The Top Things to do in Marlborough

Looking for things to do in Marlborough, NZ? New Zealand's Marlborough region on the tip of the country's South Island offers a wonderful combination of both sightseeing and culinary delights, with a host of great wineries, a stunning network of pristine Sounds, and one of the county's best hiking tracks. Those who love the outdoors will love Marlborough, as the region's incredible Queen Charlotte Track is one of New Zealand's Great Walks.

If you're looking to get the best of the Marlborough region, browse through our range of things to do and book YOUR Marlborough experience today.

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Abel Tasman Skydiving
Abel Tasman Skydiving
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Full Day Marlborough Icons Tour with Wine Tour & Seafood Cruise
Full Day Marlborough Icons Tour with Wine Tour & Seafood Cruise
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Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre
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Whites Bay
Whites Bay
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The National Whale Centre
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Queen Charlotte Track Multi Day Independent Walk Packages
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Sawcut Gorge
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Beavertown at Brayshaw Museum Park
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Marlborough Farmers Markets
Marlborough Farmers Markets
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Queen Charlotte Sound Guided Kayaking Tours
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Queen Charlotte Track Mountain Bike Hire
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Queen Charlotte Sounds Kayak Rental
Queen Charlotte Sounds Kayak Rental
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Picton Full Day Tour with the Marlborough Sound Cruise
Picton Full Day Tour with the Marlborough Sound Cruise
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Marlborough Wine Tour including the Queen Charlotte Sound Cruise
Marlborough Wine Tour including the Queen Charlotte Sound Cruise
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South Island Scenic Flight with Lunch and Wine Tasting
South Island Scenic Flight with Lunch and Wine Tasting
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Pollard Park
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Full Day Queen Charlotte Sound Cruise
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Hobbit Kayaking Tour on Pelorus River
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Wellington to Picton Interislander Ferry
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Deluxe Driving Wine Tours
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Queen Charlotte Sound Mailboat Cruise
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Marlborough Seafood Cruise
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Cycling Wine Tours of Marlborough
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Queen Charlotte Track and Cruise Package
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Queen Charlotte Sound Cruise to Ship Cove
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Top Things to do in - Marlborough and surrounds

1. Marlborough Sounds

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Location: Marlborough, South Island, NZ

The Marlborough Sounds is for many the major drawcard to the Marlborough region for those who love nature (as many people choosing New Zealand as their holiday destination do) – the Marlborough Sounds themselves.

It's not hard to see why, either; the Sounds offer a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere with some amazing scenery that perfectly blends the blue with the green on all sides, and they're best experienced via a cruise with Marlborough Tour Company that takes you directly through their heart.

While they're not as traditionally or dramatically “alpine” as the sounds of Fiordland further south, Marlborough's sounds allow visitors to take advantage of the warmer weather to enjoy them in a wider number of ways, such as swimming kayaking and camping.

While they're not as traditionally or dramatically “alpine” as the sounds of Fiordland further south, Marlborough's sounds allow visitors to take advantage of the warmer weather to enjoy them in a wider number of ways.

It's cruising, however, that is both the most obvious and impressive way to experience the most that the sounds have to offer in a reasonable time frame while striking a balance between adventure and comfort, and with thousands of kilometres of coastline, beaches, bays, and forest, you'll see far more with a cruise than you could ever hope to experience via kayak no matter how much of an ironman or woman you could ever claim to be.

In accordance with this, there are various different cruise itineraries available throughout the sounds that each have a different purpose for their voyage; some, like the seafood cruise, aim to cover as much ground as possible while providing a delectable sampling of the region's famous ocean produce, while the likes of the iconic Mailboat Cruise follow a course delivering mail to local residents in isolated parts of the Sounds that allows you to literally become part of the region's long-running traditions for a day.

Both types of cruises depart from Picton and provide not only a detailed visual look at the sounds but also in-depth commentary along the way, highlighting all of the region's geographical and environmental features for passengers.

With one-fifth of New Zealand's amazing coastline to explore, a sounds cruise is what we believe to be the single most essential Marlborough experience during your visit to the region.

2. Take a Winery Tour

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Location: Various Locations, South Island, NZ

Marlborough wouldn't quite be Marlborough without its wine, and the number of wineries and vineyards on offer all throughout the region is simply staggering; suffice it to say, if you're a fan of a drop of the good stuff, you'll be in your element here.

From Rieslings to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to its specialty Sauvignon Blancs, there's a wine in Marlborough to suit every palate, and a winery to cater to every travel itinerary, with most wineries each to reach from the civilised centre of Blenheim.

