Top 10 Things to do in Marlborough

From biking and wine tasting to testing your tenacity with a hike up Mount Stokes, Marlborough is the all-encompassing escape you're craving.

Marlborough's forested hills, fiord-like sounds and award-winning vineyards offer the perfect balance of adventure and relaxation. You'll also discover this region has a passion for wildlife and aviation. Put it all together and you have a holiday destined to rejuvenate body and soul.

1. Explore the Queen Charlotte Track

Walk or bike this wonderfully scenic 72km track, which runs between Ship Cove and Anakiwa. Along the way you'll visit historic bays and climb through native forest to massive views of the Marlborough Sounds. The Queen Charlotte track typically takes four to five days to walk, but sections can also be experienced on a day hike. Some of the water taxi operators will transport your main pack between overnight stops, so you only have to walk with a day pack. There are Department of Conservation campsites along the way and a wide range of private accommodation providers to choose from. You can also do the track in style by flying in with Helicopters Nelson.

2. Catch the mail boat to explore the Marlborough Sounds

Mail Boats in the Sounds have been delivering mail and a unique sightseeing experience for many years now. Pack a picnic lunch and get on board to enjoy incredible scenery while the boat delivers letters, parcels, groceries and other supplies around the remote Pelorus Sound/Te Hoiere and Totaranui/Queen Charlotte Sound area. Wildlife spotting is part of the adventure. Operating two to three times a week, the Pelorus Mail Boat trip leaves from Havelock and The Queen Charlotte Mail Boat Cruise departs Monday to Saturday from Picton.

3. Explore Marlborough Sounds

This network of steep river valleys is filled with water from the ocean, creating a magical land of sheltered waterways, sandy beaches and native forests. With 150km of coastline to explore and more than 50 reserves managed by the Department of Conservation, the sounds are a haven for kayaking, boat trips, short walks and multi-day hikes. Five of the main tracks are also open to mountain bikes. Guided cruises, walks and kayak tours make it easy to discover the best spots and learn about the fascinating history of this area.

4. Discover Lochmara Lodge

Lochmara Lodge is a centre for wildlife recovery and the arts that offers overnight accommodation and day trips. There are no roads to the lodge, which is located on the water's edge in the Marlborough Sounds, so you have the fun of arriving by water. Enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner in the café, experience the underwater observatory, follow a sculpture trail through a 10-acre outdoor gallery, explore a series of nature walks or hike a 3.5km trail to the Queen Charlotte Track. If that sounds a little too energetic, a blissful massage or relaxation therapy will hit the spot.

5. Visit Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre

This 'living' aviation museum is a must-visit attraction that's open seven days a week. Two major exhibitions feature original, flyable and replica examples of some of the world's rarest aircraft. Incredibly realistic and engaging, the displays are bought to life with dioramas by Wingnut Films, life-like mannequins created by Weta Workshop and immersive multi-media experiences. Continuing the aviation theme, the Classic Fighters Omaka aviation show is held in Blenheim over Easter every two years. With a focus on military aircraft through the ages, the event features spectacuar aerobatics and precision flying.

6. Stargaze at Omaka Observatory

Explore the southern skies at a unique crater observatory operated by the Omaka Observatory Charity Trust. The observatory's design minimises light pollution, so celestial bodies really stand out against the canvas of the night sky. During the experience, an expert will use laser pointers to introduce you to the solar system. You can also view the moon, planets, galaxies and star clusters through the observatory's telescopes. Astro-photography equipment is available, so you can capture a star to take home.

7. Experience the best wineries in Marlborough

The Marlborough region is the perfect place to taste beautiful examples of your favourite wine varieties and discover a few more. Producing more than three quarters of New Zealand's wine, the region specialises in award-winning sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, pinot gris, riesling, chardonnay and sparkling wines. More recently, a few breweries have popped up to keep hop-happy visitors contented. Book a guided wine tour or ride one of the vineyard cycle trails for an unforgettable day of wine, craft beer and delicious food platters among the vines.

8. Unwind in Pollard Park, Blenheim

Exploring Pollard Park is one of the best free things to do in Blenheim. It's a 26.4 hectare haven with gardens, open spaces, mature trees and a babbling stream. The large rose garden is a local favourite, along with spring daffodils and planted flower beds of colourful annuals. If you're travelling with children, they'll love letting off steam in the playground and feeding the ducks along the banks of the stream. Tall native trees provide welcome shade for picnics or simply dosing off with a book. In autumn the exotic trees provide a blaze of colour as their leaves turn every shade of red, orange and yellow.

9. Visit Picton's Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary

Highly rated among the things to do in Picton, this 40-hectare sanctuary on the edge of Picton Harbour is the creation of countless local community volunteers. A predator-proof fence is ensuring all kinds of native wildlife, including many rare and endangered birds, are flourishing in the native forest. Kaipupu is only accessible by water. You can take a 10-minute boat ride from Picton or paddle a kayak to the floating visitor jetty. From there, a 2.7km loop track leads through forest and the latest restoration zones to spectacular Marlborough Sounds views. Along the way you'll meet some of the resident tui, fantails, bellbirds, woodpigeons, little penguins, weta, skinks and geckos. In winter and autumn, keep an eye out for fur seals relaxing on the wharf.

10. Hike to the top of Mount Stokes

From Titirangi Road on Kenepuru Head you can hike to the summit of Mount Stokes, the highest point in the Marlborough Sounds. Walking through lush forest that gradually morphs into a sub-alpine environment is a really special experience and the views from the top are stupendous. Allow half a day for this adventure.

Keep exploring Blenheim, Marlborough

Cycling image courtesy of MarlboroughNZ; Cycling image courtesy of Destination Marlborough; Paddle boarding image courtesy of MarlboroughNZ; Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre image courtesy of MarlboroughNZ; Winery image courtesy of Destination Marlborough; Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary image courtesy of MarlboroughNZ; Yealands image courtesy of @barekiwi; Eatwell's Lookout image courtesy of MarlboroughNZ; Platter image courtesy of MarlboroughNZ