Blenheim (New Zealand)

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Blenheim is the most populous town in the Marlborough wine-growing region in the north-east of the South Island of New Zealand. It is one of the sunniest towns in the country, with summers that are typically warm and dry, and winters that are normally cool and frosty with clear sunny days. It has 30,000 residents.

Understand[edit]

Get in[edit]

By train[edit]

Coastal Pacific (formerly TranzCoastal), +64 4 495 0775 (email bookings@kiwirailscenic.co.nz, fax +64 4 472 8903, Freephone 0800 TRAINS (0800 872 467) (NZ only)). Train service operates daily from October through April between Christchurch and Picton via Blenheim and Kaikoura. There are stunning views with the Kaikoura mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. It leaves Christchurch at 7AM, then leaves Blenheim at 11:46AM and arrives Picton at 12:13PM. The train leaves Picton at 1PM, leaves Blenheim at 1:33PM and arrives Christchurch at 6:21PM. The railway station is on Grove Rd.

By bus[edit]

InterCity buses and Atomic shuttle buses travel Picton-Christchurch return or Picton-Nelson return, both of which pass through Blenheim. The bus will drop you off in the railway station, which is also the information centre. The centre of town is south-west from the railway station. If you want to walk into town from the station, cross State Highway 1 at the southern end of the carpark. The river 40m further marks the beginning of the central business district.

Nelson Lakes Shuttles specialise in providing transport for trampers, hikers, climbers, mountain bikers and skiers. They run on-demand and scheduled services to St Arnaud, Nelson Lakes National Park, Kahurangi National Park, the Richmond Ranges and other tramping destinations further afield.

By car[edit]

A short 20 minute drive south on State Highway 1 from Picton which is the home of the terminal for the inter-island ferry service from Wellington. From Nelson, Blenheim is 1 1/2 hours east, travelling via Havelock (30 minutes) and Renwick (10 minutes) on State Highway 6. State Highway 62 runs north east from St Arnaud (1 1/4 hours), Murchison (2 hours) and Westport (3 1/2 hours) From the south, State Highway 1 takes you from Christchurch (4 hours), Kaikoura (1 1/2 hours) and Seddon (15 minutes)

By plane[edit]

Blenheim has a small airport at Woodbourne, 10 minutes from Blenheim and 4 minutes from Renwick. Air New Zealand has regular services from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and air2there commuter aircraft fly to Wellington and Paraparaumu (just north of Wellington).

Sounds Air flies commuter aircraft from Picton airport, 15 minutes from Blenheim.

Get around[edit]

The Blenheim Bus Service is limited and of no real use to travelers. The centre of town and most accommodation is within easy walking distance. Vineyards and other attractions further afield will require transport. For those without the inclination to bike or without a car, taxis or a tour are the most practical options.

  • Neal Shuttle Bus +64 3 577 5277. Often meets planes at the airport. Is happy to arrange a wine trail. Seats 10 (but takes single rides too).
  • Marlborough Taxis Ltd +64 3 577 5511.
  • Gateway Taxis +64 3 577 2072.

See[edit]

  •    Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre79 Aerodrome Rd (beside Omaka Aerodrome (not Blenheim Airport) 5 km from town, route sign-posted off SH6),  +64 3 579 1305, e-mail: . Daily 10AM-5PM (last entry 4PM) except 25–26 Dec. Collection of World War I planes lovingly restored and captured in realistic settings. Part of the attraction is the association of Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings fame) and Weta Workshop with the display. His team has turned what could be just a collection of planes into a drama enjoyed by even those with little interest in aviation or military history. Worth it. Has a cafe. Adult $25, child (5–14) $10, concessions available.
  • Marlborough Museum (Brayshaw Museum Park), 26 Arthur Baker Pl (off New Renwick Rd),  +64 3 578 1712fax: 03 578 1739, e-mail: . Daily 10AM-4PM (except ANZAC Day til 1PM, Good Friday & 25 Dec). There is a huge amount of artifacts and many displays which relate to the local history. Also houses "Beavertown" a replica "early Blenheim" village. Visit the audiovisual theater which shows both local and international history-oriented films. $10.
  • Millennium Art Gallerycorner Seymour & Alfred Sts (opposite Seymour Sq),  +64 3 579 2001fax: 03 579 2162, e-mail: . M-F 10:30AM-4:30PM, Sa Su 1-4PM and some public holidays. Free. Donation appreciated.
  • Pollard Parkoff Parker St. Beautiful landscaping. Don't miss the roses and camellias.
  • Seymour Squarecnr High and Seymour Sts. See the formal gardens.

