The popular area of Blenheim is in the heart of the stunning Marlborough region on the northern side of the South Island. With over 30 wineries and its in-demand wine industry, scorching heat, locally-grown food scene, and breathtaking landscapes, it’s one of the best places to visit on the South Island!
Known as the foodie capital of New Zealand – Blenheim is a must-stop for food and wine lovers. It’s also one of the sunniest places in the entire country, so it’s perfect for enjoying beautiful weather and a beach day or two.
If you are a foodie, a lover of wine, and can appreciate the natural beauty of the land and its resources, Blenheim is a place you need to visit! The city will have you indulging in all of your senses as you take part in some of the best things to do in New Zealand, from eating fresh produce, seeing the unique works of local artisans, and experiencing the pleasure of tasting some of the country’s best wines.
Whether you spend time walking along the Taylor Reserve, visit the must-do Marlborough Farmers’ Market, take a scenic cruise, or are up for a round of golf at the Blenheim Golf Club, you will love the sense of freedom and down-to-earth atmosphere!
Let us dive in and tell you all about the best things to do in Blenheim, New Zealand.
The BEST Things to do in Blenheim, NZ
1. Go wine tasting at the many nearby wineries
Wine tasting is a must-do activity when in Blenheim. It’s the number one thing in Blenheim that everyone does, and for good reason. This is one of the top wine regions in New Zealand with over 30 wineries within a decent driving distance of the main city, so take your pick!
If you have a car and a designated driver, you can drive to one or many wineries with cellar doors. A few of my favorite wineries include Lawson’s Dry Hills Winery & Cellar Door, located right in town; Cloudy Bay Vineyards, which is one of the most beautiful; and Saint Clair Family Estate Vineyard Kitchen is perfect if you’re after a delicious meal too!
However, it can be a lot easier to ditch worrying about driving around and instead go on a guided wine tour. If you’re keen on a half-day tour that will transport you around the Marlborough wine region and stop for lunch at a winery, look no further than this five-hour Marlborough wine tour. Participate in a wine tasting, learn about Marlborough wine and the wine-making process, enjoy a tasty lunch, and explore the vineyards of multiple wineries.
After a more budget-friendly option where you just want to jump on and off a bus? If you’re not fussed about going to a cellar door winery and want to the ability to customize your own trip, the Hop-on Hop-off Wine Tours Marlborough is an ideal choice. You’ll have all-day access to the bus for under $80 NZD and can tour various wineries and stay as long as you like at each one.
A full-day winemakers tour is the perfect option to get the most out of your Marlborough winery experience to dive into the wine-tasting and making process. Receive transportation to and from 4-6 popular wineries with a small group and get the full behind-the-scenes winery experience. All wine-tasting fees and transportation is included in the $180 NZD cost.
2. Drink craft beer
Wine is not the only beverage you can drink in Blenheim! There are some great craft breweries that you can visit and enjoy, too.
If you are craving craft beer and a burger, head down to the Dodson Street Beer Garden. With one of the largest selections of craft beers available New Zealand-wide, this popular spot is reasonably priced and will leave you satisfied with your beverage and food. I loved their crispy golden fries, so be sure to order a big bowl of chips to go down with your beer.
Located on Jacksons Road amongst the vines, is the Moa Tap Room. Pioneers of the craft beer scene in New Zealand, the Moa Brewing Company is an award-winning brewery right in Blenheim. A wide range of handcrafted beers and ciders are available for tasting, ranging from your classic lager, IPAs, pale ales, and pilsners, to their limited releases of unique stout.
Related read: If you’re heading to the other side of the South Island, check out the best places to drink craft beer in Queenstown!
3. Walk the riverfront
The Blenheim Riverfront is a scenic and peaceful area that’s absolutely perfect for a leisurely stroll in the sun. The Taylor River runs through the heart of Blenheim town and the surrounding area is dotted with pretty gardens and nice picnic spots. You can actually follow it all the way from the Quays around to Pollard Park, snapping photos as you go.
