Mussel farm, Pelorus Sound, Havelock, New Zealand

A weekend in Havelock, New Zealand

Last Updated: 26th July, 2023

Welcome to Havelock, New Zealand – a hidden gem nestled in the beautiful Marlborough Sounds! Havelock is a quaint and picturesque town located on the South Island, renowned for its stunning coastal landscapes, welcoming community, and abundant marine life. Known fondly as the ‘Green Shell Mussel Capital of the World,’ Havelock is famous for its fresh seafood – definitely something to experience on your visit!

Pelorus Sound, Havelock, New Zealand

Havelock’s warm and friendly community welcomes visitors with open arms, and you’ll find that the town’s relaxed pace of life is contagious! If you’re planning on driving through from Picton or Blenheim to Nelson, this is a perfect stop for a day or two! If you’re heading onto Nelson, check out my favourite things to do while i’m there!

Where is Havelock, New Zealand?

Havelock is a small coastal town located on the South Island of New Zealand! It is nestled deep in the beautiful Marlborough Sounds, about half an hours drive from the major touristy towns of Blenheim and Picton, and an hours drive through the stunning Rai Valley from Nelson.

Map of Havelock, New Zealand

How to get to Havelock

By Car:

The most convenient way to reach Havelock from the bigger cities of Blenheim and Nelson is by car. Havelock is located off State Highway 6, that connects these two cities, and is an incredible scenic drive through the Marlborough countryside! The drive takes about 30 minutes from Blenheim, and just over an hour from Nelson.

By Public Transport

If you are looking at using public transport, there are a few buses that travel daily between Blenheim and Nelson, with scheduled stops in Havelock! Have a look here for scheduled journeys. 🙂

By Water Taxi

For a unique and scenic experience, you can take a water taxi from Picton to Havelock. Water taxis operate in the Marlborough Sounds and provide a picturesque journey through the pristine waters and sheltered bays. The travel time varies depending on the specific water taxi service and route, but it typically takes around 30 to 40 minutes.

Water taxi to Havelock, New Zealand

What is the best time to visit Havelock?

The best time to visit Havelock, New Zealand, is during the summer months, which is from December to February. During this time, the weather is generally warm and pleasant, making it ideal for outdoor activities and exploring the beautiful Marlborough Sounds.

The summer season offers several advantages for travelers:

  1. Weather: The temperatures during summer are mild, with daytime temperatures ranging from 20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F). The evenings are also pleasant, making it comfortable for outdoor dining and strolling along the waterfront.
  2. Outdoor Activities: Havelock is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, and during summer, you can enjoy activities such as hiking, boating, kayaking, and swimming in the clear waters of the Marlborough Sounds.
  3. Festivals and Events: Havelock hosts various events and festivals during the summer months, showcasing the local culture, food, and arts.
Cruise throught he sounds near Havelock, New Zealand

Things to Do in Havelock, New Zealand

Visit the Remarkable Pelorus Sounds!

Havelock is nestled along the calm waters of the incredible Pelorus Sound, or Te Hoiere. Pelorus Sound is one of the main sounds in the Marlborough Sounds region (gee that’s a lotta sounds), and is a must-see while in Havelock! It is known for its calm waters, lush forests and abundant marine life – what more could you want! There are many ways to enjoy these stunning sounds:

NZ fur seal in Pelorus Sound, Havelock New Zealand

Cruise through the Pelorus Sounds…

Take a scenic cruise through Pelorus Sounds to fully appreciate the stunning landscapes and pristine waters. Many operators offer boat tours that allow you to explore the secluded bays, coves, and hidden beaches. The Pelorus Mail Boat is an awesome cruise option, where you join the local mailman on his daily mail run through the sounds. Keep an eye out for dolphins, seals, and seabirds along the way!

Pelorus Mail Boat near Havelock, New Zealand

… Or explore the Pelorus Sounds by kayak!

Pelorus Sounds is an ideal place for kayaking and paddleboarding. Glide along the calm waters, surrounded by picturesque views and serene surroundings. It’s a wonderful way to get up close to the natural beauty and wildlife of the area, and explore remote inlets around the Pelorus Sounds.

Kayaking through the sounds from Havelock, New Zealand

Enjoy a day-trip into Picton!

Picton is a small coastal town just a half an hour drive from Havelock, and is an awesome place for a day-trip! The Queen Charlotte Drive – the road that links the two towns – is incredibly scenic, and has heaps of incredible viewpoints to stop and take in the sounds. There is heaps to explore in Picton, as well as a bunch of awesome cafes and restaurants to visit.

Picton Marina, near Havelock, New Zealand

Visit the Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve

The Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve is a picturesque natural area located in the Marlborough region, around 15-minutes drive inland from Havelock.

The reserve is named after the Pelorus Bridge, which spans the beautiful Pelorus River. The bridge itself is an iconic wooden swing bridge that offers a charming and rustic atmosphere, adding to the allure of the area. It is a great spot for taking photographs and immersing yourself in the tranquil surroundings.

Pelorus Bridge scenic reserve is a great option for a day-trip from Havelock, and there is loads of things to do while you’re there!

