Situated in the heart of Marlborough, Blenheim is the idyllic home to the region’s extraordinary wineries. As the largest town in the area, it is a great spot to either visit for a day or use as a base for exploring the rest of Marlborough.
With Picton just a short, 20-minute drive away, Blenheim enables easy access to the Marlborough sounds and everything else it offers. Whether you’re after incredible hikes, wine tasting, adventure activities or unique accommodation, expect to find plenty of things to do in Blenheim to keep you busy.
Here are some of our top picks!
Things to Do in Blenheim
The city of Blenheim itself has a few key attractions that are well worth checking out and can be ticked off in a great, but busy, day of exploring.
Beyond this, we’d recommend heading further afield to experience some of the best activities nearby. Picton, Kaikoura, and even Nelson are all fairly close to Blenheim and are packed with unmissable attractions.
1. Relax and Go Wine Tasting
World famous for its wines, sauvignon blanc in particular, the Marlborough region is one of the best places to visit in New Zealand for anyone who enjoys a glass of wine.
Most of the wineries are found right next to Blenheim making them far more accessible from here than places like Picton or Nelson.
Our top two picks for wineries in Blenheim are Saint Clair and Framingham, both offering exceptional but different experiences. Saint Clair had our favourite wines in the region and a far more informative wine tasting. Framingham had a lovely outdoor area which provided the perfect ambiance for an afternoon of relaxation. We loved them both.
Now, exploring wineries can be challenging without a sober driver, and we recommend maxing out at one tasting if you’re planning to drive anywhere after. But that’s never as fun as enjoying more than a few glasses which means you’ll want to book some alternative transport, for which you have three great options.
These tours provide all the accommodation, tasting fees, recommendations, great company, flexibility and a little bit of luxury beyond what you get with a Hop-On Hop-Off bus. However, the bus is a great option if you’re on a bit of a budget, plus it offers the ability to explore a few other attractions between wine tasting.
Lastly, a Self-guided wine tour by bike is one of the most popular ways to explore the Marlborough wineries. We saw a whole bunch of people riding from winery to winery. Although, we wouldn’t personally consider it (mixing alcohol and exercise never bodes well for us), we have to admit it looks a lot flatter and more convenient than the Gibbston Valley bike tours in Queenstown (one of our favourite things to do in Queenstown).
2. Hike the Queen Charlotte Track
With Picton just around the corner, this makes the Marlborough Sounds harbour and the Queen Charlotte Track easily accessible. Here, you can expect to find an impressive, mountainous landscape covered in native bush surrounding a gorgeous, blue body of water.
Weaving its way along the coastline for 71km, through countless coves and bays, you’ll find the Queen Charlotte Track. One of the best tracks in New Zealand, the Queen Charlotte Track is so epic and beautiful that it has been nominated to become one of the next Great Walks – we’ll see if it ever reaches this hallowed status.
Of course, this is a 3-5 day hike so if you have the time and inclination we’d definitely recommend tackling the entire thing. However, for us, we only had the time to dedicate one day so we booked in this scenic cruise and walk from Furneaux Lodge to Punga Cove. We’d recommend this particular tour over the Cougarline equivalent.
This particular section is claimed to be one of the most beautiful parts, instilling confidence that you aren’t missing out on too much. Overall, it only takes about 3-hours to complete the 12km section before arriving at a beautiful beach at the end. Make sure to grab a cold one and a snack at Punga Cove as a reward.
The boat ride to and from the track is arguably a highlight with great views throughout the Sounds.
3. Stay in a Wine Barrel Cabin
If you’re planning to spend a night in Blenheim, we’re sure you won’t struggle to find a great place to stay. But, one of the most unique accommodations we’ve ever experienced in New Zealand was the Wine Barrel Cabins in Blenheim.
This gorgeous glamping spot is set just on the outskirts of Blenheim, tucked inside a quiet and beautifully maintained garden. Despite being a trendy ‘glamping’ experience, we found the cabins far more on the glam end of the scale with luxurious facilities and well-finished decor.
And to top it off, the hosts are super friendly and helpful. You should 100% stay in these adorable cabins!
4. Go Whale Watching in Kaikoura
Kaikoura is a 90-minute drive from Blenheim but it’s well worth making the drive! Whale watching in Kaikoura is one of the most famous, must-do activities in New Zealand – and for a good reason!
Unless you have your own boat, you’ll want to book a tour out to actually see the whales. The most popular one is with Whale Watch Kaikoura. We’d recommend going with this. As they head out so often, their guides are likely to know the best spots for locating the whales. You’ll want to have the best odds possible.
A unique alternative is to head out on a scenic flight instead. Wings Over Whales is a cool option that offers you the opportunity to see these majestic animals from the air. From the air you get to see the entire whale, plus their entire pod, something you can’t get from a boat tour.
5. Eat Out at Blenheim’s Restaurants
Blenheim’s hardly renowned for its eateries, but as the largest town in the area it’s also home to the best restaurants (there’s certainly more variety than you’ll find in Picton).
For a fancy experience, the wineries are your best bet thanks to their serene backdrops. Saint Clair is lovely and our top pick. Arbour is also renowned as one of the nicest restaurants in Blenheim.
For cheap eats, The Burleigh offers famous gourmet pies (though we didn’t get the chance to try them). Sadly, we didn’t have time to dine in town, instead popping into McDonalds, but props to Blenheim for actually having a McDonalds.
