Things to do in Marlborough Sounds

Our most recommended things to do in Marlborough Sounds

Queen Charlotte Sound Mail Boat Cruise from Picton

1. Queen Charlotte Sound Mail Boat Cruise from Picton

Climb aboard the only official licensed New Zealand Post Rural Delivery Service by water in the Queen Charlotte Sound for a truly unique and interesting tour! Join in the excitement of Mail Day as the skipper delivers the New Zealand Rural post bags, groceries and freight to the residents that call the Queen Charlotte Sound waterways home. The Mail has been delivered by boat for over 150 years in the Queen Charlotte Sounds. Admire Marlborough Sounds' magnificent scenery and take a glimpse into daily life in the remote outposts of this region. Operating from Monday to Saturday, no one day is the same. The route changes daily, covering a different area and delivering the mail. During your cruise your skipper will provide interesting and informative commentary on the history of the Marlborough Sounds and the people who lived there then and now. Feel free to ask questions and keep your camera handy for any wildlife encounters.

Marlborough Sounds and Ship Cove Cruise from Picton

2. Marlborough Sounds and Ship Cove Cruise from Picton

Navigate the magnficent waterways of Marlborough Sounds on a morning boat tour, departing from the Picton waterfront. Cruise up through the Queen Charlotte Sound to historical Ship Cove. Warm up with tea and coffee and listen to live commentary on regional historical and natural landmarks. Keep a lookout for marine life such as little blue penguins and Hector’s dolphins — considered the rarest marine dolphin in the world. After about an hour’s journey, your boat drops anchor at Ship Cove. Step ashore for 30 minutes and discover the inlet named by Captain James Cook on 15 January 1770. The Endeavour was anchored here to replenish supplies and the spot became a favourite anchorage of Captain Cook. Dabble in the creek where Captain Cook made home brew for his crew and share the beach with the resident wildlife. Have your photo taken beside the Captain Cook Monument commemorating his visits to this area. Or, just relax and enjoy the tranquil surrounds.

Queen Charlotte Track: Cruise & Self-Guided Hike from Picton

3. Queen Charlotte Track: Cruise & Self-Guided Hike from Picton

Cruise through the Queen Charlotte Sound to walk part of the Queen Charlotte Track, one of the top ten coastal walking tracks in New Zealand. Your self-guided adventure starts with a cruise north from Picton to the historic Ship Cove. Here you can learn about the local area from your skipper, whilst on the lookout for marine wildlife. You will be able to choose between the following two hikes: Furneaux Lodge to Punga Cove Your first hike opportunity will be from Furneaux Lodge to Punga Cove, a 12.7-kilometer hike. You can enjoy 30-minutes ashore at the historic Ship Cove before rejoining the vessel and cruising around to Furneaux Lodge where you can grab a coffee or even brunch. Begin your self-guided hike along the Queen Charlotte Track, where you will learn that this area is rich in history and follows the coastline around the Endeavour Inlet through regenerating native bush to the Punga Cove Resort.  Ship Cove to Furneaux Lodge This hike provides you with the opportunity to hike from Ship Cove to Furneaux Lodge, a trail of 15 kilometers. You will arrive at Ship Cove where you'll begin your self-guided hike of the Queen Charlotte Track. You can climb away from the beach as you pass through native forest regenerating beneath a high canopy of trees. You will then be able to admire stunning views of the sound when you reach Tawa Saddle. The track then drops into Resolution Bay and follows an old bridle path into Endeavour Inlet to Furneaux Lodge. After your walk, you'll have time to relax before boarding your cruise vessel around 4:00 PM for your return boat journey to Picton with an estimated arrival time of 5:30-6:00 PM.

