Marlborough, New Zealand – a paradise for nature enthusiasts and wine connoisseurs alike! Nestled at the top of the South Island, Marlborough is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, world-class vineyards, and captivating wildlife. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time adventurer, this gem of a region has something extraordinary to offer everyone.
In this blog post, we will embark on an unforgettable journey through the best tours in Marlborough, New Zealand. From traversing the picturesque Marlborough Sounds to savoring the region’s iconic Sauvignon Blanc, we’ll explore the most captivating and immersive experiences that will leave you enchanted and inspired.
Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or a delightful blend of both, Marlborough is a destination that will leave an indelible mark on your soul. So pack your bags, bring your sense of wonder, and let Marlborough’s enchanting allure unfold before you.
The Best Tours in Marlborough
Cruising the Marlborough Sounds
The area collectively referred to as Marlborough Sounds comprises three main Sounds; Queen Charlotte, Kenepuru and Pelorous Sounds. These Sounds are basically valleys filled with water from the Pacific Ocean that were created by a combination of land subsidence and rising sea levels.
A best way to explore the Marlborough Sounds is via boat and there are a big variety of cruises you can take from the town of Picton which is one of the main towns in the region. Here are my top picks!
Queen Charlotte Sound Mail Boat Cruise from Picton
The most unique cruise on this list if by far this one. You’ll board your cruise, a working mail boat, at Picton in the afternoon and spend the afternoon delivering mail, parcels and groceries to the remote residents that call these waterways home.
Onboard is lots of comfy seating inside and out and you’ll have some of the best views of the Sounds as you listen the the commentary delivered by the skipper as they deliver from residence to residence.
Queen Charlotte Sounds Sightseeing Cruise
If you don’t have a full afternoon to cruise the Marlborough Sounds, then this is next tour is a great option for you. Departing also from Picton, this 1.5 hour cruise you give the the highlights of the Sounds including Double Cove, Lochmara Bay and Onahau Bay.
Onboard you’ll find plenty of inside and outside seating to relax and enjoy the view as you listen to the onboard commentary. Keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife, both in and above the water.
Marlborough Sounds and Ship Cove Cruise from Picton
This 3.5 hour cruise departing from Picton will allow you the opportunity to disembark the cruise at Ship Cover to explore a favourite anchorage of Captain Cook’s. You’ll also see all the sights of the 1.5 hour cruise above.
Again, keep your eye out for wildlife on this cruise as you enjoy the commentary from inside or outside the cruise.
Picton and Marlborough Sounds: Seafood Odyssea Cruise
Indulge a little further with this 3 hour cruise with not only allows you to enjoy the beauty of Marlborough Sounds but also enjoy a range of local seafood paired perfectly with a glass of local Sauvignon Blanc.
There is a licensed bar onboard for additional drinks and lots of places to enjoy the views while listening to the onboard commentary on this luxury cruise boat.
Wine Tasting Through the Marlborough Region
The Marlborough region is famous the world over for its excellent varieties of Sauvignon Blanc wine. So, for wine lovers, taking a day out to explore some of the region’s best is an absolute must.
Nestled at the northeastern tip of the South Island, this picturesque area boasts a temperate maritime climate and diverse terroir, making it ideal for grape cultivation.
Most celebrated for its signature Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough’s vineyards also produce outstanding Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and other varietals. The region’s distinct wines are characterised by vibrant fruit flavors, crisp acidity, and an unmistakable expression of their unique terroir.
Here are a few of the best options for exploring the Marlborough wine region on a tour so no one in your group has to be designated driver for the day!
Hop-On Hop-Off Tour of the Wineries
Exactly as the name suggests, this tour, departing from Picton, allows you to make your own schedule by selecting the stops from a list of some of the finest breweries, gastronomic hubs, and vineyards in the region. There are 18 stops to take in so a little forward planning will help you out for the day.
Enjoy the freedom to stay as long or as little as you want at each stop and get tips from the knowledgeable drivers on where to hop-off next.
Marlborough Full Day Wine Tour
Spend a full day exploring the wineries of the Marlborough region with an expert guide. Sample the best wine in the region and enjoy a stop at a vineyard restaurant for lunch.
This tour leaves from Blenheim in a small group luxury mini-bus with guest comfort in front of mind. Your guide will tell you what is in store for the day and point out landmarks and explain why Marlborough grows such great grapes for wine making.
