For many, their first impression of New Zealand’s South Island is entering by ferry through this spectacular filigree of bays, beaches, coves and islands – thick with native bush, barren wild farmland and dotted with pretty holiday homes.
The Marlborough Sounds is made up of three main bodies of water – the Queen Charlotte, Kenepuru and Pelorus. Large areas of these ancient sunken river valleys, flooded with the Pacific Ocean, are only accessible by sea and getting out on the emerald green waters is a great way to take in their splendour. Among them there are over 50 nature reserves with numerous sanctuaries to protect the unique native wildlife.
The region draws travellers keen to kayak through its inlets, hike or mountain bike the endless trails, or head out on a fishing excursion where you’re more than likely to come across a friendly pod of dolphins.
Head southeast from the Marlborough Sounds and you reach one of the country’s largest and most internationally recognized wine regions. Hop from vineyard to vineyard on the wine trail in this diverse, sun-drenched plateau and sample some of the country’s finest wines, most notably the internationally renowned Sauvignon Blanc.
When to go
Much like the rest of the country, the Marlborough Sounds and Wine Region are wonderful at any time of year. Spring, from September to November, is bright and cool, and sees the release of the new Sauvignon Blanc vintage. Summer lasts from December to February with long, warm days suited to sailing, kayaking and swimming in the fresh melt waters running into the fiords. The autumn months of March, April and May bring in the grape harvest and a flurry of winemaking as well as a bounty of local produce such as lamb and wild venison, making it the season for foodies. Winter is calm and a great time for hiking and sailing followed by cosy evenings by a fire.