From Havelock: Marlborough Sounds Mail Boat Full-Day Cruise

4. From Havelock: Marlborough Sounds Mail Boat Full-Day Cruise

Embark on a truly unique marine experience on a Kiwi mail boat cruise. See what it’s like to deliver mail in a remote part of the world by sea in the Marlborough Sounds on a full-day cruise. Set sail on the Pelorus Mail Boat, which has been operating for more than a century. As a sea postie for a day, cruise through the largest, quietest and most remote part of the Marlborough Sounds, Pelorus (Te Hoiere) Sound, and Kenepuru Sound. Relax on the spacious catamaran between mail, parcel, and supply deliveries and pick-ups. Marvel at the stunning scenery of clear blue water in tranquil coves and bush-clad hillsides. Weather-permitting, even get to take a sneak peek at Greenshell Mussel Farm on an informative tour. Meet some of the residents who await the Pelorus Mail Boat on far-flung jetties, unspoilt beaches, or even on their boats. Even meet a variety of 4-footed furry residents who accompany their owners to collect their mail. Benefit from a fun local crew will provide informative and entertainment commentary about life in this isolated part of the Marlborough Sounds. You’ll learn what life far away from the nearest road is really like, along with some of the area’s fascinating history. The crew will also keep an expert eye for local marine wildlife including dolphins, seals, penguins and stingrays. As an added bonus, even enjoy some free tea, coffee, and biscuits onboard.

Queen Charlotte Sound: Scenic Cruise & Lunch

5. Queen Charlotte Sound: Scenic Cruise & Lunch

Meet your local guide in the morning before boarding your cruise and setting off. Admire the views of Queen Charlotte Sound, or Tōtaranui, as you travel through the ancient, drowned valley. Catch a glimpse of the local marine wildlife before arriving at Endeavour Inlet just in time for lunch. Choose your food from the set menu, which includes stone-baked pizzas. Eat outside on the jetty overlooking the inlet, or inside the cosy café for colder days. Explore the grounds with a short walk, or sit on the beach and drink in the views until it’s time to meet the local supplier back at the jetty for your scenic cruise home at around 3.15 pm.

Marlborough: Full-Day Wine and Seafood Tour with Cruise

6. Marlborough: Full-Day Wine and Seafood Tour with Cruise

Experience the best of beautiful Marlborough on this full-day tour. Get picked up from Blenheim in the morning and head straight to your first of two wineries. Taste award-winning reserve-grade Marlborough wine, talk with respected winemakers, and explore beautiful Marlborough vineyards at both locations. Afterward, drive to Picton to enjoy a delicious Marlborough Sounds waterfront lunch, then a relaxing seafood cruise for the afternoon, accompanied by fresh local seafood and Marlborough sauvignon blanc as you cruise the stunning Marlborough Sounds. Relax and enjoy the natural beauty of the Queen Charlotte Sound while cruising aboard a luxury boat, and learn about the local history. Visit a salmon and a mussel farm to experience the Marlborough marine farming industry firsthand. Make use of the onboard licensed bar, serving a range of Marlborough wines, along with beers, juice, and bottled water. A range of light snacks, including chips and peanuts, are available to purchase. Enjoy the boat's indoor and outdoor areas for views of the forested hills and clear blue waters from different perspectives.

Picton: Kaipupu Sanctuary with Water Taxi Transport

7. Picton: Kaipupu Sanctuary with Water Taxi Transport

Take a leisurely walk around Kaipupu Sanctuary and enjoy the bird song, native forest, and stunning views across the inner Queen Charlotte Sounds. Allow around 2 hours to explore at your own pace with the convenience of water taxi transport to and from the walking track. Only a 10-minute water taxi ride from Picton Habour, Kaipupu Sanctuary is a great place to explore New Zealand's unique biodiversity. Located in the heart of Picton Harbor, it is a community-driven conservation project that provides visitors with an opportunity to experience the wonder of nature. The 2.7km loop track will take you through recovering native bush, old-growth forest, and a restoration zone. The bush-clad hills are home to many of New Zealand’s unique native birds and insects and New Zealand fur seal can often be found lazing on the jetty during autumn and winter. With a predator-free fence surrounding the area, the sanctuary is a haven for local wildlife. Pest traps are maintained by volunteers to ensure rats, stoats, and possums that swim around the fence are quickly removed. Weed infestations that once smothered the regenerating forests have been significantly reduced, and an extensive education program has seen hundreds of local children visiting the Sanctuary.

