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Te Tau Ihu o te Waka-a-Māui (Maori)

Marlborough, in the northeast tip of the South Island, is known for its dry climate, the picturesque Marlborough Sounds, and its winemaking industry. The fertile soil, temperate weather, and the strong contrast between hot sunny days and cool nights has led to the area being acknowledged internationally as the best place in the world to grow Sauvignon Blanc grapes.

Marlborough Sounds, comprises an extensive network of coastal waterways, peninsulas, pretty coves, gorgeous bays, inlets and islands – the perfect playground for swimming, kayaking, boating, fishing, diving and for viewing dolphins, seals and occasionally orca. The cold deep waters of the Sounds are perfect for farming salmon and Greenshell Mussels.

The town of Picton is located at the southern end of one of the larger sounds, Queen Charlotte Sound. The 70km Queen Charlotte Track from Ships Cove to Anikiwa offers spectacular views of the Sounds and bush clad hills. Daily boat transfers provide options to walk or bike sections of the track.

The town of Havelock, the mussel capital of the world, is located at the southern end of the Pelorus Sound which feeds into the Kenepuru Sound. Boat tours depart daily from Havelock. The Greenshell Mussel Cruise will take you for a jaunt around the Sounds, to soak up the natural beauty and tranquillity of the native bush. Visit a mussel farm, then savour freshly steamed mussels straight from the sea accompanied by a glass of local, award winning sauvignon blanc.

Venture further afield and take the spectacular drive to French Pass and D'Urville Island. In this tiny settlement, French Pass Sea Safaris and Beachfront Villa's, offer wildlife and discovery tours. Swimming with the seals off D'Urville Islands remains one of our most enjoyable wildlife experiences.

At the southern and western extremities, the terrain becomes more rugged with the mountainous Kaikoura ranges and the foothills of the Southern Alps. Blenheim is the region's capital and largest town.

  Queen Charlotte Sound

, , , ,   Queen Charlotte Sound

Magnificent Queen Charlotte Sound and Queen Charlotte Track

Queen Charlotte Sound is a fabulous holiday destination and is the perfect choice for families or friends with different interests and fitness levels. Whether your ideal holiday is walking, fishing, biking, swimming, kayaking, diving, yachting, cruising around the gorgeous bays on a launch trying to catch a glimpse of dolphins, seals and occasionally orca, or simply resting in a hammock with a good book and a glass of wine, this is the place for you.

And with a range of accommodation including luxury water's edge resorts, boutique lodges, baches, holiday houses, B&B's, backpackers and campsites, it's easy to tailor a package to suit all budgets. For the ultimate in privacy and seclusion, some places can only be accessed by boat, helicopter or float plane. Charter boats, yachts and cruises offer packages if you prefer to be water-based. Stay for a few days or a few weeks, there's lots, or nothing to do – the choice is yours.

Water taxis, cruise boats and the Mail Boat make frequent visits to jetties along the length of the Sounds so you can base yourself at one location, then get dropped off at other bays and walk back along sections of the Queen Charlotte track.


If you only have a day, I would suggest the morning boat trip to Ships Cove, then walk the track to Furneaux Lodge (3½ - 4 hours), enjoy lunch and a cool drink on the veranda then catch the mid-afternoon boat back to Picton.

The 70km Queen Charlotte Track stretches all the way along the peninsular from Ships Cove to Anikiwa. Most people start at the outer edge, Ships Cove, the historic landing place of Captain James Cook who anchored here during the 1770's and where a memorial and information panels have been erected.

If walking the full length of the relatively easy track most people take 3 to 5 days, or 2 to 3 days on a mountain bike. (You can bike the entire track from March - end Nov.  In Dec, Jan & Feb no cycling is permitted from Ships Cove to Punga Cove - the most popular section for walkers.) 

If you don't want to walk the entire track or want to avoid the hilliest sections, a network of water taxis will transfer you to and from the track, or if you want to travel light, will transfer your gear to your accommodation each night. So, it's easy to mix up your stay and complete sections of the track.

Sea Kayaking. With beautiful bays, sheltered inlets and gorgeous beaches this is a fantastic region to explore by sea kayak with DoC Campsites dotted along the length of the Sounds that can only be accessed by water. It is a magical experience, sharing the seas with dolphins and seals; surrounded by weka's and prolific bird song on land; and in February we have often had the camp sites to ourselves.

The campground at Momorangi Bay, about 20 minutes drive around the coast from Picton, is a great place to start, as you can load up your kayak at the water's edge (fully loaded with gear and supplies for a week or more, you certainly don't want to carry them any distance) and you can arrange to leave your car here.

