Let the world rush by at Picton
The Sounds -- the Marlborough Sounds -- of restful peace
On the road most travelled, State Highway One, you clank off the ferry past the tracks and containers, truck parks and rental cars. You rev up along Auckland Street, oddly named for the first bit of tar-seal on the South Island. You accelerate past the railway station and around the Square, very English and made for cricket. Whether or not you stopped for a snack downtown, your vehicle is part of a convoy of steel now, moving faster and faster. Over the hill lies Blenheim, and who knows where you’ll rush on to in the end?
But why rush? Many people find that time in Picton rewards them richly. Away from the pulse and grind of heavy transport, let your soul be soothed by the birdlife of the sounds and the peace of forest and seaside. There’s plenty for the family to do, as well.
You can have the dolphin adventure experience of a lifetime with a company of marine biologists. Their eco-cruises operate in calm sheltered waters where dusky dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins and even rare Hector's dolphins turn up all year.
Dolphins aside, there’s a lot of water transport serving the Sounds, especially the stopping-places on the Queen Charlotte Track (of which more later), and the many Sounds lodges and accommodation houses.
A friendly water taxi service takes you anywhere you choose, at any time of the day or night. They’ll also hire you a boat of your own, or a bike.
Another cruise line runs scheduled trips: the Mail Run, the Motuara Island bird sanctuary, or lunch at a remote retreat, and yet another offers you-drive-the-boat safaris to untouched bays and to a place the opposite of untouched: a commercial mussel farm. The Sounds are big enough for all. A number of options cater for the active and not so active traveller including one day Cruise 'n Walk excursions to the Queen Charlotte Track, and the delightfully named Twilight Salmon and Sauvignon cruise.
Who was Queen Charlotte, do you ask? She was Consort of George III, who reigned while British explorers discovered new lands in the 1700s, to the astonishment of their existing owners. Queen Charlotte Sound, with Pelorus Sound and Kenepuru Sound and a multitude of islands, together make the Marlborough Sounds, which have over a fifth of NZ’s total coastline. The Queen Charlotte Track follows the longest piece of dry land in this area of drowned river valleys. The track swoops up and down from beach level to heights of a couple of hundred metres, and it’s family-friendly.
Wilderness Guides offer small, personal tours with an emphasis on food, and if walking doesn’t appeal then go by sea, and paddle your own kayak! Guided and independent walking packages come at every level of luxury.
Away from the wilderness, from Picton you can take a personalized Wine Tour of Marlborough's world-famous wineries—the duty driver drops you door-to-door— and boutique breweries, and a chocolate factory.