Nature Walks

The reserve offers a network of well-maintained walking tracks that cater to different fitness levels. These tracks wind through lush native forests, offering opportunities to witness the region’s rich flora and fauna. Some of the walking tracks lead to beautiful river viewpoints, making it an ideal place for nature enthusiasts and photographers.

Walk at Pelorus River near Havelock, New Zealand
Circle Loop Walk

Time: 45 min loop
Distance: 1.7 km

The Circle Loop Track begins alongside the Pelorus River, and winds through native forest to the iconic suspension bridge! This section of path is smooth and easy, and even wheelchair accessible! From here, the path crosses the bridge over the roaring Rai River, and makes a loop through a pocket of forest. Here, the path is uneven but mostly flat, and gives incredible views over the river!

Elvy Waterfalls Track

Time: 2 hr return
Distance: 1.5 km 

If you are looking for a slightly longer walk, then this is an awesome option! This tramping track heads inland along the banks of the Pelorus River, and gives you the opportunity to see two waterfalls along the way! From the cafe, join the short Tawa Path walk, before branching off onto the Elvy Waterfalls Track. This track is stunning, surrounded by native forest with glimpses of the beautiful river to your left. There is a small stream crossing along the route to the first waterfall, so take care during wet weather!

walk at Pelorus River near Havelock, New Zealand

Stunning Picnic Spots and Viewpoints

There are designated picnic and camping areas in the reserve, providing visitors with the chance to enjoy a relaxed outdoor experience surrounded by nature’s beauty. It’s an excellent place for a family outing or a peaceful day in the wilderness.

Spot the Lord of the Rings filming location!

If Pelorus Bridge looks familiar to you… you might be right! This stunning section of river was used by Peter Jackson while filming The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug! Look closely, and you might recognize the river from the famous barrel scene – where the dwarves are floating in barrels down the river, chased by elves and orcs!

Pelorus River near Havelock, New Zealand

And have your own experience floating down the Pelorus River!

Luckily, you won’t have to do it in a wine barrel, and you won’t be being chased! However, if you want to experience a little piece of the magic, you can join a kayaking tour with Hobbit Kayak Tours! Drift down the river in your own canoe, enjoying the incredible scenery of New Zealand’s notice forests, and explore the famous filming location by standing on the rocks and passing the same waterfall as Bilbo and his friends! A bonus: they offer free photographs, so you don’t have to worry about getting your phone wet!

Pelorus River near Havelock, New Zealand

Explore Havelock Town!

If you fancy spending a day in town, then having a wander around the heart of Havelock is a delightful experience. The township is small and spans the main road, however it is filled to the brim with funky galleries, local arts and crafts, and of course, an awesome selection of cafes and restaurants!

Havelock Marina

Start your exploration by taking a leisurely stroll along the Havelock Marina. Watch boats come and go, admire the tranquil waters, and enjoy the beautiful views of the surrounding hills.

Havelock Museum

This museum is a very interesting place to visit while in Havelock. Learn about the town’s maritime heritage and local history, as well as fascinating stories of the area! The museum showcases exhibits related to fishing, boat-building, and the early settlers’ way of life. For a donation rather than a set fee, it’s definitely worth a stop!

The Gallery in Havelock showcases incredible works of the local Marlborough artists, and is definitely worth a look around! It is volunteer run and non-profit, and displays incredible artwork from over 20 local artists. From amazing paintings, to unique sculptures from ceramic and wood, there is something for everyone.

Best Cafes and Restaurants in Havelock

1. The Mussel Pot | Seafood

Located in the heart of Havelock, this popular seafood restaurant is known for its delicious green-lipped mussels, seafood chowder, and other mouthwatering seafood dishes. This quirky restaurant is easily recognisable, covered in green-lipped mussel sculptures – you can tell they take pride in their work!

2. Slip Inn Havelock | Cafe & Restaurant

Tucked down in the marina, this cosy cafe and restaurant has a diverse menu ranging from fresh seafood to kiwi classics. Enjoy a feed and a Slip Inn Cider with looking over the marina and the Pelorus Sound!

Mussels in Havelock, New Zealand

3. Mills Bay Mussels | Tasting Room and Eatery

If you are looking to have an incredible mussel tasting experience, then head down to Mills Bay at the Havelock Marina! It is right in front of their mussel pack house, so you can be sure you’re eating the freshest mussels you can get! Try mussels prepared in a variety of ways, along with some delicious fries for a true Havelock experience.

4. Captain’s Daughter | Pub

A cosy pub on the main street, this is an awesome place to sit and enjoy the local atmosphere! The Captain’s Daughter offers a delightful selection of dishes made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. They have a great range of seafood and other New Zealand-inspired cuisine.

beer, Havelock, New Zealand

5. The Lodge at Te Rawa | Seafood Restaurant

Located on the waterfront, this restaurant specializes in fresh oysters and other seafood delicacies! It is located right on the waterfront, and has comfortable seating with breathtaking views. If you’ve had a good day fishing, they will even prepare your fish for you, along with chips and a salad. Sweet as!