The walk only takes about 30 minutes if you don’t stop, and I think it’s a nice introduction to Blenheim.
4. Whites Bay
Whites Bay is a lovely swimming beach situated between Picton and Blenheim, and you can even stay overnight at the campground. The beach itself is a sheltered bay with calm water (although there’s a lifeguard on duty) as well as rock pools to explore and lots of lush forest nearby.
You can also go kayaking, SUPping, and fishing here, although you’ll need to bring your equipment with you.
The campsite is 23.2 kilometers (14.4 miles) from Blenheim, but don’t rely on Google Maps to get there. It says that you can’t drive and have to walk there, but there is actually a road that will take you right to the beach, and the campsite can also be accessed via a public road. There are signs so you can just follow them.
I loved the drive from Blenheim to Whites Bay because on the way you get amazing views overlooking both the town itself and many of the wineries. You’ll drive up over a mountain and there are a few places to stop and enjoy the view along the way. Honestly, I think it is the best view in all of Blenheim!
There are plenty of walking tracks around here that are suitable for a range of fitness levels, such as the Monkey Bay Walk, Pukatea Walk, and the Black Jack Track. There is even a lookout you can hike to get a fantastic view of the bay. Prefer to go mountain biking? No worries, do the Loop Track for a fun downhill ride.
5. Visit the Omaka Aviation Heritage Center
Any history and aircraft lovers out there will not want to miss visiting one of Blenheim’s most popular attractions, the Omaka Aviation Heritage Center. Take a flight in the Boeing Stearman and sit in the cockpit and enjoy the vineyard scenery or take off in a World War II aircraft, the Yakovlev Yak-3, and see what it feels like to soar at high speeds and even roll over.
A couple of exhibitions that can be experienced to truly immerse yourself in the aviation world are the World War I Knights of the Sky exhibit and the World War II Dangerous Skies display. You’ll see stories of New Zealand’s wartime pilots and planes brought to life right in front of you.
6. See the historic clock tower
If you’re interested in military history, then make sure to stop by the clock tower in Seymour Square. It’s a 16 meter tall WWI memorial that was completed in 1928 using stones from all over the Marlborough reason to symbolize the lives lost in the conflict.
It’s surrounded by well kept gardens and is a nice, peaceful spot to visit, especially on a sunny day. It’s also a great place for photos!
7. Explore Pollard Park
Pollard Park is Blenheim’s second largest park and you could easily spend hours walking around here or just being in the serene location doing whatever you like. Only a 10-minute walk from town, it is an easy and convenient spot to get to, just follow the walkway from Seymour Square.
The vast grassland landscape contains a range of deciduous trees and a garden filled with colorful scented roses and camellias. They plant colorful garden beds every year, and there are a couple of giant redwood trees that are over 100 years old that you can admire.
Take a seat on the wooden benches and read a book or just cherish the beauty that surrounds you. Locals often exercise here and make the most out of the outdoor fitness circuit that is set up. How cool is an outdoor gym!? I love it and would recommend you give it a go!
Delight in a picnic under the shade of the trees or get your tan on out in the open sunny spots. Pollard Park even has a barbecue area, so you can enjoy a meal and watch the local kids play on the monkey bars on the nearby playground. If you visit with a friend, play a game of petanque together in the Churchhill Glade area.
Easy-to-navigate concrete pavements link up the whole park and wooden bridges make crossing over the flowing streams from Fulton’s Creek possible. A pretty gazebo lies above a pond filled with fish and ducks, which adds to the charm of the place. Pollard Park is a unique and wholesome area. I will definitely be back.
8. Visit Omaka Classic Cars
A classic Blenheim attraction is Omaka Classic Cars. Head to Omaka Classic Cars and take a look at over 100 classic cars that contribute to New Zealand’s car history from the 1950s to the 1980s.
Revel at the unique designs of the body of the cars and the chrome bumpers that were so cool back in the day. Check out what the old-school motors looked like and see the transition that cars have gone through over the years.
