborough District contains 1.1 percent of all businesses in New Zealand. A total of 3,759 businesses were located in the region as at February 2003, an increase of 203 from the previous year and 341 from February 2001. For a region with a relatively small population, Marlborough has a remarkably vibrant community.
The Marlborough coast supported a small Maori population from possibly as early as the 12th century. Anthropologists named this part of central Aotearoa, Wanganui, an area that stretched from the inland Ureweras to Kaiapohia. Maori in the region lived by fishing and cultivating crops, including kumara, a sweet potato. Marlborough was not sighted by Europeans until the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1770. Sixty years later, the first European settlers were drawn by the rich coastline and arrived to set up whaling stations. At first Maori and European co-existed, but with the arrival of the New Zealand Company in 1840 and its subsequent land purchases on behalf of Nelson settlers, conflict was sparked and skirmishes between survey parties and local Maori culminated in the bloody Wairau Incident near Tuamarina. Marlborough became a separate province in 1859. Gold was discovered in the early 1860s, but the boom did not last long. Marlborough's world-famous former residents include rocket scientist William Pickering and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ernest Rutherford.
Activities: What to do there?
There is plenty to do in Marlborough where wine, water and wilderness reign supreme. Queen Charlotte Track is a great way to appreciate the Marlborough Sounds. This is a 67-kilometre track that passes through lush coastal forest, around coves and inlets, offering breathtaking views of the Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru sounds. Blenheim is the base from which to begin your explorations of Marlborough's wineries or follow the art and craft trail to see a thriving creative community in action. Alternatively you can visit a distillery and see how it's done and taste locally produced fruit brandies and liqueurs.
Explore the town of Picton, a European settlement from the 1840s, and see many of the early buildings that still grace the waterfront. Go on a sea kayaking safari or visit the Edwin Fox, a maritime artefact situated in Picton. Dive shipwrecks such as the Russian cruise liner, Mikhail Lermontov, or the wreck of the Hippalos, a 120-year-old wooden barque. Check out Havelock, which was once a thriving gold-mining town, or visit the historic gold mining township of Canvastown. Don’t miss out on the scenic splendour of Pelorus Bridge Reserve and rural Rai Valley, or get on board a charter boat and go snapper fishing and see the tiny settlement of French Pass and its offshore island d'Urville. Stretch your legs on the Pelorus Bridge walks, 18 kilometres west of Havelock. Guided trout fishing and hunting tours are other ways to appreciate the beauty of the Marlborough landscape. The average brown trout in this region weighs between one to three kilograms, depending on the fishing ground.
For a region with a relatively small population, Marlborough has a remarkably vibrant community. There are churches and religious organisations, service clubs such as Rotary and Lions, operatic and dramatic societies as well as numerous thriving sports, recreation and social clubs for all age groups. Even small townships in the region have public parks, often a community library and museum, and there are swimming pools in Picton and Seddon. Blenheim is particularly well endowed, with a museum, parks, gardens and art galleries among other facilities. The Marlborough Centre is a first class venue for a variety of cultural events, including local and visiting theatrical productions, ballet and orchestra. The Marlborough Wine Festival is New Zealand's longest running and most successful wine festival. Take the opportunity to sample a unique selection of Marlborough wines along with some delicious local produce and gourmet cuisine. The Marlborough Civic Theatre is a venue that holds around 450 seats and hosts a variety of shows, from comedy to musicals!
Airport: Marlborough has direct flights to Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland. There are four airline operators serving Marlborough. Blenheim airport is located at Woodbourne, 5km west of Blenheim, and is serviced by three airlines.
Air New Zealand up to 10 daily flights Blenheim/Wellington, 3 flights Blenheim/Auckland and 3 flights Blenheim/Christchurch. More information and bookings - www.airnewzealand.co.nz
Phone: 0800 737 000
air2there - daily flights Blenheim/Wellington and Blenheim/Paraparaumu. More information and bookings - www.air2there.com
Phone: 0800 777 000
Picton airport is located at Koromiko, 5km south of Picton, and is serviced by one airline.
Sounds Air - up to seven daily flights Picton/Wellington
More information and bookings - www.soundsair.co.nz
Phone: 0800 505 005
Roads: Marlborough and Nelson are well served by state highway and local authority roads. The forestry industry has also established a very extensive forest roading infrastructure.
Buses: Marlborough is well served by coach services from Christchurch and Nelson. Intercity – two daily return services Picton/Blenheim/Christchurch, one daily return service Picton/Blenheim/Nelson. More information and bookings - www.intercitycoach.co.nz
Atomic Shuttles – Two daily return services Picton/Blenheim/Christchurch, one daily return service Picton/Blenheim/Nelson/Greymouth/Fox Glacier. More information and bookings - www.atomictravel.co.nz
Ferries: There are two ferry operators who transport passengers and vehicles across Cook Strait between Wellington and Picton.
The Interislander - up to five sailings in each direction daily. More information and bookings - www.interislander.co.nz.
Phone: 0800 802 802
Bluebridge - up to four sailings in each direction daily. More information and bookings - hwww.bluebridge.co.nz
Phone: 0800 844 844
For transport around the Marlborough Sounds there are a number of water taxis and charter vessels available.
Train: TranzCoastal: There is one service daily in each direction from Picton to Blenheim and Christchurch, connecting with ferry sailings to/from Wellington. The TranzCoastal takes you to Christchurch, the Garden City, from the delightful port of Picton via the stunning Kaikoura Coast. You'll enjoy the panoramic views, reclining seating and fully licensed buffet car.
For information and bookings call 0800 872 467 or visit the www.tranzscenic.co.nz
Cycling: Blenheim's is quite flat around the wine region and this makes exploring by bike ideal.