Marlborough swimming spots rated for safety by LAWA, council

Swimmers in the Pelorus River.

Swimmers in the Pelorus River.

Marlborough's popular swimming spots are regularly monitored for harmful bacteria - and this week they've all passed the test.

Until March, Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) is conducting weekly tests on water in 21 different swimming spots around the district.

The results are put up on LAWA's website as they come in. 

While all swimming spots have been deemed "acceptable" this week, the council's longer-term Suitability for Contact Recreation data, collected over five years, suggests caution should always be exercised in some places. 

Marlborough District Council environmental science and monitoring manager Alan Johnson said the key message was to avoid swimming if warning signs were put up, and to avoid swimming in any turbid, cloudy water after heavy rainfall.

Swimmers are always advised to be careful when it comes to currents and rips, and hazards in the water. 

Visit for more information. 

Mistletoe Bay, Queen Charlotte Sound 


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LAWA rated this popular swimming spot in the Marlborough Sounds a "moderate risk" to swimmers. When a site is classed as moderate risk, the risk of illness from exposure to harmful bacteria is between 5 and 10 per cent. It was last tested on January 5 and is currently deemed suitable for swimming. It has been given a "fair" grade by the council, meaning swimmers should avoid the bay after heavy rainfall.

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Anakiwa, Queen Charlotte Sound 

Anakiwa is a small settlement located at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound, home to the Outward Bound Outdoor Adventure Centre. The jetty at Anakiwa is a popular place to plunge into the water on a hot day. With a rating of "low risk" from LAWA, it is safe for swimming. It has also been judged "fair" by the council.

Wairau River at Blenheim Rowing Club

This site has been rated overall "very low risk" in terms of bacteria. The site is very popular with fishermen, boaties, water sports enthusiasts and rowers. It has been judged "good" by the council, making it satisfactory for swimming. 

Taylor River at Riverside Park, Blenheim 

This busy site in central Blenheim has been rated "high risk" at times by LAWA, but it was considered acceptable for swimmers based on the last water sample that was taken. However according to the long-term SFR Grade put out by the council the water quality is "very poor", meaning swimming is not recommended. 


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Rai River, at Rai Falls 

The river at Rai Falls, near the Pelorus Bridge, is surrounded by bush and rock outcrops. It is used by the Outward Bound as a training ground for water activities. The site has been judged "high risk" by LAWA, but it has been deemed safe to swim there this summer.  According to the council's "poor" rating of the site, swimming here should be avoided by the very young, the elderly and those whose immune systems are compromised. 

Marfells Beach, Clifford Bay, Seddon 

Near a DOC campground, Marfells Beach is a sand and cobble beach. It has been rated "very low risk" by LAWA in terms of bacteria. The council has rated the water quality "very good", making it a satisfactory swimming spot at all times. 

Ngakuta Bay, Marlborough Sounds 

Ngakuta Bay is a large enclosed bay with predominantly private homes and batches, but with public access to the whole of the shore area. There are boat launching facilities and a small beach popular for swimming. LAWA has rated it  "low risk" for swimmers and the council has rated it "good", making it a satisfactory swimming spot most of the time. 

Whites Bay, near Rarangi 

Sheltered and calm Whites Bay is one of Marlborough's most popular summer destinations, for swimmers and holidaymakers. It has been rated "very low risk", meaning there is a less than 1 per cent chance of illness.  Whites Bay is Marlborough's only patrolled beach. The council has rated the water quality "very good". 


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Picton Foreshore 

The foreshore is a very popular place throughout the summer period for locals and travellers on the Cook Strait ferries. The Picton Maritime Festival and other events result in large numbers of visitors to the small beach. The foreshore has been judged "moderate risk" for swimmers, with a likelihood of between 5 and 10 per cent risk of illness. The council has rated it "fair".  

Wairau River, at SH6

For the more adventurous swimmer: the river bed and banks are dominated by gravel, but sandy areas can be found where the river is deeper and slower flowing. It has been rated "low risk" by LAWA, and "fair" by the council. 

Pelorus River at Totara Flat

The Pelorus River at Totara Flat has a deep swimming hole with slow-moving water and a grassy picnic area surrounded by bush. There is a "moderate risk" of illness from swimming there, but it has been rated acceptable for summer, and has been given a "good" rating by the council. 


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Momorangi Bay, Marlborough Sounds 

The Momorangi Bay DOC campground is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the region.  It has been rated "high risk" by LAWA, but their latest data shows it is acceptable to swim there.  However, according to the council rating of "poor" swimming here should be avoided however by the very young, the elderly and those whose immune systems are compromised. 

Craiglochart, on the Waihopai River 

The Waihopai River passes through Craiglochart at a site about 30 minutes' drive southwest of Blenheim. There are a gravel and stone beach areas and a swimming hole at the site. It has been rated "moderate risk" but it is safe to swim there. According to the council swimming should be avoided by the very young, the elderly and those whose immune systems are compromised. 

Moetapu Bay, Marlborough Sounds 

The sampling site is located at the Double Bay Reserve, a small camping area at the eastern side of the bay. LAWA and the council do not enough data to generate a risk grade - but the bay was sampled this month, and came away with a safety rating of "acceptable". 

Opawa River, at Elizabeth St Footbridge, Blenheim 

Popular with young people jumping off the bridge or swimming in the river. This site is tree-lined, and is set in the middle of a residential area. The water is deep and slow-moving. The site's overall recreation risk is "moderate". The council has rated it "fair". 

Waikawa Bay, Picton 

A reserve and playground adjacent to the sheltered waters of Waikawa Bay beach make it a great place for families to spend a sunny summer afternoon. The bay is a safe swimming spot for all ages. It has been judged "low risk" with between 1 and 5 per cent risk of illness. It has been rated "good" by the council. 


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Governors Bay, Marlborough Sounds 

Governors Bay is a small secluded bay in the Grove Arm of Queen Charlotte Sound.  The sandy beach, with a DOC Scenic Reserve as a backdrop, is a popular swimming spot. With little or no wave action and current the bay is very safe. It has been judged "low risk" and an acceptable place to swim. It has been rated "good" by the council. 

Pelorus River at Pelorus Bridge

A camping ground and a café with shop are located nearby. It has been rated "good" by council, and "low risk" by LAWA. 

Robin Hood Bay, between Rarangi and Port Underwood 

Robin Hood Bay, a short drive from Whites Bay, is a large open bay with designated areas for campervans and tents.It has been rated "very low risk" by LAWA.  The council has rated the eastern part of the bay "very good" and the western part "good". 


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Wairau River at Ferry Bridge, Spring Creek 

LAWA has rated this site a "moderate risk" to swimmers. It has been rated " fair" by the council". 

















 - The Marlborough Express


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