Any car enthusiast would absolutely love to see these cars from the vintage car era and acknowledge the evolution of the technology and design of the cars. The museum’s opening hours vary, so make sure to check their Facebook page before you go.
Related read: There are some cool beachy sights near here if you drive from Kaikoura to Picton including Black Sand Beach and the famous Ward Beach Boulders.
9. Ride a bicycle among the vineyards
Hire a bike to use for a full day for $46 NZD and ride through the Marlborough wine trail. Feel the wind against your face and smell the scent of the vines as you stop off at different vineyards and sample the local Pinot noir and Sauvignon Blanc. You’ll be able to explore at your own pace and enjoy the scenery in-between wine tastings!
Or get picked up from your accommodation, get a bike to ride, a map to read, your questions answered, and do your own self-guided biking wine tour with the support of the tour organizer. Riding a bicycle among the vineyards is a must-do Blenheim activity, the hub of New Zealand’s wine industry. It’s only $50 NZD and you can spend all day exploring and tasting your way through this area.
10. Go on a Marlborough Sounds cruise
The Marlborough Sounds are one of the most beautiful places to visit in New Zealand! This area is home to abundant wildlife like kiwis, dolphins, sea lions, penguins, and more. The best way to see all the natural beauty and wildlife here is by heading out on the water. There are few different boat cruises you can choose from depending on your interests.
This wine-tasting cruise takes you on a day trip from Blenheim to the stunning area around the bountiful Marlborough Sounds while also stopping off at some of New Zealand’s best wineries. Get involved in wine tasting, enjoy a delicious lunch, and even get spoiled with a seafood-tasting platter on your way home. This small group tour is limited to 10 people, so it’s a really personal experience for $250 NZD.
In addition, there is the option of driving to Picton and going on the Queen Charlotte Sound Mail Boat Cruise. This cruise is perfect for those of you that would prefer to skip the wineries and spend half a day cruising around remote, isolated bays learning about the history and possibly get to see some wildlife. Make sure to ask your boat’s skipper about the history of Queen Charlotte Sound and for their help pointing out wildlife in the area. It’s a really relaxing afternoon for around $112 NZD.
Related Read: If you love marine life, be sure to go whale watching in Kaikoura!
11. Hit the slopes
Blenheim is well-known for its mild year-round climate, so you might be surprised to learn that skiing and snowboarding are one of the favorite local activities during winter. The Rainbow Ski Area is located about 2 hours from Blenheim and offers ski lessons, gear rentals, and tons of fresh powder to enjoy as you zoom down the slopes.
Gorgeous surroundings and views of Nelson Lakes National Park make skiing at Rainbow Ski Area one of the best things to do on the South Island and an unforgettable experience for winter sports enthusiasts. There are routes appropriate for all levels – from first-timers to pros. Snowboarders will also love the unique terrain that offers many jumps and drops.
The ski season in New Zealand begins in July and ends in September.
12. Shop on Market Street
Market Street is the heart of downtown Blenheim, and there’s something for everyone here in terms of shops. From big names like Bed, Bath & Beyond to small local boutiques, this bustling street pretty much has it all. There are also lots of cute little cafes you can visit in between browsing for a caffeine fix or a pastry. Cafe Velvet is one of the best!
There are plenty of golf course options available if you are an avid golfer or just want to have fun and hit the links while in Blenheim.
Blenheim Golf Club, Marlborough Golf Club, and Rarangi Golf Club are all popular golf courses that will not disappoint. If you’re planning to be in the area for a while, Blenheim Golf Club has a great special for visitors of $80 NZD for two weeks of golfing as much as you like!
Whether trees, vineyards, or mountains surround your golf course, it is the ultimate spot to be outdoors and test out your skills, regardless of the season. It is a great half-day activity to do to recover from all that wine drinking.
14. Go to the Farmers’ Market
The Marlboroughs Farmers’ Market is a special place and event for Blenheim locals and visitors. This is where you get to experience a true authentic Blenheim community that cares about the land, the local produce, and coming together.
