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
The Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre in Blenheim was built by aviation enthusiasts who wanted to share their passion with others.
The museum’s roots were laid in the late 1990s with the arrival of two Chinese Nanchang trainers, which caught the public’s interest and the establishment of the Marlborough Warbirds Association.
Soon other heritage aircraft were drawn to Marlborough’s ideal flying weather and environment, and people began asking to see the growing collection stored at Omaka.
In 1997, discussions on how to allow public access began and the New Zealand Aviation Museum Trust was established.
The result is a permanent exhibition of one of the world’s largest collections of World War One aircraft, both static and flyable, and rare memorabilia, owned by The Hobbit director Sir Peter Jackson.
The Knights of the Sky exhibition brings human stories from the Great War to life in captivating scenes created by internationally acclaimed WingNut Films and Weta Workshop.
WW2 exhibition Dangerous Skies broadens the Omaka experience into the more familiar territory of World War Two, even while breaking new ground. Taking visitors on a journey the through lesser-known stories of the war on the Eastern front, those of the world’s only female fighter aces and the most famous of all women regiments; Russia’s 588th Night Bombers, or ‘Night Witches’ as the Germans called them.
Like World War One’s Knights of the Sky, Dangerous Skies features mannequins made by Weta Workshop, and original, flyable static aircraft in larger-than-life dioramas, capturing specific snapshots in history.
In 2019, Dangerous Skies has undergone a refresh and the main exhibition area now holds two additional aircraft, both originals and never seen before at Omaka. The first a Messerschmitt Bf108 once owned and flown by German ace Franz Stigler, and the second a Lockheed Hudson, an American-built light bomber and coastal reconnaissance aircraft which has been suspended in a dramatic crash scene in the depths of a Pacific island jungle.
The Griffon-powered Spitfire Mk. XIV (one of fewer than a handful of flying spitfires in Australasia), is still in residence as is the Focke-Wulf Fw-190. Full Noise, a Russian Yak-3Ua and a Reno Air Races' Gold Class alumni is on display alongside fighter ace Lydia Litvyak. This aircraft is capable of speeds up to 407 mph and is available for joy flights!
The Centre is open 7 days a week and closed Christmas Day only, check out more on how to visit here.
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