While it's very possible to make your own way to the wineries yourself, numerous winery tour operators are available which can both set you up with a full day's itinerary covering several of the best venues while allowing yourself the chance to indulge and not worry about the drive back after drinking, of which comes highly recommended.

Marlborough wouldn't quite be Marlborough without its wine, and the number of wineries and vineyards on offer all throughout the region is simply staggering; suffice it to say, if you're a fan of a drop of the good stuff, you'll be in your element here.

Marlborough's wines are renowned for their ability to balance purity with intense flavours and attractive aromas with fruity accents, and the sheer variety of these to sample is mind-boggling, owed largely in part to the region's ideal climate and soil quality fit for grape production.

Marlborough's greater wine-growing region is divided up into three separate sub-regions, each of which differ slightly in the kinds of wines they produce; the Southern Valleys' cooler and dryer weather is perfect for Pinot Noir, while the Wairau Valley produces wines with intense fruity characteristics, and the Awatere Valley offers its own array of distinct Sauvignons that have recently gained international attention.

Getting yourself to one of the many wineries is simple if you are basing your trip out of Blenheim as it serves as the departure point for the majority of wine tours, while any of the city's information centres will be happy to provide you with a winery map to allow you to explore the various trails independently (cycling is a favourite way amongst locals to do so).

In addition, wine isn't the only focus of the Marlborough culinary experience; fine dining often goes hand in hand with wine tasting and as a reflection of this the region is home to a large number of great local restaurants and boutique cafes specialising in gourmet cuisine prepared using the best locally-grown produce. Freshly-baked goods along with olives and seafood are big parts of Marlborough's culinary scene, while rich cheeses serve to compliment the wine experience nicely.

In short, if you're wanting to indulge your palate during your trip to New Zealand, there are few other regions in the country that can compare to the broad array of offerings that Marlborough can boast.

3. Queen Charlotte Track

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Location: South Island, NZ

Stretching over an expansive course of roughly 70 kilometres, the Queen Charlotte Track is a journey in the Marlborough region that is famous for providing intrepid visitors with an adventure through its stunning natural scenery.

Visitors looking to explore this wondrous route have the option of either braving it themselves, or booking a guided walk of varying lengths with operator Wilderness Guides who specialise in all aspects of the track.

The track spans the distance between both the Queen Charlotte and Keneperu Sounds - two of the four major sounds that collectively comprise the Marlborough Sounds – and features an epic tableu of different natural features that show off New Zealand's range of scenery to the fullest.

Featuring the likes of lush coastal forest intermingled with the azure blue of some truly historic bays and a range of skyline ridges that grant amazing views of both of the sounds, there's a spectacular photo opportunity waiting around every corner on the Queen Charlotte Track.

Featuring the likes of lush coastal forest intermingled with the azure blue of some truly historic bays and a range of skyline ridges that grant amazing views of both of the sounds, there's a spectacular photo opportunity waiting around every corner on the Queen Charlotte Track.

While it's possible to only hike your own personal day tour of the track, the full journey takes on average 5 days, and as this is a popular course of action for most adventurers there are numerous cafes, accommodation and rest stops along the way to both stay the night and catch a breather.

It's not a particularly steep track compared to some of the other “Great Walks” found elsewhere in New Zealand, but it is long and wide, from Ship Cove on the ocean side to Anakiwa towards the inland, and various parts of the Queen Charlotte Track can be challenging (particularly the section from Ship Cove to Endeavour Inlet typically first encountered on the first day), and weather plays a large role in difficulty so it's wise to take into account the extended forecast before embarking on your trek.

The Queen Charlotte Track covers a variety of different outlooks and conditions, with some sections right alongside the water while others are firmly immersed in the bush, and some days requiring significantly more amounts of walking than others as the track is basically divided up into travelling from one accommodation area to the next.

Both walking and biking the track are equally popular, and during the course of your exploration you'll likely encounter plenty of other friendly fellow trekkers from all over the globe along the way.

If you're up for a journey that's both a great fitness experience and a way to soak in plenty of vegetated New Zealand rainforest with beautiful sea views from lookout points along the way, then the Queen Charlotte Track checks all the boxes for the physically fit and adventurous among you out there.

4. Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre

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Location: 79 Aerodrome Rd, Omaka, Blenheim, Marlborough, NZ

Shifting from the sea to the air, the Omaka Aviation Centre is to the air what the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum is to the ocean; one of the more unique takes on a significant chapter in New Zealand's history, this popular attraction in Blenheim features numerous restored old aircraft and a cavalcade of other historic memorabilia from the pioneering ages of flight.

