Unmistakably wine country


Unmistakably wine country

Situated at the top of the South Island, Marlborough’s dry and sunny climate makes it one of New Zealand’s biggest wine growing regions. Add to that an abundance of fresh, locally caught seafood along with a huge selection of cafes and restaurants and you know you’re in foodie heaven.

Marlborough region marker

But what about the outdoors and adventure – you can’t exactly sit around quaffing good wine all day can you? Geographically, one of the most recognisable features of the region are the Marlborough Sounds, a number of linked sea inlets that visitors first encounter when approaching the South Island by ferry.

These intricate waterways and surrounding hills are a coastal paradise covered in native bush filled with birdlife. While some of the landscape is accessible by road, many secluded beaches and sheltered coves are not accessible on foot and best explored from the water, with guided and self-guided kayak tours being a popular option.

Blenheim is the region’s largest centre however, the nearby town of Picton is the main transport hub providing a vital connection between the North and South Islands via ferry. Here are approximate travel times and distances to and from these centres.

Drive times

  • Wellington to Picton (via ferry): 3 hours
  • Picton to Nelson: 105 km / 65 miles – 2 hours
  • Picton to Kaiteriteri: 168 km / 104 miles – 3 hours
  • Picton to Blenheim: 28 km / 17 miles – 30 minutes
  • Blenheim to Kaikoura: 130 km / 81 miles – 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Blenheim to Christchurch: 310 km / 193 miles – 4 hours 20 minutes
  • Blenheim to West Coast (Punakaiki): 300 km / 186 miles – 4 hours 10 minutes

Travel times can vary significantly, particularly in popular areas during peak visitor months (December – February). For current travel times and updates on delays, roadworks and road closures, use the NZ Transport Agency journey planner before travelling. It’s always a good idea to allow extra time for photo stops and, when travelling longer distances, rest stops.

The Coastal Pacific which travels along the east coast between Picton and Christchurch, via Blenheim and Kaikoura, was severely damaged by the Kaikoura earthquake in November 2016. After extensive repairs, the route reopened in December 2018. Check the KiwiRail website for current operating times.

Marlborough Airport is approximately 5 minutes drive from Blenheim.

  • Auckland (AKL) to Blenheim (BHE): 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Wellington (WLG) to Blenheim (BHE): 30 minutes
  • Paraparaumu (PPQ) to Blenheim (BHE): 35 minutes
  • Blenheim (BHE) to Christchurch (CHC): 60 minutes
  • Blenheim (BHE) to Napier (NPE): 60 minutes

Picton has a small aerodrome approximately 10 minutes drive south of the town with currently only a single operator, Sounds Air, providing flights to and from Wellington.

  • Picton (PCN) to Wellington (WLG): 30 minutes

From Blenheim on the east coast to the central Wairau Valley and Picton and the sounds to the north, Marlborough’s climate is varied. Overall the climate is quite continental with hot, dry summers (December – February) and cold winters (June – August) with snow on the mountain tops. Blenheim itself is more moderated and recognised as being on of the sunniest towns in New Zealand. The average high in summer is 23 °C / 73.4 °F and the average low is 12 °C / 53.6 °F. In winter, the average high is 13 °C / 55.4 °F and the average low is 3 °C / 37.4 °F with temperatures sometimes dipping below 0 °C.

Check current conditions and get the latest Blenheim weather forecasts on

While there’s not much you can do about the weather once you’re here, it’s worth knowing what to expect at different times of the year and in different parts of the country. These two articles are well worth reading:

Top things to do in Marlborough

Looking for ideas to help you plan the ultimate New Zealand outdoor adventure? Here are some of the top things for active travellers to see and do in the Marlborough region.

Kayak the Marlborough Sounds

With 1,500km / 932 miles of coastline, the Marlborough Sounds is the perfect place to sea kayak in solitude with only seals, dolphins and penguins for company. Experienced paddlers can hire kayaks for self-guided day or even multi-day adventures. Alternatively, consider a guided option from Marlborough Sounds Adventure Company. They also offer guided multi-activity adventures that include kayaking, hiking and mountain biking.

Sounds kayak

Walk or mountain bike the Queen Charlotte Track

The 70km / 43 mile Queen Charlotte Track is a dual purpose walking and mountain biking track, recognised as one of New Zealand’s official Great Rides. For much of the way, it follows the ridgeline between the Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds, providing spectacular views as it passes through lush forest and around secluded bays. The track can be walked in 3 – 5 days or cycled in 2 – 3 days. For independent adventurers, details on the track and the available campsites are available on the Department of Conservation website. For guided options, visit the Marlborough Sounds Adventure Company.

Marlborough Sounds