Enjoy long sheltered inlets, clear waters and sandy bays. Hike through the forest or kayak around the headlands to discover a fresh location each day.

With 1500km of New Zealand's coastline, Marlborough Sounds is a collection of ancient sunken river valleys filled with the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Forested hills rise steeply from the sea around an intricate coastline of sheltered inlets and sandy bays. The area has three main bodies of water - Queen Charlotte, Kenepuru and Pelorus Sounds. The Department of Conservation manages over 50 reserves in this scenic playground. 

To truly get away from it all take a single or multi-day hike along the scenic Queen Charlotte Track. Or stay amongst the secluded bays in waterside accommodation, some only accessible by boat or helicopter.

Several islands within the sounds are predator-free sanctuaries for native wildlife. Motuara, Long, Blumine and Allports Islands are ideal for picnics, forest walks or viewing historic sites.


Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough

According to Maori tradition, the South Island is the canoe of Aoraki. Its sunken prow forms Queen Charlotte Sound/Totaranui and Pelorus Sound/Te Hoiere. In earlier times, the sounds provided good shelter and food for Maori people. To avoid travelling out into the open sea to get from one sound to another, they carried their waka/canoes over low saddles.

Captain James Cook also used the sounds for shelter and food. He made Ship Cove his base in the 1770s and discovered a plant (Cook's scurvy grass) that is high in vitamin C to cure scurvy.

Plenty to see and do

Picton, Marlborough , Marlborough

Today, the sounds are popular for kayaking and hiking, and there are numerous tent camping sites available. Kayaks, yachts and motor launches are available for hire or charter.

Walking tracks in the area range from short trails of an hour or two to overnight hikes through native forests and along beautiful sandy beaches. Five of the tracks are open to mountain bikes.

Picton (on Queen Charlotte Sound) and Havelock (on Pelorous Sound) are the main towns in the area. The large passenger and vehicle ferries from Wellington arrive at Picton.

Explore Marlborough Sounds

Find things to do

Find places to stay

Find a multi-day tour

Where to next?