These beautiful waters are generally calm although conditions can change surprisingly quickly.  The wind tends to swirl around the hills, and when a front moves through, ferocious winds can funnel up the Sounds forcing you to take refuge wherever you can find shelter. While camped at Ratimera Bay in summer, we were swimming one day and the next day were rugged up the entire day in layers of merino, jackets, hats, gloves and scarfs trying to keep warm. Next day was balmy and warm and we were swimming again. So, be prepared for all water and weather conditions, and be flexible with your plans. It's a good idea to get on the water early as the wind often gets stronger in the afternoon.

In good conditions, you can reach Ships Cove in 4 days, paddling 3 to 4 hours a day. If you don't want to paddle back, water taxi's will transport you and your kayak back to Picton. On one trip, we took a break from camping, staying in a small, basic cabin in Resolution Bay for a couple of days. And to have a rest from paddling, we walked over to Ships Cove and back one day, and the next day took a water taxi to Punga Cove and walked back to Resolution Bay, stopping for lunch at the delightful Furneaux Lodge, one of the few resorts situated on flat land with manicured lawns and gardens. In most places, lush bush clad hills rise steeply from the shoreline, with buildings nestled into the hillsides.

For another nice diversion, paddle into Torea Bay, secure your kayaks and walk over the saddle to The Portage for lunch and a look at Kenepuru Sound. With a myriad of coves and inlets, a Queen Charlotte Topographic map will help you identify the bays and campsite locations.If you need to hire kayaks, several companies in Picton provide a great service and give good advice.

Queen Charlotte Sound is a unique, idyllic, incredibly beautiful environment so whether you want adventure or relaxation you'd be hard pressed to find a better location.

Queen Charlotte Track Details HERE

DoC Campsites, many can only be accessed by water, and do not connect with the Queen Charlotte Walk HERE


Gear and Useful Tips

If you have camping and outdoor experience, skip this section. However, if you're a newbie, here are some tips and hints about equipment and clothing that might be helpful - especially for overseas visitors unfamiliar with our conditions and changeable climate. At the risk of stating the obvious, here goes:

There's nothing worse than being wet and cold, so waterproof overpants are essential and take very little space. I always pack them, even in the warmer months. Mine weren't expensive to start with and have lasted nearly 20 years. Some brands  only have short zips at the bottom of the leg, however I recommend you buy a pair that zip almost up to the knee as they are much easier to put on over tramping boots, especially if they are muddy.   

I can't stand powdered milk, so on adventures I always take UHT Long Life milk, even when weight and space is an issue  Muesli, fruit (fresh or those little pottles) and milk is not only tasty but provides great sustenance when tramping and kayaking, so it's not negotiable for me.  A 250ml carton  is enough for 2 x breakfasts and our morning cup of tea. We can survive the rest of the day without milk, so I just pack one for each morning (into my husband's pack of course).  

Tip: On one occasion, I used surplus Long life milk to make up a thermos of coffee. However, the milk separated and the result was a curdled mess. Not  recommended. 

  1. Underestimating the weather conditions, failure to apppreciate how quickly it can change and an unwillngness to amend plans accordingly.
  2. Not being equipped or having a plan to deal with unexpected situations: getting lost, mishaps, accidents or emergencies. 

Sleeping Bags.  Firstly you need to think about what conditions you expect to face. Most people won't need an alpine bag, but I would suggest buying the next best you can afford, as there is nothing worse than being cold. In warmer weather you can just open them up. My sleeping bag is 90% goose down and 10% feather, 800gsm and I have found it excellent.

The ones that taper in at the bottom are probably the warmest being the most effective to trap warm air, however I am quite a restless sleeper and would find the extremely tapered ones too restrictive. Mine narrows, but not hugely. For the same reason I don't like the ones that draw in right around your face. The back of mine is longer and has a warm trim without wrapping around your face. I prefer to wear a woollen or merino beanie if it's really cold.

Using a sleeping bag liner (when you are dirty or sweaty, and can't shower), helps preserve and extend the life of your sleeping bag. Looked after a sleeping bag will last an extremely long time, so it's worth investing in a good one that will meet your needs. (Silk liners compress into a wee bag about the size of your fist.)

I would also suggest buying a dri-bag to put your sleeping bag in. Get one only slightly larger than your compressed sleeping bag. Very useful if you are setting up or dismantling camp in the rain as you certainly don't want to get a down / feather bag wet.

Chilli Burners. Over summer months these beauties are essential  to protect your hands from our harsh sun. Made from light neoprene, they are comfy, cool and the most effective way to protect the back of your hands from sunburn, whilst enabling the palm of your hands to remain in contact with your paddle. 

