1. Explore the Marlborough Sounds
It’s likely that you will have cruised through the Marlborough Sounds when taking the ferry to the South Island. Well, that was just a taste of it. The mountainous coastal region has much to explore in a variety of different ways. Take in the scenery and look out for dolphins on a scenic boat cruise or hit the popular Queen Charlotte Track, which can be either walked or biked. Why not take a day trip to one of the Sounds’ hidden gems, like swimming with stingrays at Lochmara, immersing in the history at Ship Cove, or watching the native birds on the pest-free Motuara Island?
Location: Marlborough Sounds
2. Go on a winery Crawl
The Marlborough region is New Zealand’s largest wine-making region, so it should go without saying that hopping from cellar door to cellar door is a Marlborough must-do! Renwick is surrounded by 17 winery cellar doors all within a 5km radius, so hire a bike or jump on a mini-bus tour and treat yourself to some of the world’s finest Sauvignon Blanc! Pick-ups from tour operators can often be organised from Picton and Blenheim. (And don’t forget to check out the 10 Blenheim Must-Dos too!)
3. Go mountain Biking
Marlborough is a seriously bike-friendly region. Not only is biking one of the most popular ways to get between wineries (see above), there are plenty of mountain biking thrills to be had. The Queen Charlotte Track, open to bikers between March and November, is a must-do three-day wilderness trail. The Link Pathway is a day wilderness trail with some spectacular views between Picton and Havelock. Finally, Wither Hills Farm Park in Blenheim has a dedicated mountain bike park to experience those downhill thrills!
Location: Picton, Marlborough Sounds and Blenheim.
4. Explore Okiwi Bay
Getting to Okiwi Bay is just part of the adventure when driving through the beautiful Rai Valley. Once you get “over the hill” you are greeted with stunning views overlooking the quiet bay. Check out the stunning coastal views from the Goat Hill Track or hire a kayak and paddle in the bay. To extend your stay longer, take the scenic road to French Pass (see below).
Location: Okiwi Bay
5. Visit the Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve
That’s right, it’s not just about the coast in Marlborough! The Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve is located on the Pelorus River, a clear-water river lined with majestic rock faces. The area is so stunning that it appeared in the barrel scene in The Hobbit movies. Either make use of the walks, the campground or go kayaking with Pelorus Eco Adventures to really explore this beautiful area. For more information on the walks, check out Marlborough Guide for Backpackers.
6. Take the scenic drive down French Pass
If winding gravel roads don’t scare you, then you are in for a treat with the French Pass Road! Starting from Okiwi Bay, the road takes you through a tract of native forest before emerging with open views across the French Pass Peninsula and out to D’Urville Island. Short walks along the way take you to viewpoints overlooking some whirlpools, as well as some quiet hidden beaches. For more information, check out French Pass and D’Urville Island – Guide for Backpackers.
Location: Okiwi Bay
7. Fish, hike and relax on D’urville Island
Get a water taxi from French Pass to the island paradise of D’Urville Island. Fishing is a popular sport to do around its coast (you’re almost guaranteed to catch a blue cod), and you’re likely to spot dolphins and seals along the way. Once you’ve arrived on the forested island alive with the sound of native birds, go for a hike, mountain bike, kayak or just relax. Check out more information at French Pass and D’Urville Island – Guide for Backpackers.
Location: D’Urville Island
8. Check out the museums
Culture yourself at one of Marlborough’s many educative museums. The Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre (79 Aerodrome Road, Blenheim) holds some action-packed displays of planes throughout history designed and put together by Sir Peter Jackson. Another museum worth checking out is the Marlborough Museum, (26 Arthur Baker Place, Blenheim), to get a rounded perspective on the Marlborough region, from Maori history to wine-making.
9. Embrace the landscape of the Awatere Valley
The Awatere Valley is a place of extremes. Drive along golden hills, pink solar salt ponds, vineyards, wide river valleys and tussock-covered hills. The Awatere Valley is also the entrance to New Zealand’s largest high-country farm, Molesworth Station. The high-country farm is open to the public for hiking, mountain biking and camping. Access is via Acheron Road, but check that the road is open on the Department of Conservation website.
Location: Awatere Valley
10. Treat Your Taste Buds
At BackpackerGuide.NZ, we are all about saving money on food so you can afford to travel longer and do epic activities. Well, that’s with the exception of Marlborough. If you were to have one foodie experience in New Zealand, it has to be in Marlborough. Tasting greenshell mussels in Havelock is a must-do in Marlborough! Otherwise, try your luck at fishing, visit the King Salmon farm, and try one of the many eateries and wineries in Picton and Blenheim. Makana chocolate factory and the Dodson Street “Biergarten” are some of our favourites.
Location: Picton, Blenheim and Havelock