Queen Charlotte Sound Cruise with Lunch

8. Queen Charlotte Sound Cruise with Lunch

Board your boat in the morning to take a relaxing cruise through Queen Charlotte Sound, or Tōtaranui. Take in the stunning views of the ancient, drowned valley and catch a glimpse of the local marine wildlife. Arrive at Endeavour Inlet just in time for lunch at a 3-star Marlborough Sounds resort. Choose from the set menu and enjoy your lunch on the sweeping lawn overlooking the sound or inside the cosy, historic, homestead restaurant. Explore the grounds with a short walk, or simply drink in the views before meeting the local supplier at the jetty for your scenic cruise home at approximately 3 pm.

Marlborough Sounds: Full-Day Guided Kayak Tour with Lunch

9. Marlborough Sounds: Full-Day Guided Kayak Tour with Lunch

The day starts with a safety briefing and getting kitted up before heading down to the beach. Listen to a quick paddling introduction and then head out onto the water for the rest of the tour. The route is always flexible so the tour goes where the weather is best. Depending on how the group decides, there may be a chance to stop and stretch your legs or take a swim before continuing on to a pretty beach for a delicious picnic lunch. Upon landing at the beach, your guide will serve up some hot drinks. After lunch, work your way back towards the starting beach, all going well with a sea breeze at your back. Once back at the beach, you will de-kit and then head off on the rest of your adventure in New Zealand. Showers are available if needed (water dependent during the drier months).

Marlborough Sounds: Greenshell Mussel Cruise

10. Marlborough Sounds: Greenshell Mussel Cruise

Climb aboard the MV Spirit at Picton Marina, and set sail across the shimmering waters of Marlborough Sounds at 13:30. Indulge in some freshly steamed mussels paired with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from the area. Experience the ultimate food and wine pairing as you take in the spectacular views. Cruise across the tranquil waters of Queen Charlotte Sound, and learn about the local history. Visit a mussel farm to experience the green-lipped mussel fishing industry first hand. Make use of the on board licensed bar, serving a good range of Marlborough wines, along with beers, juice and bottled water. A range of light snacks, including chips and peanuts, are available to purchase. Enjoy the boat's indoor and outdoor areas for views of the forested hills and clear blue waters from different perspectives. Then, journey back to Picton Marina for an estimated arrival time of 16:30.  

Other Sightseeing Options in Marlborough Sounds

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What people are saying about Marlborough Sounds

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 297 reviews

Wonderful trip on the Mailboat Ferry along Queen Charlotte Pass, going into wilderness area. The trip was wonderful and the Skipper was so knowledgeable and interesting. It passed our expectations, especially when we landed to look around for a small while, seeing the smallest dolphins in the world and meeting the locals as they collected their mail. A beautiful cruise and stunning scenery, a must do in Picton.

I would highly recommend this trip as a great way to see an insight into the beauty of the Marlborough sounds and enjoy a coastal walk from Furneaux lodge to Punga cove finished with a relaxing swim and picnic. Jason our skipper on beachcomber cruises was extremely informative and interesting as he safely guided us around the inlets dropping us off and picking us up from our locations right on schedule.

Very informative guide and wonderful afternoon seeing areas of Marlborough Sounds that you don’t normally see. Also the pod of dusky dolphins that came to see us was a real treat. Definitely a must do, you won’t be disappointed

What a great trip! We really enjoyed the excursion out to the Endeavour Inlet. We saw so many dolphins. Thanks to Karl for his superb commentary.

Great boat/bus/boat, great crew, great views....just do it!