Heritage, Culture & Arts

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.

Wairau Lagoons Heritage

At the confluence of Blenheim’s Wairau and Opaoa Rivers, sheltered from the pounding Pacific Ocean by an 8km boulder bank, are the Wairau Lagoons.

Also known as Vernon Lagoons, the area was once a rich source of food for Māori in the area. Such an important resource was protected by major fighting pa, and many battles were held. It is thought that around the late 1700s, local Māori tribe Rangitane began creating a network of canals and channels to grow and harvest fish. The narrow channels were also specifically designed to assist in catching fish, eels (tuna) and birdlife such as Paradise ducks (putangitangi) and grey ducks (parera). Local materials, such as giant kelp and totara tree bark, were used to make storage vessels for the catches. Today, some of those carefully designed channels and canals remain.

Waverley wreck

A point of interest in the Wairau Lagoons is the rusted wreck of the ship Waverley, which lays on her side at the end of the channel. The Waverley was towed from Wellington by the SS Wairau to the mouth of the Wairau River, with the idea of scuttling her there to form a breakwater. However, the tide swept her up the channel to where she lies now.

Visit the lagoons

A flat walking track leads to the Wairau Lagoons’ main channel where the Waverley sits. The wreck is accessible at low tide. The track’s three-hour loop passes over salt marshes and takes in views over the lagoons, which is home to around 90 bird species. The main access point is from the end of Hardings Road, off State Highway 1 about 5km south of Blenheim. Another way to visit the lagoons is by kayak.

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