A Sunday-afternoon drive turned into an eight-hour rescue effort after three brothers found themselves stuck while trying to cross a Marlborough river.

The trio - two aged in their 20s with the youngest 9 years old - set out for a cruise in their ute yesterday when they got into trouble shortly before 4pm.

As they attempted to cross the Wairau River near Loddon Lane about 30km west of Blenheim, the vehicle became bogged down in thick sand.

Tasman Police told Stuff the siblings could not get themselves out and so left the vehicle in order to find somewhere else to cross the river safely on foot.

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They contacted a family member for help, but the river was too deep for a tractor to get to them and so police were called about 6.30pm.

Police and Search and Rescue members eventually found the brothers safe and well about midnight.

A Tasman Police spokesman told the website the incident was another reminder for anyone who goes out, particularly in rural areas, to keep friends and family advised, to have a fully-charged cell phone and to always be prepared.