Do[edit]

  • Walk in the Wither Hills. Blenheim is framed to the south by a farm park which is open to the public. A great spot for a view over the Wairau valley. Popular with runners and walkers of all fitness levels. Accessible from the end of Scott St, Redwood St and Maxwell Rd.
  • Mountain bike the various river and road trails, including the Wither Hills Bike Park.
  • Wine Tours by Bike33 Blicks Rd, Renwick +64 3 577 7954, e-mail: . Enjoy the scenery and take a tranquil tour around the wineries by bike. There are around 30 wineries within a 10 km radius of Blenheim that can be explored by bike. Pick-up can be arranged from your accommodation. $45 (5 hours).
  • Marlborough Wine Tour (Will collect from accommodation),  +64 3 577 9997. Select from half day and full day wine tours. Join a scheduled tour or take your very own private tour. Enjoy the very best of the Marlborough wine region.
  • Marlborough Travel tours and cruisesCentral Blenheim (Collections),  +64 35779997. Offering a range of private transport options, wine tours, transfers for individuals, couples and groups. The company owns and operates cars, vans, buses and coaches as well as launches in the Marlborough Sounds.
  • Mud House Village193 Rapaura Rd +64 3 572 7170, e-mail: . Daily from 10AM. Offers wine and coffee tasting. Liqueurs, fruit brandies, infused olive oils etc for sale. Visit the Olive Shop and Quilters Barn (art and craft).
  • Marlborough Aero Club +64 3 578 5073. Daily. Go on a scenic flight or learn to fly
  • Marlborough Golf Club (Fairhall), Paynters Rd +64 3 578 7646, e-mail: . 18 Holes.
  • Rarangi Golf ClubRarangi Beach Rd +64 3 570 5709, e-mail: . 18 Hole.
  • Hedgerows Strawberry FarmCnr Old Renwick Rd and Rene St (Between Blenheim and Renwick),  +64 3 578 52 68. Tu-Su 9AM-5PM. A fun destination for locals and tourists. Sales of fresh strawberries and strawberry products. Real fruit ice-cream and refreshments. Mini petanque court, picnic areas. Parking for camper vans, mini tour buses and bikes. free entry.
  • Catch the rugby at Landsdowne Park (one of the Tasman Makos stadiums), Landsdowne St +64 3 578 4070, e-mail: . $12-35.

Buy[edit]

  • Marlborough Farmers MarketA&P Park, cnr Maxwell and Alabama Rds +64 3 579 3599 or 03 575 7697fax: 03 579 3598 or 03 575 7698, e-mail: . Nov-May Su 9AM-noon. Boutique local growers, live music and $7 breakfasts cooked by local chefs. Quality coffee.
  • Bookworld67 Market St +64 3 578 4909. Independent retailer with good selection of novels, non-fiction titles and travel literature. Good selection of local books. Carries the Guardian Weekly and Die Spiegel.
  • Perrys Book & Map Shop4 Arthur St +64 3 578 3195. Another good option for books.
  • Thomas's54 Market St +64 3 578 6369fax: 03 578 6367, e-mail: . A department store, almost incongruous for a smaller town. Large selection of quality (and highly priced) men's, women's and homewear.
  • New World Supermarket1 Freswick St (From the post office walk west, past the police station, over the roundabout/railway tracks. On your right),  +64 3 520 9030, e-mail: . Daily 7AM-10PM. Notable for a selection of local wines priced right.
  • Gillan GalleryGrove Rd (Diagonally opposite the Blenheim Railway Station),  +64 3 579 4604.
  • Blenheim Rotary Car Boot SaleGrove Road (Public carpark by railway station),  +64 3 578 5735. Sa 8AM-noon. Cheap and cheerful
  • Redwood MarketRedwood Tavern carpark, Cleghorn St +64 3 578 9486. Sa 8AM-noon. Fruit, vegetables, flowers, plants, arts & crafts, Organised by the Rotary Club of Blenheim South

Eat[edit]

Casual dining[edit]

Lunch[edit]

  • Figaro's8 Scott St +64 3 577 7277. Contemporary and stylish.
  • Giorgio'scnr High and Seymour Sts +64 3 579 1458. Park views from upstairs windows.

Ethnic food[edit]

Formal dining[edit]

Drink[edit]

Marlborough is one of the top wine growing areas in New Zealand. A free map [1] is available from visitor information centres.

Wineries[edit]

Most of the tastings are free and the service is very friendly. A biking wine tour in Blenheim is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon. You can bring home a bottle from each in your rented bike's haversack. As not all vineyards offer tasting plates, so you can pack your own chocolate or cheese and nibble as we go. Be warned that most New Zealand wineries focus on white wines, with many of the wineries providing only one red variety plus a blush variety.

Due to national liquor laws, all winery cellar doors are closed on Christmas Day (25 December), Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and before 13:00 on Anzac Day (25 April) unless otherwise stated.

