Whites Bay, Marlborough

If you’re thinking of travelling the scenic route between Blenheim and Picton, or you just want to visit an awesome beach near Blenheim, Whites Bay should be on your radar. The beach is stunning, there are some decent walks nearby and it’s part of a fun drive, taking in the less visited northern east coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

Getting to Whites Bay

It should take around 25 minutes to drive from Blenheim to Whites Bay, and there are a few cool things to see on the way. You’ll drive between vineyards before a quick stop off at Rarangi Beach, and then the scenic short drive over the hill between Rarangi Beach and Whites Bay.

View of Rarangi Beach

Whites Bay

There’s a big car park and camping ground ($8 per person) at Whites Bay, and from there it’s a short walk down to the beach. The sand is hard and white (sort of) and it’s a scenic spot on a nice day. In fact, I’d say it’s probably the best beach on the “ocean side” of Marlborough.

The path to Whites Bay, Marlborough, New ZealandWhites Bay, Marlborough, New Zealand

We walked most of the length of the beach and I reckon the best spot is at the southern end (turn right when arriving at the beach). There are some rocks to climb around and then you can walk up the small headland for an elevated view of the beach. It’s not a proper track though so be careful (I went about halfway and thought it was too dangerous to go any further).

Whites Bay, the best beach near Blenheim, New ZealandView of Whites Bay, Marlborough, New Zealand

You can walk over the hill to Rarangi Beach. We didn’t do it, but the drive between the two seems to have similar views. There’s also an old house near the car park at Whites Bay. You can step inside and learn a little more about the area, including how this place got its name. Long story short – 16-year-old American slave Arper Ailsworth, AKA Black Jack White, jumped ship off the coast and was embraced by the local Maori population.

Old cottage at Whites Bay, New Zealand

Further North

The scenic route between Blenheim and Picton continues to offer up plenty of beaches and coastal views past Whites Bay. Port Underwood Road / the road out to Tumbledown Beach is a highlight, but the whole drive is worthwhile (maybe not if you suffer from motion sickness). 

READ MORE: The Scenic Route from Blenheim to Picton via Port Underwood

Marlborough Sounds view, New Zealand

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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.