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Unforgettable Winter Activities in Marlborough, New Zealand

Looking to escape for a winter break? Marlborough offers a diverse array of activities to suit every taste.

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431517 franks oyster bar eatery 705x500 431422 tirohanga track 750x500 seal Eko Tours 1 of 1

Marlborough, nestled at the top of the South Island, is a captivating destination during the colder months. From renowned wineries to awesome Picton activities, this area really does have it all.

The great news is Marlborough is just a hop, skip and jump away from Wellington via the ferry. So, with the help of Destination Marlborough, the experts in all things happening in the region, here are some must-try winter activities that will make your Marlborough visit truly unforgettable. 

Things to do in Marlborough during winter

Star gaze at Omaka Observatory

Escape the city lights and immerse yourself in the starry beauty of Marlborough's night sky with a star gazing tour at Omaka Observatory. Located in the serene Omaka Valley, this observatory offers a unique opportunity to view planets, galaxies, star clusters and the moon through a range of telescopes. Wrap up warm and discover the Southern Skies this winter. 


Explore the Marlborough Winter Fireplace Trail 

Embrace the warmth of Marlborough's hospitality on the Winter Fireplace Trail. Cosy up by crackling fires at some of the region's favourite wineries and cafes with a glass of Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc.

Discover Wildlife on Marlborough Sound Cruises 

Winter is the perfect time to embark on a Marlborough Sound cruise and see the region's abundant wildlife. Join Beachcomber Cruises as they journey to Kaipupu Point Wildlife Sanctuary and Motuara Island, where you can marvel at native birdlife and perhaps catch a glimpse of playful dolphins and lounging seals.  

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Photo: MarlboroughNZ and @BareKiwi

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Photo: MarlboroughNZ

Immerse yourself inAviation History at Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre

Step back in time at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, where a rare collection of WW1 and WW2 aircraft are part of captivating exhibitions that bring the history of aviation to life. Warm up with a cup of coffee from the onsite café before immersing yourself in the stories of brave aviators and iconic planes

Hit the Slopes at Rainbow Ski Area 

Nestled just a scenic 2-hour drive from Picton, Rainbow Ski Area welcomes snow-lovers from late June to early October. This family-friendly ski destination offers pristine slopes perfect for both beginners and seasoned skiers alike. Whether you're carving your first turns or mastering your technique, Rainbow Ski Area promises an adventurous day. 

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Photo: MarlboroughNZ

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Photo: Jim Tannock

A weekend of wonderful writers with the Marlborough Book Festival 

Book lovers get ready as Marlborough hosts its annual Book Festival in July. From Thursday 25 – Sunday 28 July 2024 you can indulge in a celebration of literature, featuring author talks, book signings, and literary workshops. Whether you're a seasoned reader or just discovering the joy of books, the Marlborough Book Festival offers something for everyone to enjoy. 

Explore Havelock

After taking in the stunning views, bays and native bush in the Marlborough Sounds by boat or foot you’ll want to visit Havelock, the Greenshell Mussel capital of the world.   

Havelock Museum houses a range of historical items from the area. Havelock Memorial Park is an excellent spot for a picnic. But one of the most popular places in Havelock is the tasting room at Mills Bay Mussels. For more inspiration for your visit here, read "Wind down with the family in Marlborough".  

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Photo: MarlboroughNZ

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Photo: MarlboroughNZ

The Pelorus Mail Run 

Experience one of New Zealand's last remaining licensed NZ Post rural delivery services by water. On this unique journeyyou'll deliver essential supplies and mail to isolated homesteads tucked away in tranquil, secluded bays, just as it’s been done for decades. Along the way, meet the locals and see the mussel farms that make Pelorus Sound the mussel capital of the world.  

Arapawa Blue Pearl Tour

Sometimes called abalone overseas, pāua is the name for these quite sizable sea snails. As well as being quite tasty to eat in a fritter or on their own, pāua have a jaw-dropping shell displaying a range of colours. Some pāua also produce a blister or gem known as a pearl.   

One of the best things to do in Picton is to get on a Arapawa Pearl Tour headed for the Marlborough Sounds. On this tour, you’ll be able to get up close and see how these stunning pearls are grown. Once the tour ends, you can return to the cosy Radon Homestead. The tour itself is a little pricier than the other activities mentioned in this blog, but it’s well worth it.   

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430379 scenic hotel mondrians restaurant 431023 bay of many coves resort 750x500 431016 bay of many coves resort 750x500

Winter Retreats in Marlborough

While Marlborough's landscapes beckon adventurers, winter calls for snug accommodations. While camping might be reserved for the more seasoned enthusiasts, Marlborough presents an array of cosy retreats. From charming Airbnb's to well-appointed hotels and backpacker lodges, there's a warm haven for every traveller amidst Marlborough's winter embrace. 

Discover elegance at 14th Lane, a fully refurbished heritage building in Blenheim CBD. This urban retreat offers eight uniquely stylish rooms, blending heritage charm with modern luxury. Located amidst Blenheim's vibrant bars, cafes, and shops, it’s perfect for both work and leisure. Options include five first-floor rooms and three ground-floor rooms with easy access. Suite options available on request.

Experience luxury at the Bay of Many Coves, a 5-star boutique resort in Queen Charlotte Sound. Open throughout winter, this resort offers spacious self-contained apartments and top-notch amenities like sea kayaks and boat moorings. Previously recognised as one of the 'Small Luxury Hotels of the World' Asia and Australasia by Luxury Travel Guide and 'Australasia’s Best Relaxation Retreat' at the World Boutique Hotel Awards, it promises a blend of fine cuisine and serene hospitality. 

Located next to Seymour Square Gardens and a short walk from Blenheim's town centre, this locally-owned 5-star hotel offers luxury and convenience. Facilities include Quench Restaurant & Bar, a swimming pool, conference venues, and a guest business centre.

Enjoy modern comfort at Scenic Hotel Marlborough, just minutes from Blenheim's town centre. This 4-star plus hotel features 54 contemporary rooms with free WiFi, a heated pool (open October - April), spa, sauna, and Tesla charging station. Services include 24-hour reception, room service, and free parking. 

Winter conditions in Marlborough

New Zealand's diverse climate means your weather experience often varies by region. Situated at the top of the South Island, Marlborough and its Sounds exhibit distinct winter conditions during June, July and August. With temperatures ranging between 0 to 16 degrees celsius, winter brings a refreshing coolness to the region, you won’t really get snow to low lying areas, but the coastal winds are invigorating.

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The view from Karaka Point on a crisp winter's day

Getting around Marlborough in Winter

Whether you're traversing Blenheim's attractions or delving into Picton's wonders, you need to consider how you’ll get around. Given the size of the region, you’ll need to give some thought into how to explore the gems of Marlborough. 

Thankfully, Marlborough offers a range of travel options including;

  • Bus  
  • Shuttle van  
  • Vehicle rental  
  • Water taxi
  • Ferry your car and your stuff across with Interislander  

Put Marlborough on your must-visit list this winter and get there with Interislander. Try a weekend break or a longer stay starting with a 3.5-hour cruise through Wellington Harbour, across Cook Strait and soaking in the Marlborough Sounds. 

Visit Destination Marlborough to plan you trip and book your Interislander ferry now.