Head down to the market on a Sunday morning (between 9 am and 12 pm), get amongst it, and support the local farmers, growers, and businesses. Grab a coffee or a bite to eat from a food stall, and if you’re lucky, listen to a local busker playing some live music.
15. Mountain biking and hiking at Whither Hills Farm Park
On the border of Blenheim, there is an excellent cross-country bike park that contains 43 mountain biking trails. The most popular mountain biking trails at Whither Hills Farm Park are the Autobahn, Pamploma, Dirt Circus, and Bender, to name just a few!
Whether you are a beginner or pro at mountain biking, the park features grade 1 to 2 trails. Get ready to be dusty and dirty and have a load of fun. To get there, drive south along Maxwell Road and you will see a motorbike park sign about 2 km (1.2 miles) past the hospital. Just make sure to check if it is open first before you head there.
If walking is more your speed, there are gorgeous hiking trails leading to lookouts with panoramic views of Cloudy Bay, or stay closer to the base of the hill for a more casual walk.
Related read: Keep the hiking adventures going by checking out more of the best hikes on the South Island!
16. Visit the Marlborough Museum
To connect and learn more about the history and heritage of the Marlborough region, look no further than the Marlborough Museum in Blenheim. It has taken half a century to collect all the items that are there and on display for people to see, ranging from photographs to unique objects.
Holding a variety of treasured items that represent the tale of Marlborough, the museum is the perfect place to visit the famous Wine Exhibition, Jim Eyles Collection, Te Pokohiwi 1250 A. D Exhibition, pottery collections from Elizabeth Lissaman and so much more!
When you head outside, you can check out the replica street scene of Beavertown and see vintage machinery and cars, which are pretty cool.
The museum is open daily from 10 am to 4 pm and offers free admission every Saturday.
17. See the shipwreck at the Wairau Lagoons Walkway
Honestly, I love this walk! I don’t know of any other walk where you get to see a stranded shipwreck on the shoreline. The Wairau Lagoons have formed over the past 6,500 years behind a stone and gravel bank, which is interesting to know.
The Wairau Lagoons Walkway is a nice flat walk with a wide-open landscape. It is generally hot and dry there and can get windy at times, too. Bring your binoculars along if you are an avid birdwatcher, as you will see lots of birds hanging out here.
It takes about 3 hours to do the walk (there and back). Starting at the car park, you walk along the shoreline past the Moerepo Islands before you reach the shipwreck of the Waverley ship. You can then head back the same way. The boat was sunk in the mouth of the Wairau River to form a breakwater before there was a flood and it ended up in the lagoons where it is now.
18. Enjoy fine dining at a winery
When in Blenheim, you HAVE to indulge in a fine dining experience at a winery! Book a table at Saint Clair Family Estate, which is a family-owned restaurant and cellar door. Drink world-class wine and eat fresh locally-sourced produce.
Currently, Saint Clair’s is open from Wednesday to Sunday for lunch. Alternatively, light options are available in the afternoon. Scrumptious entrees and platters to share are available, and for the main, you have a selection of pork, seafood, chicken, beef, or vegetarian dishes to choose from.
If you are a seafood lover like me, be sure to order the seafood linguini!
If you prefer to go on a guided gourmet dining experience instead, this tasting day tour and exclusive evening dining experience will provide you with a full-day tour that includes a 4-course dinner and wine tasting opportunity. You get to go foraging with the guide and learn about the produce and the plants in the area before you head to a local winery for a meal. All your drinks, dinner, and transportation are taken care of for $395 NZD per person.
19. Visit craft distilleries
There are a few boutique distilleries in Blenheim which are great to check out if you want to delve more into the distillery of spirits compared to all the wineries that you have no doubt already visited.
