Marlborough Sounds

Hiking at Elaine Bay, Marlborough Sounds

Looking to stretch your legs and see one of the Marlborough Sounds nicest bays up close? Stop off at Elaine Bay — it’s on the road to French Pass and Bulwer — and hike the track to Piwakawakawa Bay. You can also walk (or drive) to the other side of the bay for more great views.

Elaine Bay to Piwakawakawa Bay

This track starts near the end of Elaine Bay (as you come down the hill). It’s kind of easy to miss as it’s a few hundred metres from the main car park. Trees hide the views for most of the way, but there are occasional clearings where you’ll see some stunning coastal views. The water in these parts (on a good day) is that bright tropical blue that is so rare in New Zealand.

Hiking at Elaine Bay, Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

The track soon heads up over the hill and down towards Piwakawakawa Bay. You’ll notice a sole bach (holiday house) overlooking the bay but there are no views from the track. The beach is really nice though and is definitely worth hiking to. Forested islands and hills surround the beach and the water is calm and clear. It takes around 90 minutes to hike between the two bays and it’s mostly flat.

Piwakawakawa Bay, a short hike from Elaine Bay, Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

The other side of Elaine Bay

Keep driving (or walking) past the camping ground and car park and you’ll soon arrive at the marina. The hill just before the marina features some great views of Elaine Bay (it’s easier to park at the marina and walk back up the hill as there is nowhere to pull over). You’ll notice a road continuing past the marina, you can’t drive up there but the short walk will bring you to a viewpoint above a boat shed. This road will also bring you to the start of the Archer Track, a 5-6 hour hike.

Viewpoint above Elaine Bay, Marlborough Sounds, New ZealandA boat shed at Elaine Bay, Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

Camping at Elaine Bay

We originally planned to camp at Elaine Bay but we would have arrived quite late and we thought it might fill up. Get to camping grounds like this early in high season! It costs $8 per person to camp at Elaine Bay and it looks like a cool place to stay.

Getting to Elaine Bay

Elaine Bay is on the road to French Pass / Bulwer, around 2 hours from Picton / 1.5 hours from Nelson. The road to French Pass (including the offshoot road to Bulwer) is one of New Zealand’s most scenic drives. You get so many stunning views of the Marlborough Sounds. In terms of coastal scenery in New Zealand you won’t find any better. Stay tuned for a full post on this drive and you’ll see what I mean.

READ MORE: Walking the French Pass Lookout Track, Marlborough Sounds

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who has just returned home after 6 years abroad. Join me as I see as much of the South Island as I can.
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