The tangled maze of aquamarine waterways and tiny islands makes the Marlborough Sounds, gateway to New Zealand’s South Island one of the most idyllic and rewarding island passages anywhere in the world. Verdant green land and glistening blue-green waters combine for a journey of visual splendour.

While a number of options are available to experience this marine travel wonder, the Interislander ferry makes multiple trips each day from the capital city of Wellington through the Marlborough Sound to Picton, regularly travelling within metres of the rocky outcrops and jagged foreshores. The coastline is so pockmarked with bays and inlets that the Marlborough Sounds are less than 200 kilometres long yet the coastline of the area is over 1750 kilometres, more than the length of Portugal’s coastline.

The wooded islands rear sharply out of the water, their deep black-green foliage highlighting the geological history of the area when waters flooded the unshapely river valleys millions of years ago at the end of the ice age. Walking tracks also crisscross the region, the 70 kilometre Queen Charlotte’s Walk being highly recommended.

Tiny bays define the rugged coastlines, small holiday houses sitting in idyllic verdant patches overlooking the majestic waters. Small marine farms in the area produce the envied green-lip mussels though a decent share of the area is preserved in conservation zones.

While the Maoris have navigated these waters for centuries, Captain Cook skilfully mapped the area in 1770 on his circumnavigation of New Zealand, claiming the lands for England and assuring sailors for years to come of the passageway between New Zealand’s two main islands. He immodestly named it Cook Strait! Cook returned to the area on all three of his remarkable world journeys.

Wildlife is regularly sighted from the various vantage points of the ferry including whales, dolphins and abundant seabirds. Playful tiny Hector Dolphins, only seen in New Zealand and the world’s smallest dolphins, leap playfully in small groups, their backs sharply arched almost turning on themselves as they leap along the water’s surface.

Nearing the sound, splendid vistas of snow-capped mountains complete the panoramic views.

Gliding quietly through sparkling waters and weaving around tiny bays, I can imagine no better way to greet New Zealand’s less discovered stunning South Island.

I travelled as a guest of Qantas Airways on The Great Crusade, a promotion highlighting the best of New Zealand while following the endeavours of the Qantas Wallabies to win the Rugby World Cup. The journey can be followed via Twitter hashtag #greatcrusade.

A few extra photos appear below. All photos can be expanded by clicking on the photo.


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Welcome to Travel Wonders
My name is Mark and I’m a keen traveller. In fact, over the last 25 years, I’ve travelled to every continent and over 80 countries. This blog is about the most memorable destinations – the places I regard as the travel wonders of the world. I’m also a keen photographer, and have taken nearly all the photos you’ll see. During my travels, I’ve met some incredible people, seen inspiring places, viewed extraordinary wildlife and scenery and had some amazing experiences, and I’m writing these stories not only to entertain but primarily to inspire others to discover their own travel wonders.
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