Back Country, Family Friendly and Alpine Walks to suit everyone
A guide and images by Marlborough photographer and explorer Melanie White.
Download the full guide here, or read on.
The Top of the South is known for sunshine and warm summer nights, accompanied by a good glass of wine amongst the vines or beside the ocean. Aside from the exquisite selection of wine available from local vineyards, Marlborough is a hot spot for outdoor activities. As someone who grew up on a Marlborough farm, I've spent my life surrounded by nature. I love nothing more than exploring what Mother Nature has to offer in this beautiful part of the country. From my experience, I give to you my personal Top 5 Marlborough hikes. The list ranges in difficulty, with something to suit everyone!
MT ROBERT CIRCUIT
Duration: 5 hours return
Although Mount Robert is located in Nelson Lakes National Park, an hour and a half drive from Blenheim’s town centre - it offers a close, scenic mountain getaway from the wine scene in Marlborough. Nelson Lakes National Park has many combinations of outdoor activities to choose from. On a good day, the lake is filled with boats and families kayaking, waterskiing or biscuiting - even sailing. You can also take your pick between many hikes ranging in difficulty, taking you up mountains and around the lakes' edge, surrounded in alpine bush. However, one I will never pass up is the Mount Robert Circuit.
Start at the Mount Robert carpark, you can access the road from West Bay. From here you’ll slowly make your way up through tall Alpine Bush, zig-zagging up the mountain, popping in and out of the bush to be greeted by rewarding views of Lake Rotoiti the entire way up until you reach the summit (1,421m). As you continue along the trail you’ll branch across it’s ridge with spectacular views of more of the National Parks surrounding snow capped mountains and Lake Rotoiti glistening below, before reaching Bushline Hut and heading back down the mountain face
I love doing this track in the afternoon, by the time you’ve reached bushline hut the sun has almost reached golden hour, projecting beautiful golden light across the surrounding mountains.
Duration: 1 hour return
Tirohanga Track is located in Picton, a place most visitors have heard of from entering via the ferry and cruise ships. With Picton being one of the gateways to the Marlborough Sounds, there are fishing opportunities, baches and holiday homes stretching right to the Cook Straight. You will be spoilt for choice, yet again.
Tirohanga Track is a manageable track for just about anyone, which makes it so special despite the short climb to the view point! There are two access points to this track once you reach Picton - begin from either Newgate Street or Garden Terrace. From here you’ll wander uphill through native NZ bush for about 30+ minutes depending on your fitness level. You’ll come out at the top to some rewarding views across the entirety of Picton and the Marlborough Sounds, with Mount Stokes looking over it all in the distance. Make a morning of it and start early to enjoy the morning light filter across the township and the ocean. Then follow up with a coffee and a bite to eat along the waterfront. If you’re not an early riser, try it in the afternoon and reward yourself with a dinner and a beverage at one of the restaurants along the main strip.
Try this walk early to catch the sunrise and enjoy a coffee on the waterfront to catch the early light.
RED HILLS HUT
Duration: 1-3 hours return
Red Hills Hut is an easy day walk ,or overnight trip for families, about an hours' drive from Blenheim. This is a super-easy uphill track to the hut, which is a gateway to more hiking opportunities across the Richmond Ranges.
Begin this hike on the Red Hills Track which begins at Six Mile Carpark off SH63, about an hours' drive from Blenheim. You’ll be following a 4WD track the whole way up to the hut which is pretty easy going and perfect for families to tackle. The track can get slippery in the wet so be mindful. The hut is situated at the top of a saddle which looks out over Rainbow Valley and Plateau on the other side, at 910 metres above sea level. This is a great option for a quick and easy afternoon jaunt if you’re flying solo! It provides good views, an easy trail and some shelter for a cuppa break or place to stay.
This is perfect for couples with young children who still want to get outdoors and have a bit of fun with the kids, even a first overnight tramp perhaps?
Duration: 5-8 hours return
Another day trip from Blenheim and one that doesn't disappoint! Mount Fyffe is probably the most popular walk in Kaikoura. It's know for it's panoramic views of the township and its surrounding coastline and Kaikoura ranges and not to mention it's very accessible. Follow up this hike with some fish and chips on the beach and watch the sunset over the mountains you've just climbed!
The walk starts behind the town through farmland. Follow Mount Fyffe Road till you reach the carpark and you'll be on your way. Mount Fyffe is a moderate uphill climb on a 4WD track most of the way. Take your time on the way to the hut as you progress through the bush and crawl up and out to views of the ranges and glimpses of Kaikoura Peninsula from above. It takes 1-3 hours to reach the hut and a further 30+ minutes to the summit. Put your feet up at the grassy outcrop where the hut lies and take in the views before settling in for the final walk to the summit. Mount Fyffe Summit sits at 1602 metres above sea level.
Pack plenty of snacks, water and a change of clothes and a camera on every adventure. Being prepared makes the journey more fun and enjoyable at the end of the day!
Duration: 8+ hours return
Mount Fishtail is located in the Mount Richmond National Park where it’s sharp accompanying peaks overlook Marlborough. The mountain stands at a tall 1,700 metres above the Wairau Valley and gets its name from the fishtail shaped scree fall on its face which can be seen from Wairau Valley township. Mount Fishtail is a hard but incredibly rewarding climb and one for the fitter more experienced hikers. To access Mount Fishtail Track head to Pine Valley, turning off at the Wairau Bridge on SH6. Once you arrive you’ll go through some padlocked gates before reaching the starting point of the track. Mount Fishtail is easy for the first half hour of walking, following the river under NZ bush before reaching the river crossing.
Immediately after carefully crossing the river you’ll be heading straight up through the pine trees, until the trees and bush shrink into alpine flora and fauna. The climb is around 5 hours to the hut so make sure you have plenty of snacks, water, charged phone batteries for all the motivating music you’ll have blasting out of your backpack and high spirits. Once you reach the hut you can take a much deserved break before tackling the climb to the summit. From here you’ll zig zag up the scree before reaching the ridge line and following it up to the summit. Note; this part of the track is mostly unmarked so a topo map or app would be most appropriate if you’re uncomfortable on unmarked trails.
Allow 8+ hours to complete as a day hike, otherwise pack a sleeping bag to enjoy some 5 star accommodation in the mountains.
Want to save this for later, you can download the full guide here.