Marlborough’s rich history runs wide and deep, from the earliest Polynesian settlers on Te Pokohiwi-o-Kupe/Wairau, Bar to the European pioneers who built towns and planted our first grapevines.
These people, the way they lived, 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 in the places where they happened or in our galleries, museums, art and theatre productions.
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 events happened. From Meretoto/Ship Cove, the site of Captain James Cook’s frequent Marlborough visits and first encounters between Māori and Europeans, to the remains of the Perano Whaling Station, the wooden immigrant ship Edwin Fox and the ancient fortified pā of Te Rae o Karaka/Karaka Point, you can learn more about, and visit, these historic sites.
With almost 4,000km² of coastline in the Marlborough Sounds alone, our region has played an integral role in Aotearoa/New Zealand’s maritime history. From the earliest known Māori settlers to arrive on our shores to a thriving whaling industry, and the many ships that wrecked along our rugged coastline, 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 Te Waiharakeke/Blenheim received its first nickname, Beavertown.
Did you know the man who split the nuclear atom was schooled in Motuweka/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 Airshow
- Marlborough Airport Heritage
- Omaka Aerodrome Heritage
- Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre
- Picton Airport Heritage
- Arapaoa Island
- Te Aumiti/French Pass Heritage
- Te Pākeka/Maud Island Heritage
- Te Pokohiwi/Wairau Bar Heritage
- Te Rae o Karaka/Karaka Point Heritage
- Kākāpō Bay Cemetery Heritage
- Horahora Kākahu Island Heritage
- Molesworth Station Heritage
- Te Hoiere/Pelorus Heritage
- Mt Taupae-o-Uenuku
- Perano Whaling Station
- Meretoto/Ship Cove Heritage
- Wairau Affray Heritage
- Wairau and Waikārapi/Vernon Lagoons Heritage
- The Edwin Fox
- Te Karaka/Cape Campbell Heritage
- Te Taonui-o-Kupe/Cape Jackson Heritage
- Raukawa/Cook Strait Ferries Heritage
- Mikhail Lermentov Heritage
- Ōpaoa 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
- Awarua/Spring Creek Heritage
- Te Waiharakeke/Blenheim Heritage
- Motuweka/Havelock Heritage
- Waitohi/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
The place where the Rai River pours into Te Hoiere/Pelorus River is called Titi Raukawa: Where the two waters meet.
This is where local iwi Ngāti Kuia's oldest tūpuna (ancestor) Matua Hotere tied up his waka after a long journey from Hawaiki, across Raukawa/Cook Strait and up Te Hoiere/Pelorus Sound. Here, the grandson of the great voyager Kupe surveyed his new discovery. The river was named ‘Te Hoiere’ after his waka. Until Europeans arrived, many temporary Māori settlements existed along the river. The area was a rich food source that led to what is now the Maungatapu Track, where Matua Hautere discovered pakohe or argillite, a strong black rock common in the Richmond Range mineral belt that would become a valuable material for adzes, tools and as a trading commodity.
In 1839, Colonel William Wakefield arrived, searching for settlement sites for the New Zealand Company. Nobody settled at Te Hoiere, but from 1850 to 1860 the land was progressively sold around the people of Ngāti Kuia.
In 1894 sawmillers moved in, the biggest of which was Brownlees who established 80km of tramway through the bush and cut 189 million feet of timber in 50 years. The patch of virgin forest that remains today is thanks to the foresight of surveyor-general Marchant, who commented to the Commissioner of Crown Lands in Te Waiharakeke/Blenheim on the area’s beauty.
On October 13, 1912, Governor-General Lord Islington proclaimed the popular picnic and swimming spot a scenic reserve and people began camping there from the 1920s. The first of four Te Hoiere/Pelorus River bridges was opened in 1860 for pedestrians in stock, and the current bridge in 1952.
Today, Te Hoiere/Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve has a popular Department of Conservation campsite, shop, cafe, walking tracks and swimming holes. The area is home to one of the last remaining populations of long-tailed bats in Marlborough, and an extensive pest trapping programme is in place to help protect them.
Search & book
Havelock Garden Motel
Pelorus Bridge DOC Campground & Cafe
Kayaking & Rafting
Pelorus Eco Adventures