It's a fascinating place to experience that doesn't necessarily require any particular interest or fascination with aviation to enjoy, as the array of lovingly-recreated World War 1 era planes – the majority owned by Sir Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame – make for an impressive sight on their own.

The Omaka Aviation Heritage Center focuses on presenting the story of how aerial combat was conducted during the first World War, with many of the exhibits showing the aircraft in context to give you a sense of exactly how they were utilised, and the simulated “sets” they are contained within are of a universally world-class quality.

Jackson's influence is easy to see here, as the various dioramas on display are akin to the set of a movie in how real they seem and how well they capture the drama of the period. The center is very well curated too, and combine numerous plaques and information descriptions with a variety of informative documentary-style movies that have the potential to provide hours of entertainment if you're a huge history buff.

It's a fascinating place to experience that doesn't necessarily require any particular interest or fascination with aviation to enjoy, as the array of lovingly-recreated World War 1 era planes – the majority owned by Sir Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame – make for an impressive sight on their own.

Its current exhibit – dubbed “Knights of the Sky” - features planes from Germany to Britain, and even has a diorama depicting the final landing of the famous “Red Baron” Manfred von Richtofen along with some of the personal effects he actually owned, while also featuring a range of moving stories about the trials and tribulations of the pilots of WW1 from both the Axis and Allied perspective.

Guests are welcome to either explore themselves or pay an addition $5 for a guided tour which most feel is well worth it, as the information available around the facility is enough to be overwhelming; the guides, however are able to give you enough interesting insight without it being overwhelming.

Don't allow yourself to be put off and dismiss this spot by your preconceptions of it being a dusty old air museum; if you're in the Marlborough region it's truly worthy of a visit whether you're a fan of planes or not – and after visiting, it may just make you one.

5. Edwin Fox Maritime Museum

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Location: Based around what is currently the world's 9th oldest ship, this gem of a museum captures a slice of New Zealand history in one of the most authentic ways possible.

The physical body of the Edwin Fox – a teak and timber trade ship constructed in India back in 1853 – sits alongside the actual museum, and allows visitors the opportunity to walk through its carefully-maintained innards that provide an intimate look at what life would have been like for both paying customers and convicts alike, with no additional modern updates or embellishments added.

The ship had a colourful and eventful history during its time before being decommissioned in 1897 being involved in everything from war to trade to shipping convicts to Australia, and it's fully documented at the museum with placards at various points outlining their respective items in detail, and a fascinating DVD presentation documenting both the ship's history and its preservation.

There are also various artefacts from the period kept in the museum's upstairs area that, while small, does a good job of giving you a taste of the likes of anchors, shipping keys, ropes, types of timber and all other types of maritime-related historical goodies.

Based around what is currently the world's 9th oldest ship, this gem of a museum captures a slice of New Zealand history in one of the most authentic ways possible.

The actual hull of the ship is the undoubted highlight however, and walking inside will let you experience the likes of sleeping and eating accommodations that passengers had to deal with when crossing the ocean in the 1800's.

The dry dock underneath the ship is also interesting in its own way, and provides an additional perspective on its scale and structure. All of this is, of course, a credit to the fanatically enthusiastic volunteers who have put a ton of effort into the entire project, making for an exhibit that is a must for both Aussies and Kiwis to witness.

Featuring a low admission price ($10 for adults, $4 for kids, most of which goes towards the cost of continued maintenance of the vessel) and one of the most accessible and authentic relics of New Zealand's past – while also being just a short distance from the ferry in Picton's harbour – makes visiting the Edwin Fox for firsthand sampling of how our ancestors used to travel a no-brainer of a decision.

6. Lochmara Lodge & Marlborough Sounds Wildlife Centre

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Location: Lochmara Bay, Queen Charlotte Sound, Marlborough. NZ

Another top wildlife attraction found in the Picton area, the Lochmara Lodge Marlborough Sounds Wildlife Recovery Centre is a regional champion of wildlife conservation that aims to keep New Zealand's delicate fauna and flora thriving both now and into the future.

Hidden away in on the shoreline of the beautiful Lochmara Bay in Queen Charlotte Sound, the Lodge is an attraction in itself, however its wildlife centre is a true showcase of genuine wildlife care and protection in action.

The facility serves as a place for the likes of rare parrots, lizards, eels and various other New Zealand wildlife to both observe and interact with, and daily feeding sessions are held for guests to get up close with and feed the cute and colourful native Kakariki parrots (a New Zealand treasure) before they are released back into the wild.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Lodge offers plenty of other opportunities for escapist-oriented enjoyment; its isolated position (it's only accessible by boat) means that it's truly immersed in the midsts of New Zealand's nature, and with both inviting water on one side and vibrant bush on the other, it's entirely up to you how you wish to enjoy your time here.

