The Sounds

The intricate waterways of the Marlborough Sounds make up a fifth of the New Zealand coastline. According to legend, the Marlborough Sounds were formed when Kupe, a great Maori warrior, was chasing a giant octopus and finally caught it in Cook Strait. The battle that ensued formed the waterways and headlands of the Sounds.

The Marlborough Sounds are best explored on water, with a range of cruises and activities from a self-guided kayak excursion to a chartered luxury yacht. There are four Sounds that link together to make the Marlborough Sounds each offering a different experience; the Queen Charlotte, Pelorus, Kenepuru and Mahau.

The Queen Charlotte Sound

The Queen Charlotte Sound is the most well known and visited of the four sounds and is also the scenic highlight of the inter-island ferry journey from Wellington to Picton.  At the head of the Sound is Ship Cove where visitors can trace the steps of Captain Cook: Motuara Island, now a bird sanctuary, is where he claimed British sovereignty over the South Island. Queen Charlotte Sound is also home to the Queen Charlotte Track; 71 kilometres of spectacular walking tracks that traverse historic sites, secluded bays, skyline ridges and coastal bush.


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There are water activities galore in the Marlborough Sounds: jump aboard one of the scheduled services for a guided tour, to meet some of the locals join a mail boat as it delivers everything from the weekly shop to a Shetland pony! If you prefer to make your own way then sailing or kayaking are great ways to explore, and getting close to wildlife is easy with dolphin swimming and visits to one of the Sounds’ many wildlife sanctuaries. After a hard day’s sightseeing, chill out with a glass of Marlborough wine and some freshly caught mussels in Havelock, the Green Shell Mussel Capital of the World.

A river runs through it

The water activities in Marlborough do not stop with the Marlborough Sounds: the Opawa, Taylor and Pelorus are just a few of the rivers that flow through the region. Sunbathe on the banks of the Pelorus, go white water rafting on the Clarence or if you fancy some fly fishing, hire a guide to take you to some of their secret hotspots. A relaxing cruise aboard a riverboat down the Taylor River with a glass of wine and some nibbles is another experience not to be missed.

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