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Marlborough Area Guide


Farmland near Blenheim. Cloudy Bay
beyond - © Naturespic.com
Picturesque Marlborough ranges over the north eastern corner of the South Island, its scenery split between the clear green waters and secluded bays of the Marlborough Sounds, and the inland vineyards around the provincial town of Blenheim, one of the country's sunniest centres.

Inter-island ferries journey from the North Island through part of the beautiful Queen Charlotte Sound to arrive at the deep water port of Picton, the main base for boat trips into the Marlborough Sounds.

The Sounds are made up of a network of drowned river valleys, with three main bodies of water, the Queen Charlotte, Pelorus and Kenepuru Sounds. Almost 1,500 kilometres of sinuous coastline winds its way around the Sounds to form isolated coves and sandy bays which shelter holiday homes and beachside resorts.

One of the best ways to explore the sounds is by mail boat, joining the rural posties as they deliver mail and groceries to isolated families living in the remote bays of Queen Charlotte or Pelorus Sounds. Historic Ship Cove, used as a base by British explorer Captain James Cook as he charted New Zealand, can be visited by mail boat or cruise from Picton. Across from Ship Cove is Motuara Island, where Cook proclaimed British sovereignty in 1770. The island is now a bird sanctuary, providing a habitat for rare New Zealand birds, including the saddleback, robin and bellbird, the birds secure enough in their island hideaway to settle close to visitors.

To explore the sounds on foot, head for the 71-kilometre Queen Charlotte Track. The three- to four-day walk traverses the length of Queen Charlotte Sound from Anakiwa, where the outdoor activity school Outward Bound is based, to Ship Cove. The walk offers beautiful views across coastal forest to the waters of Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds on either side. Unlike other tramping tracks, the Queen Charlotte Track has no Department of Conservation huts, but there is private accommodation along the way and you can choose to walk only small sections if you wish.

At the head of Pelorus Sound, the small town of Havelock, 35 kilometres west of Picton, provides access to Kenepuru and Pelorus Sounds. The area is known for its green-shelled mussels, which can be sampled in Havelock's cafes, restaurants and bars. From Havelock, you can ride as a passenger on the Pelorus mail boat as it delivers letters and parcels to the remote bays of Pelorus Sound.

To the south lies a different side of Marlborough, the rolling brown hills and dry Wairau Plains around Blenheim producing some of New Zealand's best wines. The local wines are showcased at the annual Wine Marlborough Festival, held at one of the wineries on the second Saturday of February.

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