Unique attractions in the Top of the South

Tumbling over Marlborough’s vineyards in a WWII fighter plane, or baking pancakes over naturally-burning forest flames – if you want unique experiences for your next holiday, the Top of the South has plenty on offer.

Fight or flight

Ever wanted to see where Sir Peter Jackson parks some his magnificent collection of wartime aeroplanes? You’ll find them at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Museum in Blenheim, alongside rare historic aviation memorabilia and artefacts from both World Wars, all dramatically displayed. 

Or, take off on a 500km/h thrill ride in Fighter Flights’ V12 powered Yak 3. Capable of performing exhilarating high-speed aerobatics, you can choose how “mild or wild” you want your experience to be.

For a more sedate airborne experience, Pelorus Air can take you above the maze of the Marlborough Sounds, while Helicopters Nelson offer guided tours of the famous Lord of the Ring locations in the Kahurangi National Park, or Murchison Heli Tours can take you into the mountains for a romantic picnic with a view.

The wild side

The wild and wonderful beaches on the west coast of Golden Bay are off the beaten track but well worth the journey. Take a horse-riding trek to spectacular Wharariki Beach, where archway islands stand sentry beyond the surf, and waves boom dramatically through sea caves.

Further north, Farewell Spit is a bird sanctuary and wetland of international importance. Farewell Spit Tours will take you into the public-restricted zone, to the lighthouse, gannet colony and wader watch area where you can immerse in the natural beauty of this spectacular place.

Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary in Marlborough is just ten minutes by boat from Picton, offering an immersive wildlife experience.

The wine side

With so much to do, you may have run out of time for a full Top of the South wine tour.

Head for Blenheim’s historic railway station, now the Wine Station. With 80 Marlborough wines ‘on tap’, take a personalised tour of varietals, from sauvignon blanc to tempranillo. Or, take time to pay homage to the most unmissable wine tool, the corkscrew, at FROMM Winery: admire 50 years’ worth of corkscrew collecting while you taste the wines.

At Gravity in Nelson Tasman, you can taste straight from tanks and barrels on a guided tour of a state-of-the-art gravity fed winery, learning the intricacies of producing great wine from none other than the winemaker himself.

Why not take a glass on location? Cloudy Bay’s ‘Come Sail Away’ takes you and their wine on a private yacht through the Marlborough Sounds, while its Land Rover and helicopter tours introduce you to their terroirs first hand.

For something more relaxing, indulge in an exclusive wine and food experience in Hanz Herzog’s stylish wine lounge, including a glimpse into the winery.

Fire and gold

If you like adrenaline, fire and gold, then don’t overlook Murchison, a former goldrush town with an eclectic selection of unforgettable experiences, including a perpetual fire in the forest. The Natural Flames Experience tour will guide you to the flames and treat you to pancakes cooked over the fire, while answering your burning questions about this natural phenomenon.

Murchison is also something of an adventure hub, with jet boating, whitewater rafting and kayaking tours on the mighty Buller River. Walk across New Zealand’s longest swingbridge at the Buller Gorge Adventure and Heritage Park, or zip across the rapids on the 160m Cometwire before trying your luck with gold panning.

Back in town, browse the op shops and the museum, finishing off with a drive to spectacular Maruia Falls, created by the 1929 Murchison earthquake.

Elope in paradise

If you’re searching for a truly unforgettable location for your wedding or intimate elopement, there’s plenty here in the Top of the South.

Take a helicopter to a mountain top and say your vows at sunset, or in the snow. Gather on a secluded Abel Tasman beach, dipping your toes in golden sand, or a far-flung Marlborough Sounds lodge. Or, ride to a wind-swept Golden Bay beach on horseback and tie the knot in a majestic cave; say “I do” on the jetty of an alpine lake; in a vineyard; or by a waterfall surrounded by absolute wilderness.

Whatever you choose, the experience will be truly unforgettable.

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