What is not to like – this is New Zealand at it’s best
– accessible but off the beaten track
Surrounded by native bush full of birds with a safe beach and heaps of walks to explore. At night a short walk will lead you to a beautiful glow worm grotto. During the day you will have the cheeky ground dwelling Weka for company.
A six hour drive north of Christchurch – flat Canterbury plains give way to the rolling hills of Amberly, Cheviot and Hurunui. We are heading further north with Merri-Anne, our caravan, to the very beginning of the Marlborough Sounds. A few kms past Blenheim we head off SH1 towards the long stony beach and windswept beach of Rarangi, with vineyards stretching almost all the way to the beach.
Rarangi also has campsites – but in comparison to Whites Bay it does not really measure up. The stony beach does not look too safe to me, and the campsite is very open to the elements, though some efforts are going into planting. There are toilets, and you might choose it for an overnight stay rather than take the 6km trip over the hill. Unless you are in a hurry or just passing through – head over the hill.
Blenheim is home to some stunning NZ wines – a must stop along the way.
We crawl slowly up the steep and windy road to Pukatea Whites Bay. The seal ends here at our planned stop at the DOC campground and reserve – no caravans past here.
No powered sites, so this is our first go at off the grid caravaning. Once we figure out how to put the fridge onto gas mode, we are set – our solar panels powering the battery to run our pump and lights at night. There are toilets, water (boil it first) and cold showers – pack your solar shower and you can rig that up for a hot shower.
No power, but there is quite good phone reception (more if you head out to the beach). There are clean toilets and cold showers and stunning grassed campsites. $8 per person per night is paid to the local camp guardians who are here for 6 months. Camp gates close at 9pm.
The old historic cottage has been restored – and tells the story of 1866 and the telegraph cable that connected the South to the North Island. It also tells the story of how Whites Bay got its name from a black sailor who jumped ship and made a home here. Open during the day – worth a look in.
There is a pretty impressive surf club building by the beach (powered by solar), so there must be quite a crowd mid summer. We are here in late November, and only a hand ful of campers on site, though there are a few day trippers.
Drive the back way to Picton
While the tarseal finishes at Whites Bay, the road winds on through countless little bays, eventually ending up in the metropolis of Picton. Along the road holiday houses and the occasional farm are scattered. Keep an eye out and you can see the remains of the whale industry which continued until the 60s. Allow a good hour for this trip – much quicker route home via the State Highway.
There are lots of walks here – to Rarangi is about an hour one way. At Rarangi walk up the stone staircase to the lookout or over to the small beach Monkey Bay. To the left of the stone staircase follow the path through the trees to a cave – I did not go in, but the track is well used by others!
Visit the Wairau Bar
The Wairau Bar is an important archeological site near Blenheim – accessed either from North or South
- South of Blenheim Hardings Road Riverlands
Walk or Cycle here out – I cycled the Kotuku track I did an hour, best thing would have been to try doing the round trip or add on another 30 mins to hunt around. 30 mins on ebike gets you out on the estuary.
- North of Blenheim, drive or cycle on sealed road to the water.
Near Spring Creek, turn off on the Wairau Bar Road which winds along the river. Just before car park take a left to the entrance – good fishing by the looks of the 30 or so fishers lined up there, though I suspect they were hopeful of a catch rather than certain – nothing biting when we were there.