Blue views in the Marlborough Sounds. © Ivor Wilkins

Loved by the locals: Marlborough

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1. The Burleigh

TripAdvisor rates the tiny Burleigh as the number-one place to eat in Blenheim, which is a pretty big achievement for a suburban pie shop. But any lingering disbelief falls away once you try their gourmet pies, truly deserving of cult status. The Burleigh also offers sausage rolls and artisan filled rolls, as well as a selection of gourmet grocery and deli items like sausages, salami, imported and local cheese and Havana coffee. But the pies are the star, and mustn’t be missed – the steak and French blue cheese, pork belly and jerk chicken are the most popular. The Burleigh has launched a food truck as well, so keep an eye out for that.

2. Saveur Café

A pleasant restaurant next to Blenheim’s attractive city river, the Taylor, Saveur Café Bistro and Patisserie has been run by Frenchman Stephane Ughetto and family since 2014. The café is an inspiring eco-friendly build, and sits opposite Blenheim's first business site, the Raupo store, which was run by one of Marlborough’s first European settlers and the first shopkeeper, James Wynen.

Saveur’s terrace overlooking the water is a relaxing place to sit with a coffee, glass of wine, a meal from their French-inspired menu, or one of their traditional French pastries.

Service is friendly and prompt, there’s an open fire for chilly nights, the patisserie options won’t disappoint, and the location makes you feel like you’re a world away, while still in the middle of things.

3. Ōmaka Aviation Heritage Centre

Blenheim is an aviation town, with the RNZAF’s Woodbourne base nearby, as well as the biennial Ōmaka Classic Fighters Air Show, which will next be held in 2019. The show is a total thrill, even if you’re not into planes; if you are into planes, it’s heaven. Restored fighters roar overhead, there are demonstrations, explosions, theatrical spectaculars, plenty of stalls and food trucks, and an old codger on every corner who’s keen to explain their passion. The Heritage Centre is extremely well-done, featuring the Knights of the Sky exhibition with Sir Peter Jackson’s own collection of WW1 aircraft and artefacts. A guided tour from an enthusiastic volunteer is recommended, and the displays of planes, war stories and memorabilia will stay with you long after the visit.

4. Walks

There’s a huge variety of tracks to enjoy in Marlborough. From the snowy peak of Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku, which can be seen from Wellington and was the first conquered by Sir Ed Hillary, down to the Wairau Lagoons, an extensive wetland network at the mouth of the Wairau River, which are nationally significant for their ecology, bird and aquatic life, and rich Māori history.

Walking or cycling along the Queen Charlotte track – one of New Zealand’s best – is a must-do.

For trampers and adventure cyclists used to tents, there’s no greater satisfaction than to cycle or hike through the wilderness before pulling up for dinner, drinks, and a good night’s sleep at a lodge.

5. Shark Nett Gallery, Havelock

With panoramic views of Pelorus Sound, Havelock’s Shark Nett Gallery has one of the largest privately-owned contemporary and traditional Māori art collections in the world, with more than 70 pieces referencing 1000 years of stories from the local Rangitāne people. The gallery’s owners, Michael and Lynette Bradley, first started collecting the carvings in 1989, after starting a wood carving course. They were motivated by the loss of so much of the tribe’s history to theft, confiscation and damage. Many have been made from reclaimed wood, and the gallery has been featured on Country Calendar and by the BBC.

A post shared by Sammy Bills (@sammykbills) on Mar 11, 2018 at 4:24pm PDT

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