  •    Hunters Wines603 Rapaura Rd (SH 62) +64 3 572-8489, toll-free: 0800 486 837, e-mail: . Won over 80 gold medals including the Marquis de Goulaine Trophy for Best Sauvignon Blanc in the World at the 1992 International Wine & Spirit Competition. There is also a restaurant and a native garden.
  •    Brancott Estate Winery (formerly Montana Estate), 180 Brancott Rd +64 3 520-6975fax: +64 3 578 0463. Daily 10:00-16:30. Numerous awards including gold at the London International Wine Challenge 2003. Number one selling NZ wine company. The multi-million dollar visitor facility has a restaurant, retail store and the Brancott Theater.
  • Seresin EstateBedford Rd (Travel west of Renwick on State Hwy 6 for a short distance, turn right (N) into Bedford Rd and then left (W) into the vineyard),  +64 3 572 9408fax: 03 572 9850, e-mail: . On a terrace with views over Condors Bend and the Richmond Ranges beyond, this organic vineyard produces premium quality wine and olive oil.
  • Villa Mariafax: +64 3 577 9585, e-mail: . Corner of Paynters & New Renwick Roads, +64 3 577 9530, (. Daily 10AM-5PM; May-Oct 11AM-5PM. One of NZ's top award winning wineries. Complimentary wine tasting. Winery tours by appointment.

Bars[edit]

In recent years, Blenheim's drinking scene has diversified:

  • The Cornerstone Restaurant & Bar70 Queen St +64 3 577 7555. M-Sa 10AM-1AM, Su 10AM-midnight. All things to all people?
  • Dolce Bar and Restaurant11 Market St (Upstairs in the Forum),  +64 3 577 8238. Pizza restaurant by day. Live DJs by night some weekends
  • Kokomo Beach Bar (formerly Goat's Don't Shave/Level 42), 4/76 Market St +64 3 578 0941. The only night club. Still a cultural experience.
  • Paddy Barry's Irish Bar51 Scott St +64 3 578 7470. Every town has one. Quiz nights on Wednesdays.

Sleep[edit]

Budget[edit]

Mid-range[edit]

Splurge[edit]

Connect[edit]

Internet[edit]

Post[edit]

  • Post OfficeCnr Scott & Main Sts +64 3 578 3904. M-F 8:30AM-5:15PM, Sa 9:30AM-12:30PM.

Go next[edit]

  • Blenheim is a gateway to the Marlborough Sounds, sunken valleys offering yachting, fishing and dolphin watching.
  • The Wairau Bar won't be to everybody's taste, but there is beauty if you look. Located at the mouth of the Wairau river (hence the name), the site allows sweeping views of the Wairau Lagoons, Cloudy Bay and over to the North Island. Above the stony beach (not good for swimming) are collections of coastal plants, salty dunes and Māori pits. The Waiau Bar was the site of shipwrecks when it was a major transport hub in the 1920s. To enjoy the area you will have to ignore the vehicle access to seemingly everywhere. Access from Blenheim is taking State Highway 1 north, and turning right (east) into the township of Spring Creek. After passing the township and crossing the Wairau River, turn right onto Wairau Bar Rd. The Wairau Bar is at the end of the road.
  • The best sea swimming in the region can be found at White's Bay. The horseshoe shaped bay protects the sandy beach from the worst weather. The Surf Club and a Department of Conservation campground have basic facilities only. Bush walks run up behind the beach and take from 10 minutes to all day. The walk over the ridge from Rarangi takes approximately one hour. The historic telegraph office which linked the North and South Island provides interest although it is not currently open to the public. To drive to White's Bay drive north from Blenheim on State Highway 1 and turn right (east) at Tuamarina. Travel through the seaside settlement of Rarangi and continue to follow the Port Underwood Rd. Spectular views over the lower Wairau from the ridgeline. The turn into White's Bay is just before the end of the tar-seal.
  • The Port Underwood Rd can be followed through to Picton. This, for the most part, gravel road twists around the coast passing Robin Hood Bay, the site of an early missionary settlement featuring a stud and mud cottage built in 1854 by the whaler Captain Jackson and the pits of a kumura (sweet potato) garden are evident just off the foreshore. The road takes 1 1/4 hours from Rarangi to Picton giving periodically spectacular views over Port Underwood and points south.
  • Nelson Lakes National Park and its gateway village St Arnaud, offering bush walking, fresh water fishing and beautiful mountain scenery. Is about an hour away by car.
  • Ski Rainbow. 1 1/4 hours to the bottom of the access road, Rainbow Skifield [2] is the northern most skifield in the South Island, is close to the village of St Arnaud.
  • Pelorus Bridge on the road towards Nelson is an excellent day picnic destination during summer. The area is very scenic and the river surreal. Plus the opportunity to have a swim during a hot summers day and stay overnight at the campground.
Routes through Blenheim
Picton  N State Highway 1 NZ.svg S  SeddonKaikoura
NelsonRenwick  W State Highway 6 NZ.svg E  END


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