Welcome to Marlborough Sounds
What is a Sound?
A Sound is often formed by the sea flooding a river valley. This produces a long inlet where the sloping valley hillsides descend to sea-level and continue beneath the water to form a sloping sea floor. The Marlborough Sounds in New Zealand are a good example and were formed at the end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago.
The Marlborough region is also New Zealand’s largest grape-growing area, and is internationally-renowned for its wine industry (particularly its Sauvignon Blanc). Wineries abound and recommended is a visit to one of the numerous vineyard cafes or restaurants.
The Marlborough Sounds region was certainly never visited by the Romans – it’s home to some of the windiest roads in New Zealand, so most distances around the water’s edge will take longer than you expect. Consequently the business of travelling by water is booming. Picton and Havelock offer water taxi or cruise services with set schedules or private charter available. If you’re spending a few days somewhere on the Sounds, particularly the Kenepuru inlet, you might want to park up the car, grab your baggage and jump on a water taxi. Most accommodation has bikes or kayaks for hire and there are fantastic walking tracks, so why not get back to nature!
Your first port of call if arriving from the North Island by ferry, Picton manages to retain a quaint seaside town atmosphere despite the large amount of water traffic. Built around a very sheltered harbour, the town has an attractive seafront dotted with cafés, restaurants and various types of galleries. There’s also a maritime museum and an aquarium. Local operators can take you cruising, fishing, dolphin watching or sea kayaking.
Queen Charlotte Drive and Queen Charlotte Track
The Queen Charlotte drive takes you from Picton to Havelock, towards Nelson, around 40km of bush fringed, winding, waterside road. It partly follows the Queen Charlotte Sound, and if you’re family’s energetic with a few days to spare, there’s little you could do in New Zealand more memorable than tackling the 71km Queen Charlotte track! Here’s the beauty of this 3 to 4 day walking track – you can choose to stay in anything from camping or budget to farmstay or luxury accommodation along the way and best of all, the water taxi service will transport your bags from one place to the next! No organising huts, carrying heavy packs or cooking noodles, plus you get to walk one of the most sensational walks in the country!
Mountain Biking is a fabulous way of experiencing the track. It’s the longest piece of single track in the country and involves some steep grunts where you’ll just have to get off and push, plus some sensational downhills, and of course, views over the Sounds. Once again, water taxis make life easy by transporting your bags, and will also cart you and your bike to the track’s start at Ship’s Cove. NOTE: due to the high number of walkers on the track, biking is not possible from December 1st to February 28th (apart from final section from Camp Bay to Anakiwa). Biking the track is not suitable for complete beginners or younger children. We would recommend that children be over 12 and with some experience of off-road biking. The easiest section is Mistletoe Bay to Anakiwa.
Greenshell mussel capital of the world, gateway to the Kenepuru and Pelorus Sounds of Marlborough, home of the legendary trophy snapper, and the pathway to the amazing bush clad Nydia Track. Havelock is centrally situated between Nelson, Blenheim and Picton – once a thriving goldmining town, nowadays it thrives on goodies from the sea. Also arts and crafts, cafes and restaurants are on offer in this tiny seaside town.
Marlborough's largest town, situated half an hour’s driving south of Picton. It’s an excellent base for exploring the surrounding area with activities including water-based sports, hiking, horse trekking, mountain biking, road biking, wine tasting and skiing.
Snippet of history: Blenheim sits on the historic Wairau Plain, which in 1843 was the scene of bloody warfare between the Maori leader, Te Rauparaha and early settlers over the purchase of land. By 1858, settlers named the region Marlborough, and the settlement Blenheim, in honour of the first Duke of Marlborough and his most famous victory at Blenheim in 1704.