Heritage, Culture & Arts

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.

Sir Edmund Hillary

When famous Kiwi mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary summited Marlborough’s highest peak in 1944, he didn’t do it the easy way.

Sir Ed was training with the Royal New Zealand Air Force at Woodbourne near Blenheim during World War 2 when he scaled his first “decent” mountain – Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku – solo.

His planned route, up the 11km ridge line of Tongue Spur rather than up the Hodder River, is considered long and arduous, and is one of the longer ridge routes in New Zealand.

These days, most people drive to the start of the track; Sir Ed first had to walk 32km up the Awatere Valley before making the 14-hour climb up the 2,885m (nearly 10,000 foot) mountain.

Despite the challenge, he completed the journey in only three days – a long weekend – saying "I'd climbed a decent mountain at last".

Sir Ed went on to be the first person to summit Mt Everest, in 1953, with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.

Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku is New Zealand’s tallest peak outside of the Southern Alps, and can be seen from all over Marlborough, and from Wellington on a clear day.

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