Marlborough’s rich history runs wide and deep, from the earliest Polynesian settlers of the Wairau Bar to the first European pioneers who built our towns and planted our first grapevines.
These people, the way they lived their lives and how they dealt with history’s major events has shaped Marlborough into what it is today. Those stories are all here, waiting to be discovered all over again.
Marlborough has a wealth of arts and culture, from art galleries to museums through to concerts and theatre productions.
Follow the Marlborough Arts and Crafts Trail, enjoy a glass of wine while listening to live music at a vineyard or on stage at Marlborough's new ASB Theatre.
Marlborough has been at the centre of important historical aviation events on many occasions, on both a national and international scale. That legacy continues strongly today, with the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre at its heart.
Much of Marlborough’s history has been preserved, or restored, exactly where it happened. Think Ship Cove, the site of Captain James Cook’s frequent Marlborough visits; the remains of the Perano Whaling Station; the ancient fortified pa of Karaka Point; the wooden immigrant ship Edwin Fox. Learn more about these historic sites.
With almost 4,000km² of coastline in the Marlborough Sounds alone, our region has played an integral role in New Zealand’s maritime history. From a thriving whaling industry to the many ships that wrecked along our rugged shores, there are countless tales from the sea.
Long before Marlborough’s world famous wine industry took hold, the land provided for its people in many ways. Read how early Māori thrived around the plentiful riches of the Wairau Lagoons, how flax was turned into money and how Blenheim/Te Waiharakeke received its first nickname, Beavertown.
Did you know the man who split the nuclear atom was schooled in Havelock? Woven throughout our history are many intriguing stories of those who lived in times gone by and created Marlborough as we know it today.
Underpinning our nation’s early beginnings are the ancient stories, legends and myths passed down through generations of Māori. Here is a selection of the legends that describe how Marlborough came to be.
From Rai Valley to Ward, each Marlborough settlement had its own fascinating and unique beginnings. Learn about the heritage of our villages and towns.
Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku, New Zealand's largest peak outside the Southern Alps, is the sacred mountain of local Marlborough Maori iwi and a visible symbol of the rich tapestry of Marlborough's culture. The annual Marlborough Book Festival forms one of these vibrant threads.
Discover Marlborough's culture
Marlborough is home to a host of artisans, public art, galleries, musicians and theatre performances. Join the Marlborough Arts and Crafts Trail, check out the Artisan Market on Saturdays, and watch local performances.
Marlborough's Arts guide
- Classic Fighters
- Marlborough Airport Heritage
- Omaka Aerodrome Heritage
- Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre
- Picton Airport Heritage
- Maud Island Heritage
- Wairau Bar Heritage
- Pelorus Heritage
- Karaka Point Heritage
- Kakapo Bay Cemetary Heritage
- Horahora Kakahu Island Heritage
- Molesworth Station Heritage
- Arapaoa Island
- Te Aumiti/French Pass Heritage
- Mt Taupae-o-Uenuku
- Perano Whaling Station
- Ship Cove/Meretoto Heritage
- Wairau Affray Heritage
- Wairau Lagoons Heritage
- Cape Campbell Heritage
- The Edwin Fox
- Cape Jackson Heritage
- Cook Strait Ferries Heritage
- Mikhail Lermentov Heritage
- Opaoa River Heritage
- Pelorus Jack Heritage
- Wine Heritage
- Antimony Mining Heritage
- Farming Heritage
- Gold Mining Heritage
- Arthur Clouston
- Sir Edward Chaytor
- Captain Cook
- Sir Edmund Hillary
- Elizabeth Lissaman
- Lord Ernest Rutherford
- James Sinclair
- Blenheim Heritage
- Awarua/Spring Creek Heritage
- Havelock Heritage
- Picton Heritage
- Rai Valley Heritage
- Renwick Heritage
- Seddon Heritage
- Ward Heritage
Beryl Bowers Events Coordinator
"I am so lucky to live here with the mountains and the bush clad hills reaching the sea. The beauty of this region is amazing and nowhere else in the world have I seen such stunning scenery."My insider guide to Marlborough
Te Aumiti/French Pass is the narrow channel of water between Rangitoto ki te Tonga/D’Urville Island and the South Island at the northern end of the Marlborough Sounds. French Pass shares its name with the nearby settlement originally called Anaru.
Known for its treacherous tides and currents, the pass has the fastest tidal flows in New Zealand, at up to 8 knots (4 m/s).
Māori were known to have been in the area since the late 17th Century. Te Aumiti a te Kawau-a-Toru refers to the turbulent currents that drowned Te Kawau, the shag that was sent to test the currents of Te Aumiti by legendary Polynesian navigator Kupe, but broke its wing and never returned to the waka/canoe.
The name French Pass came from Frenchman Jules Dumont d'Urville, the first European to pass through the pass on the French Navy corvette Astrolabe in 1827. Sent on his second voyage to New Zealand to fill in gaps left on the map created by Captain James Cook, who’d sailed around the northern side of Rangitoto ki te Tonga/D’Urville Island, Julius d’Urville spent several days battling winds and currents to get his ship through the pass, scraping the reef twice.
In the 1860s, a stone beacon was placed on the reef, but as more boats began to travel through the pass, including passenger and mail steamers, safety fears saw a light added in 1882 – which was immediately hit by a steamer.
Two years later, Te Aumiti/French Pass lighthouse was built on the mainland and first lit on 1 October that year.
The lighthouse, and the rushing waters of Te Aumiti, can be seen from the viewing platform on the Te Aumiti/French Pass Lookout Track.