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Driving the Scenic Route from Blenheim to Picton via Port Underwood

Driving the Scenic Route from Blenheim to Picton via Port Underwood

The main road between Blenheim and Picton is about as nondescript as roads in the South Island get — perfect if you’re in a hurry to catch a ferry! If you’ve got a little longer and would rather travel the scenic route the journey via Port Underwood is a great option. You’ll get to see a part of New Zealand most people don’t make it to — keep reading for all the information you’ll need!

Blenheim to Picton: The Scenic Route

The scenic route between Picton and Blenheim takes you to the upper east coast of the South Island before reaching some off the beaten path areas of the Marlborough Sounds. It’d take just under two hours to drive with minimal stops.

Rarangi Beach

Rarangi Beach is only a 15-minute drive from Blenheim and is a popular local holiday spot. Do the track to Monkey Bay if you’re keen for a short walk or you can see some nice views on the road to Whites Bay.

View of Rarangi Beach

Whites Bay

Whites Bay is a short drive north of Rarangi Beach and is an even better one to explore. The bay is sheltered and backed by native bush — very picturesque (it even made it on our Top 12 Beaches in the South Island list).

Whites Bay, Blenheim, New Zealand


There are a few viewpoints between Whites Bay and Port Underwood. Port Underwood is a big place on the map but not really a “place”, if that makes any sense. This is one of the more scenic bits of road on this journey — pick some roadside viewpoints and short walks if you’re keen to explore. Pictured below are the Port Underwood Lookout, Robin Hood Bay and Ocean Beach.

Port Underwood

I still don’t know exactly where or what Port Underwood is, but I’m going to go by Google Maps and say that it’s the area close to the turnoff to Tumbledown Bay. Oyster Bay, which is close to the turnoff, is pictured below. We wanted to explore at this point on our journey so decided to see what Tumbledown Bay Road was like — no research beforehand!

Tumbledown Bay

The road to Tumbledown Bay is similar to the other roads I’m the Marlborough Sounds. If you have already driven to French Pass or along Queen Charlotte Drive you’ve already seen similar (slightly better) stuff.

Still though, you can’t argue there aren’t great views to be had on this road. Definitely one to do if you want to get off the tourist trail. Tumbledown Bay is a cute little beach — a good spot for a picnic or short walk before driving to Picton.


From the Tumbledown Bay turnoff it’s a quick drive to Picton. There you’ll get to hang out in one of New Zealand’s prettiest towns before catching a ferry to the North Island or maybe travelling onwards to Nelson, Abel Tasman National Park and Golden Bay. Either way, I’d plan a night or two in Picton if you can!

READ MORE: 12 of the Best Things to Do in Picton

The Details

The main road between Blenheim and Picton takes around 25 minutes. If you do the scenic route it’d take two hours with minimal stops (and not doing the detour to Tumbledown Bay). I’d leave three – four hours if you want to do it in a relaxed fashion.

Is it worth doing? Yes, but if you have a ferry to catch you’re probably better to head straight to Picton and hang out there for a few hours (especially if you haven’t been there before). There’s heaps to do in Picton including the Tirohanga Track and Snout Track, or you could relax in a café by the waterfront.

Are you planning a trip to New Zealand? Check out our South Island travel guide!

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.