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Marlborough Sounds Tours and Activities

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12 Reviews
Marlborough Sounds
A series of sunken river valleys at the top of New Zealand’s South Island, the Marlborough Sounds offer a range of sights and adventures—hiking, biking, camping, and wildlife watching, to name but a few. Many travelers pass through Queen Charlotte Sound and the town of Picton on the ferry between the North and South islands.

The Basics
Despite being a relatively small area, the Marlborough Sounds make up around 93 miles (150 kilometers) of New Zealand’s coastline. Few people live in the four sounds (Queen Charlotte, Pelorus, Kenepuru, and Mahau), with the little town of Picton being the only sizable population center. Paved and unpaved roads extend to certain arms of the sounds only—some residents of the far reaches get to their properties by boat.

There are lots of ways to enjoy the Marlborough Sounds. The Queen Charlotte Track is a popular multi-day hike, and you’ll find plenty of other walking and biking trails as well. Campers with a tent or campervan have no trouble finding places to sleep at the many campgrounds. Dolphin-watching cruises depart from Picton and Havelock. If you’re short on time and just passing through, take the scenic Queen Charlotte Drive.

Things to Know Before You Go
When driving, stay safe while taking in the views by pulling over into the many viewing areas by the side of the road.
Avoid Picton’s crowds by using Havelock as an alternative gateway to the sounds.

How to Get There
Ferries run between Wellington and Picton. Many travelers drive to Picton from the south or west, or take a rental car on the ferry. There’s a small airport just south of Picton; however, a cheaper and more convenient way of flying to/from the Marlborough Sounds is to go via nearby Nelson (about a 1.5-hour drive west of the sounds) or Blenheim (about an hour’s drive south). 

When to Get There
The Marlborough Sounds are busiest during the New Zealand summer school holidays (late December through late January), with families camping and boating. The rest of the year sees far fewer visitors, though winter (June through August) tends to be cool and damp—not ideal for outdoor activities.

Vineyard Tours of Marlborough
Marlborough is known for having some of New Zealand’s best sauvignon blanc. However, it isn’t produced in the Marlborough Sounds but the Marlborough plains—south of the sounds, around the town of Blenheim. If you’re a wine lover, stop by a vineyard or two while traveling through.
Address: Picton, South Island, New Zealand
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11 Tours and Activities to Experience Marlborough Sounds

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Free Cancellation:Get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance on most experiences.See Details
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Half day Sea Kayak Guided Tour from Picton

Half day Sea Kayak Guided Tour from Picton

star-5
65
Tour the western end of Queen Charlotte Sound on a half-day paddling adventure from Picton. Settle into your sea kayak and follow an expert guide from the waterfront to sheltered coves and remote beaches. Search the waters for eagles rays, cormorants, little blue penguins, New Zealand fur seals and dolphins while you learn about the natural history of the Marlborough Sounds. Numbers are limited to ensure a small-group experience.
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$70.15
From
$70.15

Marlborough Sounds Ultimate Cruise

Marlborough Sounds Ultimate Cruise

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5
The best experience in Marlborough. This tour offers an amazing, fully-guided experience wildlife. A small-group tour to view some of New Zealand’s spectacular scenery and wildlife. Visit Motuara Island and cruise the calm waters of the majestic Queen Charlotte Sound. Water, wilderness and wildlife. You will have the opportunity to see multiple species of wildlife, including rare sea birds, marine mammals and endangered land birds. Led by enthusiastic and fun Guides, you will be given the possibility of viewing five different species of dolphins, little blue penguins, seals, seabirds and land birds. Enjoy the only daily service fully-guided walk on Motuara Island, seeing and hearing the amazing bird life where Captain Cook planted the first flag and claimed New Zealand. The view is spectacular from the lookout all the way to the North Island. On the return enjoy complimentarily hot drinks and chocolate biscuits and in the afternoon tour local wine and muscles. The Ultimate Cruise.
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$95.26
From
$95.26

Marlborough Wine Tour and Cruise from Picton or Blenheim

Marlborough Wine Tour and Cruise from Picton or Blenheim

star-5
48
Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest wine region, famous for its Sauvignon Blanc and scenic Marlborough Sounds. Discover both on this full-day small-group tour as you visit several Marlborough wineries, indulge in expert-led wine tastings, tuck into lunch at a waterfront restaurant (own expense), then set sail on a cruise through the Marlborough Sounds, accompanied by a delicious seafood tasting platter.
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  • 7 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$158.39
From
$158.39
Taking safety measures

Wildlife Motuara Sanctuary Tour and Dolphin Cruise from Picton

Wildlife Motuara Sanctuary Tour and Dolphin Cruise from Picton

star-4.5
70
Search for rare seabirds and several species of marine mammals, such as Hector's, bottlenose and dusky dolphins along with New Zealand fur seals, during a half-day sightseeing cruise in the Marlborough Sounds. Cruise to Queen Charlotte Sound and take a nature walk on Motuara Island, where a predator-free landscape allows for plentiful birdlife. Listen to commentary from enthusiastic marine biologists, and treat yourself to tea, coffee, hot chocolate and cookies.
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$95.26
From
$95.26

