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
- Mt Taupae-o-Uenuku
- Perano Whaling Station
- Ship Cove/Meretoto Heritage
- Wairau Affray Heritage
- Wairau Lagoons Heritage
- Cape Campbell Heritage
- 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
- Havelock Heritage
- Picton Heritage
- Rai Valley Heritage
- Renwick Heritage
- Seddon Heritage
- Ward Heritage
Steve Austin Marlborough Museum
“Marlborough is incredibly rich in terms of heritage nationally and internationally, and we are in the process of discovering even more.”My insider guide to Marlborough
Molesworth Station, in South Marlborough’s high country, is New Zealand’s largest farm. Each summer, many visitors travel through the 180,787 hectare station to enjoy its magnificent surrounds, but also to learn of its fascinating history.
The route is one that was historically travelled by Ngai Tahu Maori for food gathering, or on their way to the West Coast to source greenstone (pounamu). There were no permanent Maori settlements on the route, but in 1850 an old Maori whare (house) was found near the junction of the Acheron and Clarence.
It was Maori who taught early European settlers of this high country route, and farmers began taking their stock over the high passes. From the 1850s, the Molesworth became part of the main inland connection between Nelson Marlborough and North Canterbury, called the Canterbury Track. The Molesworth farm itself was created after the Crown amalgamated of three extensive pastoral leases: St Helens (including the Dillon Run), Tarndale and Molesworth. These farms fell into Crown hands in 1938 and 1949 after their runholders walked off the land, exhausted by a severe rabbit problem, overgrazing on eroding land and severe snowfalls. Through the 1950s and 60s the Government recovered the land, which today continues to be farmed under administration by the Department of Conservation.
Acheron Accommodation House
A number of cob houses were built along the route to house stock drovers: The Acheron Accommodation House, also known as the Clarence Accommodation House, is the only one left today. It was built in 1863 by Ned James, a ships carpenter and station hand known for also building cob buildings. He took nearly a year to build the eight-roomed house. The house grew into a social hub. It included a store and unofficial post office and became a venue for a number of local clubs and meetings. Once its proprietor, Ernie Tozier, died in 1932, the house became used less often and was abandoned in 1954. It has now been restored and, along with the Molesworth Cob Cottage (closed to the public), is registered with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.
Travel the Molesworth
The Acheron Road is open from Labour Weekend to around Easter, though can be closed at any point by the Department of Conservation if the fire risk is too high. The unsealed road is not suitable for large vehicles, but can be driven by 2-wheel-drive vehicles. The Molesworth is accessed from the AwatereValley, via Rainbow Station and from Hanmer Springs. Camping is available at several locations including near Molesworth Cob Cottage and Acheron Historic Accommodation House.