Nature walks around the lodge are a popular pastime for visitors and there's plenty of signage available that will give you some insight as to the ecology and geology along the way.

Much more than just a luxury accommodation facility, Lochmara Lodge is a worthy attraction in and of itself that provides the ultimate getaway experience for those looking to truly “unplug” for their stay in the Marlborough region.

There's also an Art Centre that is more of a journey than a fixed exhibit, and showcases some outdoor sculptures, paintings from the locals and abroad, and periodic performances of live music and dance.

Visitors are also given complimentary use of kayaks to get out on the calm waters of the Bay and explore at their own pace, which allows for gaining a different perspective on the surrounding hills and mountainsides which encompass the bay.

Much more than just a luxury accommodation facility, Lochmara Lodge is a worthy attraction in and of itself that provides the ultimate getaway experience for those looking to truly “unplug” for their stay in the Marlborough region.

7. Pollard Park

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Location: Mayfield, Blenheim, Marlborough, NZ

Located in the same town from which the River Queen Cruise above plies its trade, Blenheim, Pollard Park makes for a nice combination with the cruise and is one of the most visually pleasant botanical attractions in the Marlborough region.

Situated just a few minutes walk from the town centre, Pollard Park is an immaculate example of a charming city gardens done right, its got everything one could want for a relaxed and carefree day out in wonderful surrounds.

There's a lot packed into a relatively small space, including ducks to feed, a lovely stream running through its midst, well-equipped playground for the kids, barbecue facilities, tennis courts and a wonderful little botanic garden of which the Rose Garden is perpetual highlight with its myriad of colours and strong fragrances which can be smelled from afar.

The varied floral displays of Pollard Park continually change to match the season and feature a range of different species each contained within a variety of gardens showcasing a different theme, from the aforementioned roses to Camellias, Rhododendrons, Perennials and much more all bordered by large, mature trees.

The varied floral displays of Pollard Park continually change to match the season and feature a range of different species each contained within a variety of gardens showcasing a different theme, from the aforementioned roses to Camellias, Rhododendrons, Perennials and much more all bordered by large, mature trees.

Landscaping and contours of the park are designed to lead you along on a journey of discovery without revealing too much all at once, which requires a full tip of the cap to the skilled and careful gardeners who both design and maintain it.

The fact that Pollard Park is, quite frankly, an international-standard public garden area contained within the borders of a smallish town makes it all the more impressive.

Those wanting to get (slightly) more active can even indulge in a round of golf while here too, as the park sits alongside a 9 hole golf course that is almost as pleasant as the park itself.

There's a reason that this relatively unassuming park is a favourite spot for weddings throughout the Marlborough region; and all you'll have to do is pay a visit and take a stroll around before you'll soon see why.

8. Kayaking on Queen Charlotte Sound

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Location: Queen Charlotte Sound, Marlborough, NZ

The Marlborough region's impressive waterways aren't only the domain of cruise ships - more active visitors can also explore this gorgeous region by water with rental of, or joining on with, a guided kayaking tour.

With several kayaking destinations spread over the Marlborough region, this is one of the best ways to see the area from a wholly different perspective.

The Queen Charlotte Sounds and Pelorus River are two great kayaking destinations to choose from with visitors given the chance to explore by themselves or with an experienced guide.

Those who choose Pelorus River can join Pelorus Eco Adventures and will be given the chance to explore one of the most recognisable locations from the iconic film The Hobbit.

Led by a friendly and experienced guide you will be led on an aquatic journey to explore some of these famous movie locations. You will be following the same route as some of your favourite characters did in The Desolation of Smaug, stand on the same rocks as Bilbo Baggins did and pass by some wonderful waterfalls.

This is one of the best tour options for avid Lord of the Rings fans, however those who aren’t interested in the films will also enjoy this option. Pelorus River is one of the most picturesque in New Zealand and well worth the trip, especially via kayak.

While Marlborough's famously beautiful to explore from the water, many scenic offerings are also available via road; the region is home to a range of impressive drives that do a good job of showcasing some of its best features by car.

Everything is included in the price, all you’re asked to bring is your open mind and exciting (and swimmers, suitable footwear, towel, water bottle, change of warm clothes and camera).

If kayaking the Queen Charlotte Sound is on your to-do list, local operator Wilderness Guides can also help you the whole way.

The friendly team will provide you with everything you need to safely explore the area including a map, directions, safety equipment and of course, kayaks. You could spend hours paddling around the large Sounds, finding hidden bays along the way.

If you’d rather see the area with the safety of an experienced guide, you can choose a guided session.

