On the way through NZ, part 11: Picton and the Marlborough Sounds

It is a majestic feeling: Standing on the deck of the Interislander Ferry, which transports around one million people per year, and seeing the Marlborough Sounds coming closer every minute. Most people think the South Island beats the North Island in terms of natural beauty, and I’m no exception – I was pretty much in love with it already when I started reading about all the places and what they would feature. As already implied in the Wellington post, there’s no need for me to repeat all the things other NZ travel blogs, tourism operators etc. already provide; this is just a recap of my experiences (and, nevertheless, a few recommendations) in Picton and the Marlborough Sounds. Describing it in a single word? Fantastic, despite the fact that I haven’t seen much!

As the ferry navigates through the lush green sounds, you probably won’t have a hard time understanding why people would want to stay in this little paradise rather than just traversing it. It’s a notable fact that the weather in this area is really good: On my four rides passing the Cook Strait it was actually always better than in Wellington, which means more sun and higher temperatures. Picton is a lovely little town and obviously the main hub to explore the sounds. Granted, due to the high influx of tourists, everything is a bit more expensive, but that shouldn’t keep you off from staying for a while. The nicest thing for me personally as a traveller at this time was the high number of hostels in town, and unlike many hostels in the North Island, the ones in Picton seem to fight each other over who delivers the most awesome experience (it is rather the opposite in Wellington and a few other destinations in the North Island). I stayed at the Tombstone Backpackers and really enjoyed it – other places certainly offer the same value, there’s fierce competition.

All I can recommend is: For goodness’ sake, schedule a few days in and explore the sounds. I didn’t do it and still regret it, since I’ve been to a look out of the Queen Charlotte Track, whose view was magnificent and the whole area looks like this, if not even better from certain spots (I also didn’t take enough pictures)! You may go off the beaten track by going as far as d’Urville Island, I’ve met a couple who camped there for a few nights; they told me it was one of their best experiences and I believe this on the spot. There are also some places to accommodate you throughout the sounds, as well as the possibilities to rent a kayak, a jet ski, … – you won’t get bored! Even if you’re little on money, here’s one possibility to enjoy the area around Picton for free: Hike the Snout Walkway from the town centre to a look out point called The Snout and enjoy the view on a sunny day! Here’s a map provided by the Marlborough District Council, also showing Picton’s biking tracks and other walkways. If I remember correctly (2014), some hostels will allow you to lend their bikes for free!

The Queen Charlotte Drive, connecting Picton to the East with Havelock and Nelson further down the road, is a very scenic but also slow and slightly dangerous drive – it’s probably one of the country’s most windy and narrow major routes, so be careful when driving it! A guy in a ute almost hit me when coming up the hill as he had to go to the right lane due to his speed, and I’d bet it was a local.

Next in line are posts on Tasman Bay, Golden Bay and the Nelson Lakes National Park. These surely didn’t fail to impress either, the whole region looks like just taken out of a fairytale…NZ’s beauty may be hyped at times, but the South Island certainly has some magic to it. You’ll see. 🙂

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