“Marlborough has a really unique story to tell”.
top Must Dos
Visit the National Whale Centre
Celebrate physics & space exploration
Visit boutique wineries
Visit Molesworth Station
Picton's Maritime Festival
Journey through WWI
Take the mail boat
Nick Gerritsen grew up in a remote bay in Kenepuru Sound, where he went to Waitaria Bay School, at that point New Zealand’s remotest classroom. “We went to town once or twice a year, and as soon as school finished, we were out on the water fishing and kayaking and sailing.”
These days Nick works all around the world, but comes home to Picton and his “office” at Le Café, a small table in a vibrant café at the edge of the Marlborough Sounds. Between there and the water stands the “hub” of the National Whale Centre, of which Nick is chair - soon to open in November.
The NWC draws from global research, stories and knowledge, but Picton is at its heart, and the display and information hub is a chance for locals and visitors to explore its stories. Those stories include the physiology of whales, the international significance of whale migrations, whales and Maori and Pacific traditions, and the role of the whale as a metaphor for the health of the oceans.
It also tells the story of the world’s whaling history and the role New Zealand played in it, including whalers in the Marlborough Sounds. The Sounds area was the epicentre of 19th and early 20th century whaling enterprises, and Perano Whaling Station at the end of the Tory Channel is the only substantial refurbished whaling station in the country.
The Sounds is also the location of a whale conservation effort, which sees a host of former whalers gather each winter to put their sharp eyes to good use, counting humpback whales on their annual migration. Nick says when he and other trustees lifted the lid on tales of whaling, “we realised Marlborough has a really unique story to tell”.