Dolphin Swimming and Watching E-Ko-Tour from Picton

Dolphin Swimming and Watching E-Ko-Tour from Picton

star-4
35
Slip into Marlborough Sounds for a swim alongside pods of wild dolphins, with certified guides to help find the dolphins and ensure the tour is dolphin-friendly. Watch for dusky, bottlenose, common, orca, and Hector’s dolphins, and if conditions allow, you’ll have the chance to view the dolphins from inside the water. This dolphin tour includes wetsuits with hoods and booties, as well as hot drinks on board the boat, and round-trip transport from the Picton waterfront.
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  • 2 to 4 hours
From
$129.59
From
$129.59

Half-Day Dolphin Viewing Eco-Tour from Picton

Half-Day Dolphin Viewing Eco-Tour from Picton

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13
The sunken river valleys, forested cliffs, and sandy bays of the Marlborough Sounds are one of the best places in New Zealand to spot dolphins in their natural environment, but increased tourism can often put wildlife at risk. This 4-hour cruise from Picton is run by certified Department of Conservation operators, allowing you to interact with dusky, bottlenose, and orca dolphins in a safe, fun, and eco-friendly way.
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  • 2 to 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$92.87
From
$92.87

Full Day Queen Charlotte Kayak and Walking Tour from Picton

Full Day Queen Charlotte Kayak and Walking Tour from Picton

star-5
18
Combine sea kayaking and self-guided hiking on this full-day outdoor adventure in the Marlborough Sounds. Paddle from the Picton waterfront to the western end of Queen Charlotte Sound and search the azure waters for marine life such as eagle rays, cormorants, little blue penguins, New Zealand fur seals and dolphins. Encounter secluded beaches along the shoreline before an independent hike on the Queen Charlotte Track, from Anakiwa to Mistletoe Bay. Lunch and return transfer by water taxi are included.
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  • 8 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$132.92
From
$132.92

Private Shore Excursion:Explore Marlborough Wine and Scenic Delights from Picton

Private Shore Excursion:Explore Marlborough Wine and Scenic Delights from Picton

star-5
4
Discover the award-winning wines of the Marlborough region on a private shore excursion from Picton for your group of up to six people. The exact itinerary is tailored to you, with plenty of time to sip locally-made wines, browse art galleries, then pause for lunch and views of Marlborough's rolling vineyards, plus many customizable options. Pricing is per-vehicle, and includes a wine tasting and a chocolate tasting, as well as round-trip shuttle transport from the Port of Picton.
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  • 6 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$644.35
per group
From
$644.35
per group
Taking safety measures

Full day Guided Sea Kayak Tour from Picton

Full day Guided Sea Kayak Tour from Picton

star-5
18
See the exquisite Marlborough Sounds from the water during a full-day adventure by sea kayak. Depart from the Picton waterfront and prepare to be wowed as you paddle past secluded coves along the western end of Queen Charlotte Sound. Your knowledgeable guide points out marine life such as eagles rays, cormorants, little blue penguins, New Zealand fur seals and more. Stop at a sheltered beach for a delicious lunch with locally sourced ingredients. Numbers are limited to ensure a small-group experience.
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  • 7 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$96.00
From
$96.00

Full-Day Guided Sea Kayak Trip from Picton

Full-Day Guided Sea Kayak Trip from Picton

star-5
82
Spend your day sea kayaking around Queen Charlotte Sound on a guided excursion from Picton. Paddle across the harbor and stop for morning tea at a remote beach, then continue into the Grove Arm of the sound and enjoy lunch in a tranquil bay. Keep an eye out for cormorants and other wildlife as you listen to expert commentary about the Marlborough Sounds from the guide.
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  • 7 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$103.38
From
$103.38

Onshore Cruise Private Delights Tour from Picton

Onshore Cruise Private Delights Tour from Picton

Sensational wines of the Marlborough region and spectacular scenery is the draw card for everyone. Refreshments as required, a snack or a taste of local produce and gourmet treats. Maybe a local pizza oven for delicious slices. Your itinerary could include exciting options such as a visit to an award winning garden, a visit to a renowned local artist’s personal gallery, and the opportunity to see a family farm park and pat the friendly sheep, the goat and oh! such a big ugly but beautiful at the same time Kune Kune pig. Nearby we can visit the breeding aviary of the rare Falcon the Karearea. You could also choose a visit to the Omaka Air Museum to view Peter Jackson’s classic air plane displays or a helicopter ride over the Wairau Valley and Tasman Bays. A must stop is the Makana Boutique Chocolate Confections – a tasty treat not to be missed. Once back in Picton you may like to take in the breath-taking views overlooking the Port of Picton, Queen Charlotte Sound and your ship.
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  • 5 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$644.35
per group
From
$644.35
per group
Taking safety measures

Frequently Asked Questions

The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
Q:
What's the best way to experience Marlborough Sounds?