41. The magic of Marlborough Sounds
When it comes to unadulterated outdoors and authentic wildlife experiences, New Zealand over delivers: here is No. 41 of our 101 Reasons To Stop Dreaming About New Zealand And Go.
The Marlborough Sounds is actually a maze of four fiords – Queen Charlotte, Pelorus, Kenepuru and Mahau – with more than 1500 kilometres of coastline between them. It’s an epic seaside playground of secluded bays, beaches, lush native forest and island wildlife sanctuaries, some of which are only accessible by boat. There are endless ways to explore and enjoy the Sounds, the simplest of which is to head to the harbour towns of Picton or Havelock and hop on a boat. Worth noting: the two visitor-friendly towns are linked by the scenic Queen Charlotte Drive. There are various walking, mountain biking and cruise options throughout the Sounds, but for all of these in the one go (and a lot more besides) head to the Queen Charlotte Track, a 71-kilometre route stretching between historic Meretoto/Ship Cove in the outer Sounds, all the way through to the pretty settlement of Anakiwa, halfway between Picton and Havelock. Along the way it traces endless bays, hills and ridges offering ever-changing vistas across the Marlborough Sounds and beyond. The beauty of the Queen Charlotte Track is that it’s so easy to plan a trip whether one day or a week.
A bunch of longstanding boat and tour operators offer an array of freedom and guided trip options from budget to luxury, while accommodation ranges from basic nature campsites and lodges to higher-end holiday resorts. Based at Picton marina, Beachcomber Cruises offer excellent sightseeing cruises as well as multi-day Queen Charlotte Track transport. Its Motuara Island trip dishes up a lot of Marlborough Sounds’ magic, including rare birdlife, lush forest, and a tranquil island vibe.