As an adventure and leisure wonderland, New Zealand’s Marlborough region is a unique environment and one of the country’s best for outdoor adventure, offering something spectacular for every taste and pace.
With one of New Zealand’s sunniest climates, the region enjoys generally year-round settled weather, with hot, relatively dry summers and crisp winters. Add to this, the region’s natural beauty and abundant wildlife and you’ve got a winning formula for visitors and residents alike.
Lying at the heart of the region are the stunning Marlborough Sounds – an intricate maze of waterways, bays, and coves that make up the three Sounds of Queen Charlotte, Kenepuru, and Pelorus. These stunning Sounds are popular throughout the year with sailors, hikers, mountain bikers, eco-tourists and everyone’s keen on having their adventure of a lifetime.
Marlborough Sounds adventure activities range from swimming with dolphins, scenic boat cruising, fishing, kayaking, visiting protected island environments and walks along the rugged coastline to bush tramps, cycling and discovering the history of this remarkable region. If you thought that was plenty enough, think again, because there’s also the region’s world-renowned wine and gourmet food industry – for a taste adventure that attracts both locals and visitors from around the globe.
Picton – your base for adventure
The largest town in the Marlborough Sounds is Picton, lying on Queen Charlotte Sound. Picton is known as the gateway to the South Island because this is where the large passenger and vehicle ferries arrive from Wellington.
Picton is a fascinating little town with lots to see and do. Many of the region’s activity operators are based in and around Picton, so it’s a great centre from which to discover the rest of Marlborough. Accommodation options are also plentiful – just two minutes from Picton, overlooking spectacular Waikawa Bay, you’ll find Tigers Den luxury lodge. Offering luxury accommodation for up to 10 people, Tigers Den provides guests with magnificent and ever-changing views over the waters of the Marlborough Sounds.
A short drive from Picton lies the larger town of Blenheim, surrounded by one of New Zealand’s premier wine regions. Blenheim is the centre for the annual Wine Marlborough festival, which is held on the second Saturday in February, to show-case the region’s produce.
Within easy striking distance of Picton is Kaikoura, famous for whale watching trips, and the Nelson Lakes National Park, where all sorts of tramping adventures await on the hiking trails among the craggy peaks, native forests , and glacial lakes and rivers. Nelson Lakes National Park is also home to the Blue Lake, a blue-violet gem in the crown of New Zealand’s natural treasures and holder of the title of “world’s clearest lake”. Read more about the Blue Lake in our blog about a Wonderful Gem of Nature.
Hiking and biking adventures
There are numerous walking tracks in the area, ranging from short trails of an hour or two to overnight hikes through native forests and along beautiful sandy beaches.
The star attraction of the region’s hiking line-up is the 70km Queen Charlotte Track, stretching between Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds. An adventure paradise for both hikers and mountain-bikers, the Queen Charlotte Track is widely rated as the finest and most diverse walking track in New Zealand and one of the country’s best riding tracks.
Along the track, you’ll find a beautiful native forest, secluded bays, superb views, lush coastal bush, and areas steeped in both Maori and European history.
The walking and biking options on the Queen Charlotte Track are many and varied. Most people tackle the track over four days, although you can do any combination of one to five days. A fair level of fitness is recommended for this track – if you’re walking, proper hiking boots are advised, although running shoes or walking sandals should be fine in the summer.
There are many island reserves to discover and explore, including, for example, Motuara Island, which is a Department of Conservation-managed, predator-free island reserve full of rare local birds. You can get to Motuara by water taxi or with tour operators working out of Picton.
On the water
The fact the Marlborough Sounds encompasses 1500km or twenty percent of New Zealand’s total coastline means this is the perfect place for water-based adventures. The myriad of bays, coves, and inlets of the Marlborough Sounds are perfect for exploring by water.
On and under the waters of the Marlborough Sounds, you’ll encounter penguins, sea birds of many varieties, marine mammals like dolphins, orcas, whales and a variety of seals, and a wide range of fish. There’s nothing quite like a swim with the dolphins to get the adrenalin pumping.
The sheer magnitude of the wildlife is the testimony to the magnificence of this environment – and there are few better ways to
get up close and personal with the ‘locals’ than by sea kayak. It’s also the best way to discover the coastline as you meander from a deserted inlet one day to a secluded cove the next, camping each night on your own private beach.
Irrespective of whether you’re looking for a self-guided freedom adventure or a guided experience, you’ll find what you’re looking for with one of the many kayak operators in the area. Read our blog about Marlborough Sounds kayaking to see why the Marlborough Sounds offer some of the best sea kayaking adventures in New Zealand.
The very nature of the geological formation of the Marlborough Sounds means that the region also offers spectacular snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities in stunning locations amid waters teeming with fascinating sea life. There are also a number of interesting wrecks to dive, including probably the most famous – the 20,000 ton Russian cruise ship Mikhail Lermontov. Read more about the adventures that await you under the waters of this spectacular region in our blog about Marlborough Sounds diving.
The Marlborough Sounds is also a dream destination for anyone keen on fishing. There’s something for anglers of all levels of skill and experience in these sparkling waters. There are heaps of fishing tour and charter operators in Marlborough offering every type of vessel, from launches, yachts and powerboats to sea kayaks, for charter or hire. Once again, Picton is a great jumping-off point for fishing activities in the Marlborough Sounds, as so many of the region’s activities operators are accessible from here.
You can read more about the magnificent fishing adventures awaiting you in the Marlborough Sounds in our blog about why you haven’t fished until you’ve fished here.
The Marlborough Sounds is one of the world’s premier adventure destinations – come try it on for size yourself. For accommodation, you can’t go wrong with Tigers Den luxury lodge, located right in the heart of where all the action is to be found. There are even two kayaks available for our guests to get a head start exploring the local waters.