A Paddle in the Marlborough Sounds


  • Marlborough Sounds : Head out on the water

  • on Marlborough Sounds : Bike riders at Portage Marlborough Sounds

  • on Marlborough Sounds : Peppers Portage Marlborough Sounds

The sound of my paddle hitting the water, the bright blue hue of the sky and the tranquility of hidden bays are what I remember most about my first kayak trip in New Zealand.

The Marlborough Sounds, located in the north of New Zealand’s South Island, is an intricate maze of islands, coves and waterways created when the seas flooded the valleys after the ice age. With over 1500km of coastline to explore, it doesn’t take long to feel like you’ve escaped civilisation and found your own piece of paradise. Expedia’s travellers have figured that out, flocking to the major bases of Picton, Nelson and Blenheim for a holiday.

If you’re travelling from the North Island, Air New Zealand flies straight into Blenheim from Wellington or there’s a car and passenger ferry service to Picton that leaves from Wellington too. If you’re already on the South Island, there are bus services from places like Nelson or Christchurch or try the scenic TranzCoastal train from Christchurch (October – April only).

Once you’ve made it there, it’s time to hit the water. Plenty of companies offer kayak rental and guided trips. You can head out for three hours, or three days. Guided trips are a terrific option if you’re not an experienced kayaker or you’re after local insights to the diverse landscape and wildlife along the way…

As a general rule children must be aged 12 or over to join a guided trip (in a double kayak with an adult), but if your kids are younger than this and you think they’re capable, you might be able to arrange a private family guided tour. The best thing to do is contact a few companies to discuss your needs. The great thing about having kids in a double kayak is they can rest when they need to without the entire group having to stop.

 

On an independent trip (children must be at least 14) you’ll need sufficient outdoor paddling experience. Companies will test you on your paddling skills and take you through a comprehensive safety session before allowing you to paddle on your own. Check with the company in advance if you’re unsure you’re up to an independent trip.

If you want to get away from it all without having to paddle for too long, try the western end of the Queen Charlotte Sound (Grove Arm) – set out from places such as Ngakuta Bay or Anakiwa. Within a short paddle you’re paddling through beautiful bush and particularly sheltered bays.

Whether you choose a guided or independent trip, leave time for a walk on the Queen Charlotte track. The 71km track offers stunning views, diverse landscape and plenty of native bush and wildlife. There’s sections of the track to suit all fitness levels, for walkers and mountain bike riders.

In each town there’s plenty of accommodation options. At the Rutherford Hotel Nelson, children under 13 stay free when they’re in the same room as adults and you’re close to the Queens Gardens and Nelson Market.

If you’re after something more secluded, check out Peppers Portage. The hotel sits right along the Queen Charlotte Cycle Track for any bike riders out there and has its own boat launch onto Portage Bay. There’s even kayak rental on site.

If you’re looking for a different way of seeing the Marlborough Sounds, grab a paddle and get out on the water.

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Linda Anderson

About the Author Linda Anderson

In 2002 Linda Anderson and her husband sold all their belongings, hit "pause" on their respective careers, and spent 365 days travelling the world. This kicked off their extensive travel through South East Asia, Europe, North Africa, South America, Nepal, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific. Now a mother of three girls under the age of 5, Linda is raising her daughters with travel in their blood. Linda blogs about her experiences and travel tips on mumsonthego.com.au, inspiring other families to travel with children.   3 travel must-haves? iPad, non-iron clothes, extra large zip-lock bags What's on your travel bucket list? African Safari, visit the Taj Mahal, road trip from Darwin to Broome