If you’ve been thinking about what to do in Marlborough while you traverse from either the North, or the South Island, our marvellous things to do in Marlborough article will seriously whet your appetite.
With a bustling tourism industry, more art, crafts, wine, food and culture than most other regions, and some of the most stunning bush, beaches and scenery in the country, Marlborough truly is marvellous.
Getting to Marlborough
By far the most popular way to get to Marlborough is to drive.
Some tourists travel by bus, for instance the hop on-hop off Stray Travel service will get you there from either island. But mostly people drive in and out of Marlborough from either the North or South Island.
If you’re travelling from the North Island, you have the option of driving onto a ferry in Wellington, or walking on and picking up a car or campervan hire from Picton to continue your journey.
We recommend Bluebridge Cook Strait Ferries, they sail from Wellington to the Marlborough Sounds 25 times per week.
There’s free Wi-Fi and movies on board, free kids activity packs, and free kids entertainment on board during the school holidays. With comfy seating options, great value food for the whole family and even picnic tables on the top deck, your family will be well catered for by the warm, friendly Kiwi service Bluebridge provides.
They also have private ensuite cabins from as little as $30 with linen provided. It’s great to have your own private space to rest on the ship, to spread out, store all your belongings and contain the kids!
Right now you can save 25% on all vehicle fares, or get a walk on fare for only $49 if you book before 28 February and travel by 30 April. This is perfect for the April school holidays.
Once you’re in Picton, if you’re on foot it’s only a 20 minute walk to the square, with lots of eating options and boutiques along the way. There’s lots of accommodation options around the square, or the Picton Campervan Park or the Waikawa Bay Kiwi Holiday Park just around the corner in Waikawa.
You can book lots of Picton tour options just down the road from the Bluebridge ferry terminal at the i-Site, which is really handy. If you’re a family travelling with kids, here’s our list of some of the best things to do in Marlborough.
6 Marvellous Things to do in Marlborough With Kids
Queen Charlotte Sound
The jaw-droppingly gorgeous Queen Charlotte Sound has to be experienced to be understood.
There’s basically 4 ways to experience the Sound and the trail that winds around it. And one of these options will suit you, depending on the age and fitness of your family members.
Cruising the Sound
The most relaxed way to experience the Queen Charlotte Sound is by boat. You can book cruises from as short as 1 hour through to all day excursions. Prices match most family budgets, with short cruises starting from around $80.
Kayaking the Sound
Guided or independent hire is available, and all tour operators provide full safety briefings, and multi-day itineraries. The silence you get by travelling by kayak makes the majesty of the Sound, and surrounding bush even more magical.
Hiking the Queen Charlotte Track
The Queen Charlotte Track is a well marked and graded trail, and there are hikes for most fitness levels available. From the 1 hour return track from Ship Cove to the waterfall. All the way through to a full 5 days of trekking, either camping or staying in DOC huts.
One of the best things about hiking the Queen Charlotte Track is that water taxies will take all of your gear to the next campsite. So all you need to carry is your daypack, food and water. This makes the trail more accessible for a lot of people.
Biking the Queen Charlotte Track
You can bike the Queen Charlotte Track between December and February each year. The Track is regarded as one of New Zealand’s best single track mountain bike rides, and became the 21st Great Ride on the New Zealand Cycle Trail in March 2013. And, as with hiking, the water taxies will transport all your gear between campsites, so all you need to do is concentrate on riding.
Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary
If you’re looking for a hike option that’s a little more kid (and time) friendly. Then spend a half day in the bush at the Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary. You can only get to Kaipupu by boat, which is half the fun. There are lots of watertaxi options to take you over, and it’s only a 10 minute boat ride over. You can even rent kayaks and paddle there if you’re game.
Once you’re there the actual 3km loop track is well graded and only takes an hour or so to walk around with kids. But there’s plenty of nice spots to stop for a picnic lunch, so you can easily make this a casual half-day excursion.
Edwin Fox Maritime Museum
Built in India in 1853, the Edwin Fox is the 9th oldest wooden ship in the world!
The Edwin Fox spent an exciting life as a merchant ship, trading diverse cargo the likes of Indian Pale Ale and Australian convicts, and she even spent a stint in the Royal Navy to boot! Dive into the amazing history of this ship at the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum, your kids won’t be disappointed here. And if you need any more convincing, the museum has a 4.4 star review on Tripadvisor.
Our next recommendation is another museum. The Picton Museum of Whaling and History.
This quaint little museum is well worth a visit. The entry fee is only a fiver, and you’ll find the exhibits really fascinating, especially if your kids are into history. If you find yourself in Marlborough on a rainy day, or even to escape the heat of summer, give this little museum of history a try.
Lochmara Lodge – Wildlife Recovery and Arts Centre
Like the wildlife sanctuary above, there’s no roads to Lochmara Lodge. So you’ll need to catch a water taxi over to their beautiful bay, which is all part of the journey. There’s amazing sculptures located all over the Lochmara trails. After a good day’s hike, spend some time swimming in the beautiful bay, make use of their free kayaks and paddle boards. Or, you can book an excursion into the Underwater Observatory, or a massage in the bathhouse.
Finish with dinner overlooking the bay, then go and explore the glowworms and bioluminescence down at the wharf.
Dolphin Swimming Tour
The Marlborough Sounds is full of cruising dolphins. In fact, if you travel to Picton on one of the Bluebridge Cook Strait Ferries, you may even see dolphins swimming at the bow of the ship!
If you want to experience getting up-close and personal with the dolphins, consider a dolphin swimming tour with your family! The waters in the Sounds are often perfectly flat, and the weather is warm for most of the year. This makes it a great spot for viewing dolphins. Make sure you bring your camera well charged, and with lots of memory, because you will take heaps of photos from the boat too.
We hope you’ve found something in our marvellous things to do in Marlborough with kids article. The climate in Marlborough is as delightful as the people. So whatever you get up to make the most of that famous ‘mainland’ hospitality while you’re there!
For more expert advice on travelling with your family, check out our Grown ups: Family travel section.