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Exploring New Zealand

Blenheim Area Guide

Clock tower and gardens, with fountain
lit at night in square - ©
The provincial town of Blenheim lies in the heart of New Zealand's largest wine producing area on the sleepy sunshine-filled Wairau Plains.

The town was named Blenheim by the English in 1859 to commemorate the victory of the Duke of Marlborough over the French in 1704. The centre of town is marked by the pretty Edwardian band rotunda on Market Place, with shops and cafes surrounding it. Just to the west is Seymour Square, with its stone clock tower and fountain, the square filling with colourful stalls during the annual Garden Marlborough Festival in November.

Blenheim's dry, sunny climate is ideal for growing grapes, with many of the wineries dotted around the small village of Renwick, 10 kilometres to the west. The Marlborough Wine Region map from the Visitor Centre is a good aid for exploring the vineyards and their cafes and restaurants. The largest and oldest of the wineries, the Montana Brancott Winery, on the Main South Road, opened in 1977 and is the venue for the annual week-long celebration of food and wine, the Wine Marlborough Festival, held each February.

Away from the vineyards, Blenheim's main attractions centre on its rivers, the old style paddle-steamer, the River Queen, motoring gently up and down the Opawa River, and the narrow-gauge trains of the Riverside Railway putting up and down beside the Taylor River to the Brayshaw Museum Park and its reconstructed colonial village two kilometres to the south.

Outside town, the Wither Hills Farm Park has more than 50 kilometres of walking and mountain biking tracks, including the Mount Vernon Track, a two- to three-hour walk which offers magnificent views over the Wairau Plains and out to Cloudy Bay.