Elemental Distillers – These guys create premium spirits from botanicals they source, working closely with foragers and farmers in New Zealand to get the best product produced in small batches. They have an outstanding distillery set up, which is made out of up-cycled shipping containers. Their award-winning gin and bitters are beverages you definitely want to taste, so be sure to pop in and visit the friendly team.
The Gin Room – Located in Vines Village, The Gin Room is home to some of the best New Zealand gin producers. You are welcome to come around and spend time tasting as you sit in the Gin Garden, at the bar, or outside by the lake. Learn all about the gin-making process and find a gin that suits you and your unique palette.
20. Visit a boutique chocolate shop
Don’t leave Blenheim without heading to Makana Confections, a boutique chocolate factory. Whether you are a decadent truffle lover or can’t resist a chocolate caramel or dark chocolate snap, you will find this place heavenly.
Have a one-of-a-kind chocolate experience by discovering the magic behind the chocolate-making process and, of course, taste a bunch of samples before buying your favorite one to eat on the road later!
21. Drive to Molesworth Station
Molesworth Station (also known as Molesworth Recreation Reserve) is a must-do place to drive to and through in Blenheim. Drive through mountains, valleys, and grassy slopes and enjoy the beautiful scenery. This farmland is one of the biggest in New Zealand and there are off-roading tracks for visitors to drive on to explore the unique and vast landscape.
It is a dry and hot location; sometimes certain roads are closed, so be sure to check online what roads are open. Set aside at the very least half a day to explore, and just to let you know, there is no cellphone reception or gas stations in the area.
You may see some native lizards, birds, and fish and know there are other fun, adventurous activities to do here, as well as fishing, mountain biking, horse trekking, mountain biking, and more. If you are up to doing something adventurous and kind of intense while you’re in Blenheim, this is definitely it!
22. Spend the night at a vineyard
If you haven’t stayed the night in a vineyard before, this is your chance! There are plenty of wineries in Blenheim that offer a perfect opportunity to enjoy the local wines whilst being close to a vineyard that offers accommodation.
Misty Cove Cellar Door – Kick back and relax amongst this rural Blenheim vineyard and sip on a glass of wine, take a dip in the pool, and just chill after your day out. Close to cafes, restaurants, and bars, the Misty Cove Cellar Door is the perfect spot to spend your downtime.
The Cedar Barn – Situated at the DDOG Vineyard and surrounded by multiple top wineries, the Cedar Barn provides accommodation that gives you a homely feel and even provides you with a continental breakfast every morning of your stay. Take walks around the vineyard, sit in the olive grove, say hi to the sheep and chickens, explore the wetlands, and take a look at the gardens that surround you.
Straw Lodge Vineyard and Boutique – Gorgeous alpine views and greenery from the organic vineyard can be enjoyed at the Straw Lodge Vineyard and Boutique. Relax and have a soak in the spa pool under the night sky after checking out multiple wineries which are within a 20-minute driving distance.
23. Go on a scenic flight
A scenic flight in a helicopter above Marlborough wine country is an experience that you will never forget! The diverse landscape of vineyards, coastlines, forests, and mountains will have you appreciating the beauty that you could not see on foot.
Precision Helicopters lets you choose where you would like to fly and for how long. Just pick one of their packages such as the Ultimate Explore Marlborough Flight, where the helicopter will take you over the French Pass, D’urville Island, and more. You can also let them create a custom flight for you if you wish.
To truly experience Blenheim to its fullest, see it from above. You will not regret it – it’s definitely one of the best things to do in Blenheim!
24. Ride the Coastal Pacific train
The highlight of this train journey is that it features 98 km (60 miles) of stunning South Island coastline. In fact, the train tracks are so close to the Pacific Ocean that at times you feel like you could reach out and touch it! When you’re this close to the ocean, expect to see fur seals and dolphins frolicking in the ocean from the comfort of your seat.
There is GPS-enabled audio available, and headphones come with every seat so you can learn all about the sights you’re seeing as your train passes through.
