Known as the “Sauvignon Blanc Capital of the World”, there are lots of great things to do in
Blenheim besides “just” world-class wine tasting. Find out more in this blog!
Blenheim is a popular New Zealand travel destination thanks to its combination of sunny weather, its proximity to the North Island ferry terminal at Picton, and of course its world-famous wine industry. Still, visitors who choose to linger a bit longer in Blenheim will be rewarded with a surprisingly diverse range of fantastic attractions. To help give you an idea, we’ve put a list of them together here.
So, from mountain biking to chocolate tasting, flying in a WWII fighter plane to kayaking New Zealand’s most beautiful river, read on to find out the best things to do in Blenheim New Zealand!
Ten of the best things to do in Blenheim New Zealand
Marlborough is Sauvignon Blanc country, and any list of the best things to do in Blenheim has to start with the wineries. The 35+ vineyards emanating out of Blenheim and nearby Renwick account for around 75% of all wine made in New Zealand. And it’s not just Sav Blanc, either.
Needless to say, there are hundreds of different ways you can enjoy the Marlborough wineries from Blenheim: whether doing a self-drive wine-tasting tour, cycling the “Golden Mile” between vineyards, enjoying a fine-dining meal at one of the wineries’ award-winning restaurants, or even combining cellar door tastings with a bit of adventure on a full “Marlborough Sounds Wine Cruise” or “Marlborough Jet Boat Wine Tour”.
Marlborough craft beer is not as famous (internationally) as Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is…yet. But craft beer is another example of how the sunny landscape and rich soils around Blenheim have bred some of the country’s best food and drink.
Utilizing local Nelson hops (which often find their way into cool craft brews overseas), Blenheim’s craft beer scene has exploded in recent years. The best place in Blenheim to sample the local craft beer scene is at one of several buzzing bars and brew pubs around Scott Street and Maxwell Road.
If you fancy trying your hand at home brewing, Brews and Ques on Scott Street has everything you need to get you started. Or, if you prefer to visit a brewery and see how it’s made straight from the source, then head out of town to visit the homegrown Boom Town Breweing Co or DNA Brewery & Taproom on Raupara Road.
Kayak the Pelorus River
One of the best things to do in Blenheim is to enjoy the gorgeous surroundings and beautiful environment – and what better way to do that than by kayaking New Zealand’s most beautiful river?
A stream of crystal-clear water cutting through rugged rocky gullies and pristine native bush, it doesn’t take much imagination to see why Sir Peter Jackson chose the Pelorus river as the filming location for the dramatic barrel-escape scene in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The Hobbit Kayak Tour, operated by Pelorus Eco Adventures in Picton, is a brilliant, family-friendly way to enjoy the river. It’s not as dramatic as it seems in the film, either. Suitable for ages 6+, you don’t need any prior experience or special gear. Just turn up and enjoy!
Ride the Coastal Pacific scenic train
Taking advantage of New Zealand’s most beautiful train journey is another great thing to do in Blenheim. The iconic Coastal Pacific runs from Blenheim’s historic train station all the way to Christchurch, rumbling through Marlborough’s golden rolling hills, the dramatic alps and rugged coastline of Kaikōura, the lush expanse of the Canterbury Plains, and 60 miles (100 km) riding right along the majestic beauty of the Pacific Ocean coastline. The entire journey from Blenheim to Christchurch takes about 5 hours, so you’ll want to make it an overnight trip.
If you prefer a shorter scenic train trip (or drive) from Blenheim, then in just a few hours you can see the Martian colors and eye-catching pink landscapes of the salt plains of Lake Grassmere, and head on to Kaikōura for a spot of wildlife watching (seals, dolphins and whales abound) or to taste the famous fresh local crayfish!
Take a sunny stroll through Blenheim’s parks and riverside
Blenheim typically enjoys more sunshine hours than any other city in New Zealand, and you should take advantage of that. One of the easiest and best things to do in Blenheim is to enjoy a sunny stroll along its picturesque riverfront.
Start in Seymour Square and admire its historic, 16-meter (50 ft) high Clock Tower. From there, follow the walkway across the river to explore beautiful Pollard Park, then stroll through Riverside Park and follow the riverfront all the way around to the lush expanse of Taylor River Reserve, where strands of mature trees and native flora line the riverside. If you really want to work for that well-earned refreshment later on, you can walk all the way to the tranquil Taylor Dam and lake, about 6.5 miles (10 km) away, in half a day.
