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.

Ward Heritage

Ward, located 45km south of Blenheim, was built on what was once the South Island’s first and largest pastoral station.

Flaxbourne Station was 23,000ha in size and, near its end in the 1870s, ran more than 70,000 sheep.

Before the arrival of Europeans, Māori were attracted to the area for its seafood, eels and ducks. But, with flat and open land, it was also an area that was open to attack – in the 1830s the mouth of the Flaxbourne River was the scene of a bloody battle between Ngati Toa and Ngai Tahu.

Flaxbourne Estate was established when cousins Charles Clifford and Frederick Weld leased land stretching from Lake Grassmere to the Waima/Ure River - and soon to Kekerengu - from Ngati Toa in 1846.

The estate was one of the first stations to use shearing machines.

Flaxbourne survived two massive earthquakes in 1848 and 1855 of magnitudes 7.5 and 8.2. But it didn’t survive the New Zealand Government’s Lands for Settlement Act, which allowed the Crown to take estates and award compensation.

In 1905, the town was established and within four years 300 people settled.

In 1911, when the railway arrived, the town was renamed Ward after the Minister of Railways of that time, Joseph Ward, who eventually became Prime Minister.

Today, Ward is a small service town on State Highway 1. Ward Beach is an exposed, rugged section of coastline known for great fishing and crayfish.

Just south of Ward, via the Waima/Ure Valley, is Sawcut Gorge - a stunning limestone rock formation that is internationally significant due to its evidence of the K-T Boundary, the time zone that marked the end of the Cretaceous (dinosaur) era and the beginning of the Tertiary/Cenozoic era.

Access to Sawcut Gorge is on foot via Blue Mountain Station.

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