Despite being a relatively small area, the Marlborough Sounds make up around 93 miles (150 kilometers) of New Zealand’s coastline. Few people live in the four sounds (Queen Charlotte, Pelorus, Kenepuru, and Mahau), with the little town of Picton being the only sizable population center. Paved and unpaved roads extend to certain arms of the sounds only—some residents of the far reaches get to their properties by boat.
There are lots of ways to enjoy the Marlborough Sounds. The Queen Charlotte Track is a popular multi-day hike, and you’ll find plenty of other walking and biking trails as well. Campers with a tent or campervan have no trouble finding places to sleep at the many campgrounds. Dolphin-watching cruises depart from Picton and Havelock. If you’re short on time and just passing through, take the scenic Queen Charlotte Drive.
Things to Know Before You Go
When driving, stay safe while taking in the views by pulling over into the many viewing areas by the side of the road.
Avoid Picton’s crowds by using Havelock as an alternative gateway to the sounds.
How to Get There
Ferries run between Wellington and Picton. Many travelers drive to Picton from the south or west, or take a rental car on the ferry. There’s a small airport just south of Picton; however, a cheaper and more convenient way of flying to/from the Marlborough Sounds is to go via nearby Nelson (about a 1.5-hour drive west of the sounds) or Blenheim (about an hour’s drive south).
When to Get There
The Marlborough Sounds are busiest during the New Zealand summer school holidays (late December through late January), with families camping and boating. The rest of the year sees far fewer visitors, though winter (June through August) tends to be cool and damp—not ideal for outdoor activities.
Vineyard Tours of Marlborough
Marlborough is known for having some of New Zealand’s best sauvignon blanc. However, it isn’t produced in the Marlborough Sounds but the Marlborough plains—south of the sounds, around the town of Blenheim. If you’re a wine lover, stop by a vineyard or two while traveling through.
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