Marlborough Half-Day Wine Tour
If you don’t have the full day to enjoy the wineries in Marlborough then this half day tour is perfect. Pick up in Picton in the late morning, you’ll visit will be to five cellar doors, all of which are boutique family-run wineries.
Group sizes are kept small and you’ll be transported between cellar doors in a luxury mini-van driven by an expert guide who will fill you in all everything there is to know about this popular wine making region.
Marlborough Full-Day Self-Guided Biking Wine Tour
Did you know that there are 12 wineries all within 3 kilometres of each other in the Marlborough region making this the perfect place for a self-guided biking tour from cellar door to cellar door.
Transfers from Blenheim to bike rental place are included and once you’ve got your bike, helmet and wine map, you are free for explore as little or as many wineries at your leisure. A great way to do this is also by picking up a picnic from one of the wineries to have on you ride.
Hiking the Queen Charlotte Track
There are many great hikes in this region, but the one that is the most famous, for very good reason, is the Queen Charlotte Track.
The best way to experience the 15 kilometre hike is to have someone else transport you to the start and finish of the track.
This tour starts with a 1 hour cruise from Picton to Ship Cove where you will be shown the start of the track and can then, at your leisure, hike your way along the track.
The track climbs away from the beach as you pass through native forest regenerating beneath a high canopy of trees. You will then be able to admire stunning views of the sound when you reach Tawa Saddle. The track then drops into Resolution Bay and follows an old bridle path into Endeavour Inlet to Furneaux Lodge.
At Furneaux Lodge you will be collected by the boat to return to Picton by 6pm.
Kayaking the Marlborough Sounds
The serene waters of the Marlborough Sounds are the perfect place to explore by kayak. And there is no better way than to do it than on this guided tour where you’ll get to see many beautiful bays with an experienced guide.
To start the tour you will be kitted out in your safety gear and given a quick paddling introduction, good for first timers or those who haven’t kayaked recently.
Then you’ll hit the water where the tour will take you to the best spots based on the conditions of the day.
There will be the chance to stop and stretch your legs at a secluded bay, have a picnic lunch and if the weather is warm enough, have a swim in the cool tranquil waters.
The Marlborough Sounds, like the rest of New Zealand, is home to an abundance of wildlife which you will find at every twist and turn around the Sounds.
While you should definitely be keeping your eye out for wildlife everywhere you go in the region, if you are very keen to see dolphins or local birds, then one of these tours below will be the perfect addition to your time in Marlborough Sounds.
Half-Day Dolphin Viewing Eco-Tour from Picton
One of the best places in the world to spot dolphins in their natural habitat, because of the sunken river valleys, forested cliffs and sandy bay, is the Marlborough Sounds.
This half-day tour departs from Picton on a small boat cruise, meaning you’ll be able to get to some spots that the larger boats can’t, and these the spots where the dolphins can usually be found.
Keep your eyes peeled for dusky, bottlenose and orca dolphins frolicking in their natural environment as your expect eco guide takes you around the Marlborough Sounds in search of these majestic creatures.
Early Bird Eco Cruise
Enjoy a boat ride from Picton out to Motuara Island, home to some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable bird life.
Look for these rate birds as you explore the native flourishing bush and enjoy the peace and quiet of the island. You might get to see blue penguins, saddleback, robins and much more during your visit to the island.
Your expert guide will provide live commentary both on the boat and on the island to help you understand these creatures and give you the best chance of spotting them.
A region known for is mountainous terraine and sweeping water ways is always best scene from above, and you can do exactly that in Marlborough Sounds with a scenic flight experience.
Be amazed by the views of mountains rising out of sunken river valleys, and even land at a remote, pristine beach in the outer sounds for 20 minutes on this incredible, once in a lifetime tour.
This is great option if you have just a short time in the region and what to capitalise on the absolute best views.
The tour leaves from Picton Airport which is just a short drive 9km from town.
Accommodation in Marlborough
The Marlborough Region has a good variety of accommodation options to choose from. Based on the tours above, my recommendation would be to either stay in the towns of Picton or Blenhaim as this is where all of the above tours depart from. Here are few accommodation options in these towns to choose from.
Accommodation in Picton
Budget – The Villa
Mid-Range – Bay Vista Waterfront Motel
Luxury – Escape to Picton Boutique Hotel
Accommodation in Blenheim
Budget – Colonial Motel
Mid-Range – Nottinghill BnB
Luxury – Peppertree Luxury Accommodation
Over to You!
Which of this list of the best tours in Marlborough is top of your list for your next trip?
Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.