Marlborough Sounds, South Island

including Blenheim and Picton

InterIslander Ferry, Marlborough Sounds, South Island

Marlborough Sounds, South Island

Marlborough Sounds, South Island

Marlborough Sounds, South Island

Marlborough Sounds, South Island

Ferry arriving at Picton, Marlborough Sounds, South Island

Welcome to Marlborough Sounds

Walks and Parks

Walks & Parks

Get Outdoors!

Discover the region's walks, parks, beaches, lakes or rivers.

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. 

Getting Around

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!

Picton

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.

Havelock

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.

Blenheim

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.

Map of New Zealand
  • Queenstown
  • Northland
  • Bay of Plenty
  • Wanaka
  • Fiordland
  • Taupo
  • Coromandel
  • Gisborne
  • North Canterbury
  • Waikato
  • Hawkes Bay
  • South Canterbury
  • Manawatu
  • Rotorua
  • Nelson & Golden Bay
  • Taranaki
  • Marlborough Sounds
  • Southland
  • Central Otago
  • Dunedin
  • West Coast
  • Whangarei
  • Bay of Islands
  • Tauranga
  • Gisborne
  • Hamilton
  • Napier
  • Kapiti
  • Palmerston North
  • Whanganui
  • New Plymouth
  • Arrowtown
  • Te Anau
  • Akaroa
  • Ashburton
  • Hanmer
  • Kaikoura
  • Methven
  • Mt Cook
  • Oamaru
  • Tekapo
  • Timaru
  • Abel Tasman
  • Motueka
  • Nelson Lakes
  • Blenheim
  • Picton
  • Catlins
  • Gore
  • Stewart Island
  • Central Plateau
  • Invercargill
  • Cromwell
  • Greymouth
  • Hokitika
  • Westport
  • Glenorchy

Our favourite destinations…

Auckland destination2

Auckland

New Zealand’s economic heart and biggest city is also an exciting family visitor destination, situated on a sunny harbour with city beaches just minutes away from the CBD. Orientate yourself by heading down to Viaduct Harbour, wandering the waterfront, checking out the super yachts or enjoying the waterfront restaurants. Nearby is the must-visit Sky Tower along with excellent and kid-friendly museums and tons of exciting activities!

Wellington

Wellington is New Zealand’s capital. Here you will find New Zealand's parliament buildings, including the 'Executive Wing', more well-known as 'The Beehive' due to its distinctive shape. Another icon to look out for is the Wellington Tram, which was the main means of public transport between 1878 and 1964.

Christchurch

With a population of around 400,000 Christchurch, in Canterbury, is the South Island ’s largest city, yet much of it has the feel of a small town. Perhaps that’s why it’s known as the Garden City but with the expansive Hagley Park, Botanic Gardens, Port Hills, River Avon and numerous beaches the city certainly has an open, relaxed feel that’s hard to beat.

Queenstown

With its well-deserved reputation as New Zealand’s activity adventure capital you’ll never run out of activities and things to do in Queenstown, but you may run out of time! With breathtaking scenery, activities and festivals, cafes and restaurants, skiing and snowboarding, shopping and wineries, this lakeside alpine resort rates as one of the world’s top vacation destinations for all ages and seasons.

Rotorua

Rotorua sits on the shore of Lake Rotorua, one of sixteen lakes in the area formed by hundreds of thousands of years of eruptions from the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The area is renowned for its geothermal activity and top of any activity list is to see the bubbling mud pools that are around the region for yourself. The Waimangu Volcanic Valley offers a first hand insight into the devastation caused by the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera and is a great place to discover steaming volcanic craters and bubbling, spitting  pools of mud!

Nelson and Golden Bay

The Nelson and Golden Bay regions, at the top of the South Island, boast enviable sunshine hours, glorious sandy beaches, safe swimming spots, lots of wildlife to look out for, and Abel Tasman National Park - an absolute must to explore, on foot, by kayak, your own craft or watertaxi.  Nelson is home to a vibrant arts and crafts community with a fabulous Saturday market, and is close to award-winning wineries and family-friendly bike tracks to take you around the coast.

Hawkes Bay

Napier was rebuilt after the 1931 earthquake and is now known as NZ's Art Deco City.  The Art Deco influence has created a unique city – nowhere else can you see such a varied concentration of art deco style. With over 2,200 sunshine hours a year, Napier is a year-round holiday destination with countless activities to entertain the kids – there's days of entertainment on Marine Parade alone, plus numerous other family-friendly trips and activities.  Add to that the beaches, walks and flat cycle paths, outdoor cafes and entertainment, and you have a perfect holiday destination!

Northland

Beautiful, unspoiled beaches, fishing, historic gum fields, kauri forests – the Far North has it all. With subtropical temperatures, it's often known as ‘the Winterless north', with warm, humid summers and mild winters.
Gateway to the Bay of Islands, Paihia is a pretty, lively beachside town and a perfect base for your family holiday. It’s your start point for Bay of Island adventures including day cruises, sailing, kayaking, swimming with dolphins and reef or wreck diving.