6. Rays Place | Cafe

Rays Place is a friendly and lively tearoom located in the heart of Havelock! It has an incredible selection of cabinet food, including classic kiwi pies, filled panini’s, and sweet treats! Pair this with a well-made coffee for an awesome lunch spot.

7. Taco Shack | Mexican Takeaway

Some damn tasty Mexican food served out of a quirky, tiny truck on Havelock’s main street, the Taco Shack always seems to have a line! Made with fresh and delicious ingredients, these huge tacos are sure to hit the spot. There are a few seats, or grab a taco to takeaway as you wander through the town. They even offer vegan friendly options and some very spicy, very good hot sauce for the adventurous among us!

8. The Sneaky Beach | Bakery and Cafe

If you are looking for banging cabinet food or a delicious cooked breakfast, then make sure to pop into The Sneaky Beach! It’s known for its friendly and welcoming staff and awesome atmosphere, and is a great place to relax before starting your day.


There are several festivals and events held in Havelock throughout the year, showcasing the town’s vibrant culture, local produce, and community! These are awesome to go to, as you get to meet the locals and experience Havelock at its finest!

  1. Havelock Mussel and Seafood Festival: This is one of the most significant events in Havelock, celebrating the town’s title as the “Green Shell Mussel Capital of the World.” Usually held in March, the festival is a seafood lover’s paradise, featuring delicious mussel dishes, fresh seafood, local wine, and craft beer. The event includes live music, cooking demonstrations, and various activities for the whole family.
  2. Havelock Lions Sunday Market: Taking place on the first Sunday of every month, this market is an opportunity to explore local arts, crafts, produce, and other unique products. Held at the Havelock Marina, the market provides a chance to meet local artisans and support small businesses.
  3. Marlborough Sounds Maritime Park Festival: Organized by the Department of Conservation, this event usually takes place in January. It offers a chance to learn about the fascinating maritime history of the Marlborough Sounds. Explore the decks and depths of the Edwin Fox ship and enjoy the exhibits!
  4. Havelock Craft Fair: If you are a fan of all things crafty, this fair is a must-visit. Usually held in the summer months, it features a wide range of crafts, locally-made gifts, plants, and of course, the classy kiwi sausage sizzle!

Where to Stay in Havelock

Best Luxury Accommodation in Havelock

1. Mahakipawa Hideaway | Marlborough Sounds Holiday Home

The elegant holiday home is located just a few minutes down the Queen Charlotte Drive from the center of Havelock, and will make your stay in the Marlborough Sounds unforgettable! With incredible views over the sounds, this secluded holiday home features 2 bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen with a dishwasher and an oven, and 2 bathrooms with a shower, a hair dryer and a washing machine.

2. Kiwibach | Havelock Holiday Home

This is your spacious home-away-from-home while visiting Havelock! With 4 separate bedrooms, a full equipped kitchen, dining area and stunning views over the Pelorus Sound, it is a beautiful place to relax with the family after a day of exploring!

3. Pukenui Paradise | Havelock Holiday Home

Situated just outside the town of Havelock in the Marlborough region, this incredible holiday home is a slice of paradise in the sounds! Surrounded by a stunning garden and a deck overlooking the sounds, it is the perfect place to stay with your family or for a romantic weekend away! It has 3 bedrooms, a fully-equipped kitchen, a washing machine, and an awesome shower!

Best Budget Accommodation in Havelock

1. Havelock Garden Motel | Havelock

This hotel is located in the heart of Havelock, and is a great budget accommodation for your time in the area! It is surrounded by a stunning garden, and has a sun terrace and outdoor BBQ facilities. All the rooms at the motel feature air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, DVD player, and a private bathroom with a shower, free toiletries and a hairdryer. Each room is fitted with a kettle, while some rooms also offer a kitchenette with a stovetop!

2. Bluemoon Lodge | Havelock

Built in the 1800’s, this budget accommodation is set in a charming 2-story Lodge on the main street of Havelock! It offers a variety of accommodation options, including basic double rooms to apartments with a balcony overlooking the sea! There is a sundeck with BBQ facilities, a sauna (yeeow), and a gorgeous garden where you can relax in the sun. The rooms offer a private kitchen, and either an en-suite or access to a shared bathroom.

3. Havelock Holiday Park | Havelock

Havelock Holiday Park offers beautiful and affordable accommodation for kiwi campers and international travellers! There are a variety of accommodation options to choose room, whether you are looking for somewhere to pitch your tent, or would prefer to relax in a private studio or cabin. Facilities include a large communal kitchen, BBQ area, modern bathroom facilities, and a laundry! It is also family friendly, with a children’s playground and trampoline. Havelock Holiday Park only a few minutes walk from town, and a great place to base yourself will exploring the Marlborough Sounds!

Thanks for reading my travel guide to Havelock! It is a cool hidden gem nestled in the Marlborough region, and an interesting and quirky town to check out! If you are looking for other things to do in the area, check out my post on the Best Things to Do in Picton here 🙂 Happy travels!

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