Check out Blenheim: Nelson’s unassuming neighbour
Blenheim is a gourmet treat tantalizing the senses encouraging visitors to linger. Vineyards, extraordinary world class aviation collections and quick access to the iconic Queen Charlotte Sounds makes Blenheim a delight. There are corners where Aotearoa’s history is writ large and spaces for visitors to explore the natural landscapes of the upper South Island.
Who turned up and settled in Blenheim?
The area was a large flax swamp due to the periodic flooding of the Opawa and Opaoa Rivers. Pre-European Maori identified the area as Te Waiharakeke, meaning The waters of Flax. Te Waiharakeke was a rich resource for eels, ducks and flax.
In 1855 Opawa River witnessed small ships trading up and down the waterways. The Beaver was an apt name to describe the settlement’s issue with frequent flooding. Governor Sir Thomas Browne changed the name to Blenheim to commemorate victory over the French by the Duke of Marlborough. Today flood protection has created the popular river reserve with walking and cycling tracks, and a riverside railway. The reserve connects with Brayshaw Park, home of the Marlborough Museum, and on to the Taylor Dam, the largest earth flood protection dam in New Zealand.
- Charles Kingsford Smith, October 1928 before a crowd of 5,000 took off in his plane, Southern Cross on the first ever flight to Sydney. The flight took 22 hours, 51 minutes and he was greeted by 25,000 spectators.
- Rosina Buckman, an operatic and concert soprano in 1881 had considerable international success.
- Jane Hunter, of Hunter Wines is part of NZ’s wine making tradition is a well known vintner who has been the managing director of Hunter’s Wines since 1987
- Doctor George Cleghorn performed New Zealand’s first successful appendectomy and was appointed, in 1878, Medical Director of the newly established Wairau Hospital. He was a philanthropist. His civic spirit is recognised in the construction of the ornate Victorian band rotunda in Market Place.
- Beast of Blenheim sexual offending against 42 girls and women. Jailed in 1996.
- Waihopai Station is managed by New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau. Several protests and disputes surrounding its use and the wider implications of the information gathered has garnered local and international notoriety.
Where to take the best selfie
- Wairau Lagoon walkway with a rusting ship as background
- Seymour Square and the clock tower
- Blenheim is synonymous with green spaces. Check out Harling Park, Japanese themed, Riverside Park or Pollard Park with its mature trees and Wither Hills Farm Park
- Just out of town are vineyards, winery cafes and restaurants, enjoy lunch al fresco while clicking the camera for the best profile
- Marlborough Wine and Food Festival (February)
What to see
- Omaka Aviation Centre with its stunning interactive displays, simply worldclass
- Wine and food cycling and touring trails
- Blenheim Museum, Cobb Cottage and other historic sites
- Walking trails
- Picton and iconic Queen Charlotte Sound
- Riverside reserve with its railway line
- Playgrounds and parks
- Aviation museum
What makes the place work?
A service town for aquaculture, wine, forestry and food production. For tourists, local and international the bonus is an area with a glorious climate, a robust economy and it is not swamped with visitors.
Glorious, one of New Zealand’s highest sunshine hours with a mild winter.
Best time to go
Year round with cool winter days encouraging visitors to get on the bike and explore town and country on newly acquired cycling wheels. There is always a day indoors marvelling at the world of flight at Omaka Aviation Museum
Summer is the peak season with the glories of fresh fruit offering at orchard stall sales and the sense of open spaces bathed in summer warmth.
Not to stay too long, it is a tempting place with its wide open spaces and sense of freedom.
A great place for families due to the variety of things to do from the stunning Omaka Aviation Museum to walks to a rusting shipwreck. For couples, experiences for two, indulgence is just around the corner nestled in the local vineyards.
The journey is worth it.