Hit the beach at Whites Bay
Beautiful beaches are a drawcard for many visitors to New Zealand. And with more average sunshine hours than anywhere else in the country, Blenheim certainly won’t disappoint for visiting beach lovers.
Just a 25-minute drive from the town center, gorgeous Whites Bay is a popular favorite for both visitors and locals. This is a secluded and sheltered stretch of sand, with calm waters and an on-duty lifeguard making it a popular, family-friendly swimming spot. There’s a campground on site if you want to stay overnight, and plenty of rockpools and walking trails into the lush surrounding forest to explore. There’s also activities like kayaking, fishing and stand-up paddle boarding to enjoy at Whites Bay, if you plan before you come and arrange with a local operator.
Visit the Omaka Aviation Center and Marlborough Museum
A visit to Blenheim’s fabulous Marlborough Museum at Brayshaw Park lets you dive into the region’s rich history, which dates back well before the arrival of Europeans (New Zealand’s most significant early archaeological site, the early Polynesian settlement at Wairau Bar, is only a few miles east of Blenheim). The fabulous Omaka Aviation Center is a must for any visiting aviation enthusiasts in Blenheim, but you don’t need to be one to be blown away!
Take a flight in an old WWII fighter plane and see Blenheim and the Marlborough wineries from high above. Don’t miss seeing the incredible Knights of the Sky and Dangerous Skies permanent exhibitions, showcasing Academy Award-winning film director Sir Peter Jackson’s own personal collection of aviation memorabilia, alongside incredibly lifelike mannequins made by Wētā Workshop (of Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit fame).
Bike (and hike) at Wither Hills Farm Park
If you’re looking for a bit of an adrenaline rush – or you’d like to get a view of Blenheim and the Marlborough wineries from above – then Wither Hills is a great spot for doing both.
Just 3 miles from the center of Blenheim, Wither Hills Farm Park has over 1000 hectares to explore. You can get sweeping views onto the city, Cloudy Bay and the surrounding vineyards from one of many hiking trails around the hills. Wither Hills is also the best place to go in Blenheim for mountain biking, with an excellent mountain bike park containing 43 cross-country mountain biking trails. These cover a full range of levels, so it’s a fun way to spend a day whether you’re a beginner or a pro!
Explore Blenheim’s surroundings by bike
For any active visitors or cycling enthusiasts looking to explore Blenheim and its surroundings at a more gentle pace, you’re also in luck. From wine trails to rail trails, you can find a lot of fantastic cycling trails to explore in and around Blenheim.
The best known cycle trail in Marlborough’s wine country is the Golden Mile, an interconnected series of cycle paths that connect nine different vineyards and wineries through Rapaura and Renwick. For a different taste of Marlborough’s heritage and beautiful landscapes, bike out of Blenheim to historic Cob’s Cottage along the peaceful Riverlands Rail Trail, a 2.5 mile (4 km) sealed cycle way following the railway line. From here, you can also go on to explore the gorgeous Wairau Lagoons, either on foot or along several shared cycle paths and walkways.
Taste the world’s best mussels or visit a boutique chocolate factory
It may not have the reputation of Marlborough’s world-famous wine or beer, but fresh local seafood and artisan chocolate aren’t that far behind.
The Marlborough Sounds is renowned as one of the best fishing spots and seafood regions in New Zealand, and you should definitely taste fresh local snapper, blue cod, or delicious mussels from the nearby “Greenshell Mussel Capital of the World”, Havelock, while in Blenheim. For those with a sweeter tooth (or a younger clientele), a visit to the boutique Makana Confections chocolate factory in Rapaura (5 miles from Blenheim) won’t disappoint. You can do a tasting and tour, or watch them making chocolate by hand through big interior windows.
Ready to go?
If you’re looking for more things to do in and around Blenheim, take a look at Pelorus Eco Adventures blog page dedicated to visiting New Zealand. You’ll find a whole lot more information to help you book your trip, from the best things to do in Marlborough to the best Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit filming locations to visit in New Zealand. You can even go ahead and book your own unforgettable Hobbit Kayak Tour right now!