Travel Photo: Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

The Marlborough Sounds on the South Island of New Zealand are a boaters and nature lovers paradise. With over 4,000 km² of islands, sounds and peninsulas, its coastline is so jagged that it actually contains one fifth of New Zealand’s total coastline. The areas rugged beauty and natural wonder attract tourists all year long. From the large ferry terminal in Picton to the smaller leisure craft marina and town of Waikawa the area is teeming with boating and hiking possibilities.

Some of New Zealand’s most famous and picturesque hikes like the Queen Charlotte Track can be found in this region. The Queen Charlotte Track is considered to be one of the best hiking tracks in the world and is definitely the most accessible, with a variety of accommodations along the way. There’s even a water transport service that will ferry your luggage (or yourself if you’re too tired) to your next destination each night if you don’t feel like carrying a backpack. Most people can walk the 71km track in 3 or 4 days, however with a little planning you can start or stop anywhere you choose.

As well as the ferry terminal to Wellington, Picton is the start of both the Main North Line Railway and the State Highway. From Picton, you can jump on a ferry to the North Island, hop aboard a train south to Christchurch or start your South Island tour in the vehicle of your choice. It doesn’t get much greener or wilder than this.

On the water, sea kayaking and sailing reign supreme, with boaters of all ages enjoying the calm waters and easy breezes that this area has to offer. There are tons of areas where you can rent a variety of boats for a few hours or a few days.

Here’s a travel tip: Getting off the ferry in Picton you might feel a little lost with all this area has to offer. With tons of nature all around and no nearby big city to give you a clear direction, feel free to head towards Waikawa. Waikawa is the boating hub of the area and offers all the accommodations and restaurants that you’re going to need to start your adventure. From Waikawa, you can schedule your Queen Charlotte Track excursion or sit back and watch the sailboats come in and out all day.

There are numerous boating options up and down the coast, however spending the day on a sea kayak is by far my favorite. The water in Marlborough Sounds is clear and calm and you can make some good distance in a few hours with a minimal amount of work. On a kayak you can get right into nature and see the fur seals, blue penguins, Hector’s, bottlenose, or dusky dolphins as well as countless varieties of birds and marine animals that call this area home.

5 Responses

  1. Donna Hull

    Thanks for the introduction to Malborough Sound and the Queen Charlotte Track. How does it compare to the hikes in Abel Tasman or the Milford Trek?

  2. Charles Kosman

    Hi Donna.

    The Queen Charlotte Track is probably the most “accessible” track in the country. There’s lots of accommodations and water travel along that route making it easy for the average person. There’s some gorgeous scenery along the route and some good chances to get away from the rest of the travelers here and there. It’s nice because you can hike during the day but still have a nice place to sleep each night.

    Abel Tasman is one of the busiest tracks because it’s a coastal track that follows the golden sand beaches and it’s beautiful in that regard. It can be crazy busy so you won’t get that isolated feeling if you go in their summer months. There’s a lot of day trippers that get boated in (kayaking is getting pretty popular there I hear) and you’ll have to camp most nights.

    Milford is a gorgeous mountainous trek that is pretty renowned for it’s breathtaking scenery. It’s fairly busy as well however of the three you listed it’s the most “authentic” hike in my mind. Camping is your only option and it has more elevation than the others so it’s a slightly harder hike.

    Here’s a good site for info on all of the tracks in New Zealand.

  3. David M

    Folks, for hikes in NZ don’t pass up the Tongariro Crossing on the North Island. Of course it’s winter there now so it might not be an option but if you get a chance don’t pass it up! Amazing.

  4. Ajeesh Kumar

    Thanks for introducing a new spot. This article is very useful when I plan to travel to that place. Thanks for sharing.


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