The guides don’t follow a set plan, giving them the ability to, quite literally, go with the wind.

The tour will take you around the area and hopefully get you up close to a range of wildlife including sting rays, little blue penguins, seals, starfish and maybe even some dolphins.

Wilderness Guides offers customers kayak rentals for self-guided paddles around the sounds as well as guided half-day and full-day tours.

9. Scuba Diving

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Location: 66 Wellington St, Picton, Marlborough,NZ

Water plays a key part in what makes Marlborough a naturally-attractive part of New Zealand, and there are few better ways to get an up-close view of all the marvels that these waters contain than taking a dive below them.

Marlborough Sounds (which, as you'll see, feature prominently on this list) offer over 3000 kilometres of diveable cost to choose from, and is home to a range of high-quality dive sites offering generally good visibility levels that you can visit with operator Go Dive Marlborough.

From calm waters featuring a number of intriguing shipwrecks to more open-water adventures to explore reefs and sea caves, there are a range of dives available in the Marlborough Sounds to suit all interests and ability levels.

Perhaps the most famous of these is the wreck of the Mikhail Lermontov, a large Soviet ocean liner which sunk in the sounds back in 1986 and which is still surprisingly intact.

It's now classed as an official reef and serves as a haven for various forms of invertebrate life and schools of fish.

It's also one of the easier and more accessible dive sites in Marlborough and is thus ideal as a starting point for those wanting a fairly stress-free diving experience.

Other popular wrecks include the Rangitoto (a 1873-era steam ship that makes for an interesting and easy dive), the Koi (a Scottish-built passenger ferry 30m in length) and the Lastingham (an 1884 cargo vessel), all of which offer their own unique take on the wreck-diving experience.

From calm waters featuring a number of intriguing shipwrecks to more open-water adventures to explore reefs and sea caves, there are a range of dives available in the Marlborough Sounds to suit all interests and ability levels.

Looking towards the open-water offerings, Wellington Bay is a great choice as it combines good visibility with the chance to take in some different marine species such as Mullet and Mackeral while other creatures like Octopus and Arrow Squid round out the offerings.

Kumototo Point is likewise a popular spot to explore due to its cute local inhabitants – the New Zealand Fur Seal – which can often be found in its waters at various times throughout the year.

Regardless of your choice of destinations, operators such as Go Dive Marlborough depart from Picton and aim to get you out as swiftly into the waters as possible to help maximise your underwater exploration time.

If it's a more natural and organic marine life experience you're looking for, then scuba diving in the Marlborough region is sure to make for a satisfying adventure.

10. EcoWorld Picton Aquarium

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Location: 1 Picton Wharf, Picton Foreshore, Picton, Marlborough

Picton is a charming port town that serves as the gateway connecting New Zealand's south island to the north, and while it's full of plenty of its own highlights if it's wildlife viewing to keep the kids entertained that you're after, then you'll want to head to EcoWorld Picton Aquarium.

This attraction aims to showcase the most famous of New Zealand's wildlife from the Marlborough Sounds and beyond, and is home to many of the region's most recognisable water-dwellers such as Little Blue Penguins, Turtles, Seahorses and more as well as more conventional aquarium fare such as fish.

While the aquarium is fairly small, it offers a rare and intimate chance to get up close to the various kinds of sea life, and its staff are highly knowledgeable and always willing to share detailed information on each of the creatures, their habitats and their diets.

This is particularly emphasised during the regular feeding sessions, as the animals become more active and the staff accompany the process with stories about the animals being fed that leads to a great combined entertainment-and-education experience.

This attraction aims to showcase the most famous of New Zealand's wildlife from the Marlborough Sounds and beyond, and is home to many of the region's most recognisable water-dwellers such as Little Blue Penguins, Turtles, Seahorses and more.

There are also several displays that allow you to get “hands-on” with the wildlife, including a touch pool as well as the chance to pat a rare Tuatara lizard.

EcoWorld Picton Aquarium also provides a number of video/theatrical displays that go into greater detail about each of the creatures and why they need saving that provides further insight into the fragility of the region's ecosystem.

All of the displays here are highly accessible and well-labelled, while the aquarium is well-laid-out for younger children and educates them well on some of the animals who are there as a result of injuries – many of which will soon be rehabilitated enough to be released back into the wild.

Feeding times occur twice daily at 11:00am and 2:00pm, so if you can coincide your visit with either of these times you're likely to get more bang for your buck.

The aquarium is located right near the Picton Interislander Ferry as well, which makes it the ideal way to pass the time if you're stuck with a long wait between ferry trips heading for the north island.

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