The train departs on select days of the week from Picton Railway Station. The journey takes 5 hours and 13 minutes one way so I highly recommend spending the night in Christchurch and returning to Picton or Blenheim the next day.
25. Hike the Queen Charlotte Track
For one of the best hikes in New Zealand, pack up for a road trip to the famous multi-day hike called Queen Charlotte Track. It starts near the town of Picton (where the ferry between the North and South Islands operates), about a 20-minute drive from Blenheim.
Queen Charlotte Track navigates part of the Marlborough Sounds along a 72-kilometer (44.7 mile) track that takes around 4 days to walk. You’ll be treated to some pretty incredible views along the way! It’s most common to begin Queen Charlotte Track in Ship Cove (the furthest point from Picton) and walk towards Anakiwa.
Bookings have to be made in advance for this trail if you want to spend the night, especially for the summer hiking season. However, it’s nowhere near as busy as other hiking trails in the area such as Abel Tasman Coast Track which is one of the highlights of visiting Abel Tasman National Park.
You can also just explore the Queen Charlotte Sound on this kayaking tour where you’ll learn about the history and see sheltered coves and remote beaches. Keep your eye out for eagle rays, cormorants, little blue penguins, New Zealand fur seals, and dolphins in the waters!
26. Ward Beach Boulders
The unusual Ward Beach Boulders are several large spherical rocks dotted along Ward Beach. They are a little similar to those found at the famed Moeraki Beach, although not quite as impressive as the Moeraki Boulders, which are considered one of the best things to do in New Zealand.
The boulders are located an 800-meter (2,625 feet) walk from the parking lot at the end of Ward Beach Road, about a 40 minute drive from Blenheim. The boulders are located towards the end of the beach in an area known as Chancet Rocks. The best time to see them is at low tide.
At the northern end of the beach, the 2016 earthquake unveiled something very cool and unique. This area exposes the K-T Boundary (also known as the Cretaceous-Palaeogene Boundary). This signifies the event that led to the extinction of dinosaurs. It is believed the rocks found here are over 65 million years old!
The 2016 earthquake also created a new surf break at Ward Beach, and so this spot has become very popular with local surfers. However, if you want to try surfing here, be sure to wear a wetsuit as the water here is cold!
Whilst exploring, be mindful of any fur seals lazing on the beach and keep your distance.
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Where to Stay in Blenheim, NZ
With so many incredible things to do in Blenheim, you’re going to want to stay a night… or a whole week! Luckily, there are lots of great places to find accommodations here, so you can check off the must-do activities on your list.
Chateau Marlborough Hotel – $$$
Treat yourself to a luxury stay at Chateau Marlborough Hotel. The huge suites are perfect for celebrating a honeymoon or anniversary! There are comfy beds, a pool, gym, and restaurant on-site, or you’re within walking distance of tons of bars and cafes. Studio rooms featuring a king-size bed and kitchenette start at $250 NZD per night. Book your weekend away online here.
Two Tree Lodge – $$
With rooms more like a small boutique hotel, the Two Tree Lodge is a great mid-range option. You can park directly outside your room and then relax in studio-style rooms all with king or super king beds. The staff is really friendly and the little touches like milk and cookies stocked in the rooms make it feel like home. Rooms start at around $160 NZD. Check availability and book a stay on Booking.com.
Blenheim Bridges Holiday Park – $
On a budget? Try glamping in a cabin at the Blenheim Bridges Holiday Park. You’re only a 15-minute walk from the center of town and there are great amenities like a pool, hot tub, playground, and BBQ area. You can grab a family room with bunk beds for the kids for under $100 NZD nightly. Check availability and book online here.
Thanks for reading!
Ah Blenheim, the perfect place to have the sun tanning up your skin as you bike through the vineyards and taste a variety of wines. When you’re figuring out the best time to visit New Zealand, spending some summer days in Blenheim is pure bliss.
I especially love some of the drives in this part of the country, so make sure to check out my other road trip blogs to start planning your route to include a stop here. Come back after you visit Blenheim and let me know your favorite part!