6. Visit the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre
The Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre is a museum crafted to deliver a world-class experience. The museum is based around the original and full-scale replica WW1 and WW2 aircrafts.
These examples vary from genuine, flyable aircrafts, to extremely realistic replicas, crafted by some of the best creators in New Zealand, including Wingnut and Weta Studios.
This seems like one of those places you can easily skip, but the quality of the exhibits are far beyond what you are likely to expect in a town like Blenheim. It’s definitely a must-do and one of the best activities in Blenheim. You can book your visit here.
7. Explore Picton
Just a 20-minute drive from Blenheim you’ll find the quaint town of Picton. Being so close, it’s highly likely you’re visiting or heading through here, so make sure to check out all of the best things to do in Picton.
The town itself is fantastic and we’d recommend spending a night or two here. It has fewer eateries, bars and cafes than Blenheim, but the few it has are great.
The most popular activity here is the mailboat cruise tour where you get to tour the Marlborough Sounds in a legitimate mailboat. This sounded pretty ridiculous to us – we were thinking, why would we go out and deliver mail, this sounds like a chore.
Well, we were quite surprised. We really enjoyed exploring the Sounds, seeing the picturesque landscapes, as well as the lavish houses nestled amidst them.
One place we stopped was one of the most incredible resorts we’ve ever seen Bay of Many Coves. This is a luxury resort that comes with a $1,000 a night price tag. If you can stretch your budget then this is hands down the best place to stay in the entire region.
8. Shop at the Marlborough Farmers’ Market
Operating Thursday afternoons and Sunday mornings, the Marlborough Farmers’ Market is a popular spot for the locals. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Blenheim during these times, then make sure to head here and check out the variety of fresh produce and handmade wares.
9. Peruse the Millennium Public Art Gallery
The Millennium Public Art Gallery is a really small art gallery located right in the heart of Blenheim town, a short stroll from the centre.
We love to visit art galleries when we travel, sometimes we’re let down and sometimes we’re impressed. The Millennium Public Art Gallery, whilst small in scale, fell firmly in the latter basket.
When we visited they had an exhibit from famous and up and coming New Zealand landscape artists and we found their works inspiring. Oh, and it’s also free to visit.
10. Take a Stroll in Pollard Park
Pollard Park is Blenheim’s premier park with 25-hectares of immaculately maintained land. The walkways here are lovely with interesting features, artwork, bridges, rose gardens and facilities.
This is also one of the best things to do in Blenheim with kids as the park contains a couple of awesome playgrounds.
11. Visit Nelson
Nelson is a bustling city just a couple hours’ drive from Blenheim. For starters, this drive is incredible scenic if you take the right route (the scenic one). But on top of this Nelson is a great spot to explore.
We’ve written a detailed guide to the best things to do in Nelson, but our top pick near the town is Cable Bay.
We’d also recommend stretching your stay here to a night or two. This will enable you to experience Nelson better, as well as giving you time for a day trip out to Abel Tasman National Park.
12. Eat the Magical Makana Chocolates
Whatever you do, don’t miss Makana Chocolates when you’re visiting Blenheim. All you need to know is their macadamia butter toffee crunch tastes heavenly. It’s actually pretty expensive but it’s one of the best things in the world so buy it anyway. Treat yourself, your friends and your family.
13. Explore Marlborough Museum
The Marlborough Museum can best be described as a solid museum, something all of New Zealand’s regional museums should aspire to. We’ve visited a lot, and quite frankly most aren’t worth the time (outside of the larger ones like Auckland Museum and Te Papa).
Well, Marlborough Museum costs just $10 to enter making it exceptional value. Expect to find well thought out and informative exhibits.
14. Wander Through Seymour Square Park
Seymour Square Park is a small park found in the heart of Blenheim. Certainly much smaller than the aforementioned Pollard Park, but equally beautiful and immaculately maintained.
It contains gardens, a memorial and public toilets. Perhaps not the most inspiring destination in Blenheim, but we’d recommend parking nearby and walking through on the way into town.
15. Hike to Mt Vernon Lookout
The Mt Vernon Loop Track is found on the Wither Hills Farm Park just on the outskirts of Blenheim. The hike is about 7km long with 356m elevation gain, making it fairly challenging.
Despite this, the views from the lookout are commanding. It’s a great spot to visit for some of the best views in Blenheim.
Bear in mind it gets very hot here and we’ve heard the park can be closed due to fire risk.
In Blenheim, the Wine Barrel Cabins are definitely our firm favourite thanks to their perfect blend of uniqueness and luxury.
If you need to stay in the city centre, then 14th Lane Urban Hotel offers the best value, with nice modern interiors and the perfect location it’s hard to beat. But it doesn’t offer that something ‘different’ you get at Wine Barrel Cabins.
If you’re more into being near the water with great views, then this Oceanview Beachfront Apartment is your best pick.
If you’re planning to stay in Picton, we stayed in Harbour View Motel and loved it. The rooms are modern, affordable and offer great views. Alternatively, if you’re mega-wealthy, on a honeymoon or just looking for the most special getaway of your life, then Bay of Many Coves would be our first choice.
How to Get to Blenheim
Getting to Blenheim is easy. It’s a 2-hour, scenic drive from Nelson (via the scenic Nelson to Picton route) or a 20-minute drive from Picton. Nelson is the nearest airport if you’re flying in, or you can get a ferry from Wellington to Picton. If you’re planning to visit Wellington as well, make sure to check out our awesome guide on the 23 best things to do in Wellington!