Our region

The Marlborough region stretches from the top of the Marlborough Sounds to Kekerengu on the east coast, upper Wairau Valley, and Rai Valley west of Havelock.

Its main centre is Blenheim which, along with nearby Renwick, is in the heart of the region’s world-famous wine industry. Havelock and Picton are the main townships in the Marlborough Sounds.

Find out more about exploring Marlborough wine country with Marlborough Tour Company.

The Marlborough Sounds with calm water and bush covered hill backdrop is a unique and beautiful part of Marlborough.
Created from sunken valleys, the Marlborough Sounds are a unique and beautiful part of Marlborough

The Marlborough Sounds

The Marlborough Sounds is an extensive and fascinating network of ancient drowned valleys.
Located at the north-east corner of the South Island, the Marlborough Sounds comprises of three main sounds - Pelorus/Te Hoiere Sound, Kenepuru Sound and Queen Charlotte Sound/Tōtaranui - as well as many other minor sounds, inlets and bays.

The main towns in the Marlborough Sounds are Picton and Havelock, with other smaller settlements, isolated homes and farms scattered to the furthest reaches of the Sounds – many without road access, which is why the Pelorus Mail Boat is a vital lifeline for residents.

With about 4,000km2 of coastline, the Marlborough Sounds comprises one-fifth of the total length of New Zealand’s coast. It supports a rich population of marine wildlife, including seals, dolphins, penguins, stingrays, rare sea birds and the odd visiting whale.

Today, one of the Marlborough Sounds’ main industries is aquaculture and the region is well-known for its Greenshell mussels, King salmon, oysters and clams.
 Havelock is known as the Greenshell mussel capital of the world, and we will pass mussel mussel farms on our mail delivery route and scenic tours.
For a more in-depth look, and taste, of Marlborough's delicious seafood, visit Marlborough Tour Company.

Much of the Marlborough Sounds was modified by humans. Increasingly, areas are being turned into conservation reserves, largely driven by volunteers. There are now pockets of regenerating native bush, predator-free islands and peninsulas supporting rare native wildlife such as kiwi, kakariki, tuatara, frogs, weta and lizards.

Havelock and the Sounds

A vast portion of the Marlborough Sounds can be reached by sea from Havelock, including Pelorus Sound/Te Hoiere and the two other major Sounds of this area, Kenepuru Sound and Mahau Sound.

Pelorus Sound/Te Hoiere

The largest of the Sounds, Pelorus Sound/Te Hoiere stretches about 55km from Cook Strait to Havelock, with 380km of shoreline. Much of the Sound can only be reached by sea, and many residents live far from the nearest road and powerline.

Because of its size, Pelorus Sound/Te Hoiere has a diverse array of scenery and natural marine habitats, from the calm, sheltered inner sounds to the expanses of the outer Sounds, all frequented by many different types of marine wildlife. 

Mahau Sound

Just a few minutes from Havelock by boat, yet closer to an hour by car, is small, sparsely populated Mahau Sound.

Kenepuru Sound

Beyond Mahau is Kenepuru Sound, a 25km arm of Pelorus Sound/Te Hoiere. Distinguished by its lighter-coloured water compared to the other Sounds, a phenomenon referred to in its name, Kenepuru, for which one meaning is “silt”, it is also the shallowest of the main Sounds.

Separated from Queen Charlotte Sound/Tōtaranui by a thin sliver of land, on which is perched the Queen Charlotte Track, Kenepuru Sound was historically accessed through its narrowest and lowest point at Portage Bay by Māori and, later, European settlers.

Kenepuru Sound is largely accessible by road and is therefore a popular holiday spot, as seen by the many homes along its length. Although most of Kenepuru Sound’s mail is delivered by the rural postie van, we visit Hopewell Lodge near the entrance to the Sound.

Mail Boat Cruises

Brilliant day out on the Sounds. Six hour trip (Friday) to outer sounds. Levon and Teedia were brilliant, very relaxed and welcoming, great commentary - enjoyed all the knowledge, history, environmental info and the humour!!

Options to get off and stretch your legs in a couple of places. Boat is great - very roomy and comfortable to travel on.

Best thing we did on our holiday. Would advise booking ahead

Lynley - TripAdvisor, August 2020