89. A delivery of family fun on the water in Marlborough
From whale-watching and go-karting to spending the day as a sea postie and the night in a haunted castle, there’s no shortage of family fun to be found here: here is No. 89 of our 101 Reasons To Stop Dreaming About New Zealand And Go.
In the north-east pocket of the South Island/Te Waipounamu lies the popular holiday spot of the Marlborough Sounds. Made up of steep bluffs and river-carved valleys, the Sounds are ideal for active families who love getting out on the water. Dotted with homes for hire, as well as plenty of family-friendly lodges like Punga Cove and Furneaux Lodge, the Sounds offer a range of single-day and multi-day hiking, boating, kayaking and fishing adventures.
The iconic Queen Charlotte Track is a three- to five-day hike that takes you from the historic site of Meretoto/Ship Cove to Anakiwa, with panoramic views of Queen Charlotte Sound/Tōtaranui along the way. Families can walk or bike the 70-kilometre track independently or go with guides who provide the food and gear you need along the way. Stay in lodges along the track or camp in Department of Conservation campsites.
To get to the start of the track, or any part of the Sounds, travel to Picton and hire a boat or water taxi from there. If you’re not staying long, and want a fun day trip, the full-day Pelorus Mail Boat cruise will show you the sights and give you a glimpse into life as a sea postie. Once a crucial lifeline for people living in the bays and inlets of the Sounds, the mail boat has been operating for more than a century. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the six-hour tour takes you to some of the Sounds’ most remote spots, travelling with locals and their cargo and learning about the history of the Sounds from the skipper and crew. Keep in mind, you’ll need to bring your own lunch for this tour.
The Cougar Line Day cruise to the bird sanctuary of Motuara Island is another fun day out. Operating between October and April, the morning cruise takes you to the island and, on request, stops at historic locations such as Meretoto/Ship Cove, a place of early contact between local Māori and British explorer Captain James Cook.