Our highlights in the Marlborough region – Backpacking Tips

Here we show you our personal highlights in the Marlborough region of New Zealand

In the Marlborough region there are many other beautiful things to discover in addition to good wines in Blenheim. Contrary to popular belief, the Marlborough region covers much of the north of the South Island. It includes the sounds off Picton and many mountains inland towards Lewis Pass.

Marlborough Sounds

If you take the ferry from Wellington to Picton, you will spend the last hour in the middle of the Marlborough Sounds. Impressive mountain landscapes, countless side arms, peninsulas and islands as far as the eye can see. Over 4000km^2 the sounds stretch between Tasman Bay and Cloudy Bay. Even if they look like fjords, the sounds were not created by glaciers, but by subsidence of the land masses due to continental drift. Many of the small islands and picturesque bays can only be reached by water or air. If you are looking for lonely, untouched beaches in a dreamlike environment, you will find it here! When the mist of the forest rises in the morning and covers the mountains in mist, it transports you to another world.



Queen Charlotte Drive

The Queen Charlotte Drive is a side street about 40km long and one of the most beautiful streets in New Zealand! With its many curves along the beautiful bays and fjords it winds its way from Picton to Havelock. There are many viewpoints where you can enjoy the picturesque landscape. If you just want to get from A to B quickly, you should avoid this road. But if you want to get a first impression of the surrounding fjords, if you want to enjoy deserted beaches and dive into a fantastic world, you should definitely take the Queen Charlotte Drive!

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Queen Charlotte Drive bayview

The view on the bays along the Queen Charlotte drive are pretty stunning


French Pass

The road runs for many kilometres along the many bays. The view is beautiful, the contrast between the blue sea, the white beach and the green vegetation is fabulous. There are always lookout points and picnic bays to enjoy the landscape. At one of these points you can meet “Jack” – “Pelorus Jack” the white dolphin! For several years he accompanied travellers in the strait and appeared as soon as a boat was near him. As a souvenir of him, a statue stands today at the place where he picked up the boats.


The dolphin statue at french pass - Pelorus Jack the white dolphin

The french pass pelorus Jack statue of a dolphin


Elaine Bay Campsite

Located on Elaine Bay, there is a beautiful DOC campsite right on the waterfront. In summer some vans fit on the site. There is a great view of the water and a small jetty. If you have a kayak or canoe, you can also explore the surrounding bays perfectly from there.

Ideal for a nice summer night on the way to or from the French Pass.


Campground at Elaine Bay

The DOC campground at Elaine bay is surrounded by beautiful water


Pelorus Bridge

The Pelorus Bridge is one of the last large single-lane bridges on a highway. Especially funny highlight, here at the Pelorus River the Lord of the Rings scene with the hobbits in the barrel was shot.

In summer you can swim here in the river in good weather. In bad weather, however, this is not recommended. The Te Araroa also runs along here and for camping there is also a DOC campsite, but it is a commercial campsite with normal prices.


Pelorus Bridge New Zealand

The Pelorus Bridge is one of the last remaining one lane bridges on that Highway


Picton harbour viewpoint

There is a great viewpoint in Picton, just above the ferry port. Here you can perfectly watch the harbour, watch the ferries and their loading and unloading and experience excellent sunrises.

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I can really recommend the insider tip with the sunrises. And if you are travelling by camper, you can also enjoy a delicious coffee there. Unfortunately, it is not allowed to stay overnight at the viewpoint.



Picton Harbour Viewpoint

The view from the Picton harbour lookout is stunning


Whatamango Bay Campsite

A simple and inexpensive campsite only 20 minutes from the ferry. Perfect for arriving with the ferry in the evening or to get an early morning ferry.

Remember to have the money to fit, otherwise the ranger will wake you up a bit angry in the morning. Surrounded by water and with a view of the sounds, unfortunately also a lot of Sandflys. But a nice place for a night. We ourselves stayed here after the ferry crossing and can only report positively about the place.


Wairau Diversion Mouth Freedom Camping

At Wairau Diversion Mouth, there is a nice and well signposted sleeping area for self-contained campers. You can also spend a nice day on the beach here.

Often you can watch locals fishing and you are off the beaten track. Mostly people in transit and locals stay overnight here.

In summer it is a bit crowded, but there is plenty of space under the trees. Ideal for a nice sunny day with friends on the beach.


Sundown at Wairau River mouth

Sundown is beautiful at the Wairau River mouth near Blenheim


Historic double-decker bridge

Situated directly on the highway, here are the visible remains of a former double-decker bridge. At the top the trains were running and below vehicles and people crossed the bridge.

Not only today still impressive to look at. The stop takes only 5-10 minutes and, in our experience, it is worth a look.


Historic Double Decker Bridge on State Highway 1

State Highway 1 had a double decker bridge between Kaikoura and Blenheim


Questions, remarks or tips

You have another tip in the region for us? We look forward to your comment under our articles.


More posts to the New Zealand Regions

We have made a map for your easy navigation, with which you can visit the respective contribution to the region directly. Have a look around what we like in the other regions!


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