A couple of days at Marfells Beach

After watching the TV news and weather while at the Wai Iti Domain (#6289). We decided that heading to the West Coast was probably not the greatest idea with roads closed as well as damage to camping areas from the cyclone, so we decided to go down the East Coast back up the West Coast. That’s the great thing with no plans you can adapt.

Turning off the State Highway 6 towards St Arnaud we felt like we were the only people on the road with almost no traffic with some fantastic scenery together with masses of blackberries that lined the road. Sarah foraging some when I had pulled over to allow someone to pass they were plump and juicy well worth the stop.

Turning back towards Blenheim on State Highway 63 the road was again almost devoid of traffic. With the road following the Wairau River, we kept saying to each other that we needed a rest area so that we could get some decent photos When we came across the DOC camp Kowhai Point (#7112). Although we didn’t stay, it was a beautiful place set back from the road a little, with what looked like a swimming hole in the river next to the camp.

Coming into the Wairau Valley, the extent of the grape plantings become apparent with acre after acre of vines. The development appears to be moving further and further up the valley judging by the vines that look to have been planted very recently. We did not stop at any of the vineyards to sample the wares. But there were plenty of opportunities to do so.

Reaching Blenheim, we turned right onto State Highway 1 towards Kaikoura passing through Seddon one of the areas affected by the giant quake although the only thing evident to us was the road appeared to have been recently repaired along long stretches. From there it’s a short drive to the DOC camp at Marfells Beach (#7067).

The camp at Marfells is unlike any other DOC camp we have been at. Even though it has a camp host, it’s every man for himself when it comes to finding a spot to camp with some people parking lengthwise along the beach, others at right angles it was quite confusing. We did, however, find a good place at the far end of the camp parking lengthwise to take advantage of the views.

Setting off along the beach towards the lighthouse at Cape Campbell without any real plans to complete the walk just exploring the area. At the end of the beach, it’s immediately evident of the extent of the uplift caused by the massive quake with rocks covered in dead barnacles well above the tide line. It would have been a fantastic sight to have been here a year ago with the rocks covered in all sorts of sea life sitting exposed.

Having set off along the beach totally unprepared for a long walk (no water), we walked further than perhaps we had intended. Still, it was just too impressive with the beach around the corner covered in washed up bull kelp from the recent storm as well as all sorts of other debris.

As we walked along the beach, we were constantly being passed by people on quad bikes heading towards the lighthouse. When we returned to the camp we found out that they were all heading that way to dive for crayfish which is about the only seafood allowed to be harvested with a complete ban on shellfish to allow for the recovery of stocks after the quake.

One of the surprising things about this beach is the wild spinach which is growing everywhere. We never realised that it was so hardy with it growing right out of the sand in the dunes. It’s hard to believe that there would be enough nourishment for the plants to survive, let alone self-seed and thrive.

Sunday morning we set off in the other direction towards the salt lakes along the beach, but with tide coming in we had to walk along the soft part of the beach above the tide line which provided many moments of shaking my feet to try to clear the small stones stuck inside my sandals. Yet again we came across a couple of driftwood sculptures with one of them a level above the others we had seen, complete with a wood-burning stove, couch and dining table quite the luxury lodge.


Towards the end of the beach, we came across this concrete jetty that almost appeared as someones folly as it started on the beach and seemed to finish not much above the high tide line, but maybe it was affected by the quake as well.

Having had enough of the small stones, we decided to walk back along the road past the salt lakes and through the farm. The path through the farm was surrounded by flowers and the ever-present spinach which we talked about bagging and selling to pay the extra nights camping fees (just joking).

Sunday afternoon as the campground again started to fill Renee and Geoff pulled in next to us in their caravan. Turns out they are regular visitors to the South Island and were slowly making their way to the Wings Over Wanaka at Easter weekend. Where they have volunteered to help. So many people we have met are attending this maybe we should consider it as well.

We managed to get these fantastic photos of the sun rising over the camp Monday morning. The colours were just amazing, and the sort of thing that makes getting up at 6am worthwhile,

Monday morning we again hit the road making a stop at Ward Beach to see the uplift from the quake. What a difference a few km’s make with Ward Beach having no sand compared to Marfells Beach a short distance away with beautiful sandy beaches extraordinary.

The quake made significant changes to Ward Beach with all the rocks that are visible now would have been underwater at high tide when these photos were taken. It just amazes the forces that must have been at play to cause this.


Just a little Tonka toy to launch your boat with at Ward Beach, we didn’t see the ship, but it must have been a decent size as this is a colossal Cat to pull it.


Driving onwards to Kaikoura but that’s for the next blog post
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2 thoughts on “A couple of days at Marfells Beach

  1. Not surprised that you decided against going down the West Coat – thought that would be a bit risky. But you had other interesting experiences instead – like the blackberries – yum, sound delicious. Did you try any of the wild spinach for dinner? Lots more lovely photos – really enjoying your blog, and look forward to your writing from Kaikoura. Have you had any crayfish yet? ..
    Love from SP

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