Pogies. When the weather gets chilly over the winter months, or you're paddling in the deep south when it can be cold at any time of the year, quality neoprene pogies will keep your hands toasty warm and dry. Velcro the pogies around the paddle shaft then simply slip your hands through to grip your paddle.  The wide wrist opening makes it easy to get your hands in or out quickly.

For supplier Click HERE

Warm showers are possible even in the most remote location or the most basic camping site with these little beauties. Some DoC camps have cubicles where you can hang them up, otherwise string up in the nearest tree. Outdoor stores stock biodegradable multi-purpose wash that can be used for hair, body, clothes and dishes. A 20 litre solar shower will do two decent showers. And they take very little space when not in use.

When space and weight are issues, you can get some pretty compact units. Look for a cooker and gas lantern that use the same cannisters. These items can be expensive, but we have been using ours for nearly 20 years.

A collapsible wind shield is very useful when cooking and a model where where the gas cannister lies on the ground when connected gives extra stability, as opposed to the upight units which can easily tip.

Compact gas lanterns can stand on flat ground, or hang from a branch. 


When camping with access to the car, this 3 burner gas cooker is perfect. It even has a rack for cooking toast and the lid acts as a wind shield.  The legs unscrew and it folds up into a tidy, compact unit. We have been using this cooker for over 20 years, so a pretty good investment. New models will no doubt have been modified and improved, but we have never had any issues with this one.

This gas lantern throws out great light and fits onto the same gas bottle.

Look for a flat bottom stainless steel cereal bowl and use for breakfast, lunch & dinner. The flat bottom allows you to use like a plate when making up sandwiches, wraps, or salads. Ours are still good after15 years, and we have yet to see anything better.

A flat bottom plastic bowl is ideal for washing up. Don't get anything too big as you have to heat up too much water. 28cm x 34cm x 10cm high is perfect.

A wine goblet, soup mug or coffee cup; take your pick.  You just  need to decide in what order.  It might seem really basic, but don't buy two the same size and check that they fit inside each other to save space in your pack. Stainless steel, bullet proof coffee plungers, are a bonus when space is not an issue.

Here's my list. I print off, cross off items we won't need, then tick off stuff as we add to the pile. 

Camping and Tramping

Sleeping mats
Sleeping Bags & liners
Pillows Tramping / Normal
Lights & torches
Small Radio & Batteries
Cooker, and gas cannisters, gas bottles
Pots & Frying pan
Knife, fork, spoon, tsp
Can opener
Mug, plate & bowl
Sharp knife
Personal locator beacon
Mosquito net & head nets
Small brush & shovel
Bowl, fish slice, tongs
Snaplock bags, L, M & S
Small plastic containers
Walking poles
Tramping packs
Tramping Boots
Large plastic bags for wet or dirty gear & for rubbish

Camping and Tramping Cont.

Duct Tape
Picnic Blanket
Small Tarpaulin
Coffee Plunger
Fold up spade
Fly spray
Insect Repellent
Chopping Board
Candles / Fire starter
Waterproof matches
Drink bottles
Paper towel roll
Washing up bowl
Gas lanterns
Day Packs
Spare boot laces
Repair kit for air mattresses

Camping and Tramping Cont.

Pack cards & games
Books, kindle
Waterproof camera
Towels & tea towels
Chux cloths
Pot scourer & brush
First Aid Kit
Reading glasses
Sun glasses
Phones & chargers
Toilet Paper
Twistie ties
Rubber bands
Hanky pack tissues
Mesh bags to hang fruit


Paddle leash
Paddle jacket / raincoat
Paddle float
Split paddle
Throw bag
Tow line
Neoprene booties
Dri Bags
Kayaks & Paddles
Spray Skirt
Life jackets
Bailer & Pump
Neoprene Shorts
Waterproof lights

Create a Masterlist for Hassle Free Packing - Trish's top tip.

There is no question that you require a lot of gear when camping. If during the same holiday you intend to go tramping and kayaking the pile of stuff grows significantly. 

Years ago, I created a masterlist and have added to it as more specialist equipment has become available, and as we get a little older, we've moved from the basic no-frills style camping to wanting a little more comfort.

In today's busy lifestyle, time is something we don't have a lot of, so thowing stuff together at the end of the working week can be a pretty daunting prospect.

Printing off a list and ticking stuff off as you add to the pile, makes the whole packing process much easier, reduces stress levels, and can avoids arguments - especially if something essential is overlooked. Okay if you're camping near town, but not so great when you are in an isolated area hours from civilisation and the nearest shop.

So make a list, save it to your computer, add to it as you accumulate more gear, and print off next time you're packing - easy!  

The type of equipment and level of home comforts will vary, depending on whether you have access to your car when camping, or whether you are restricted by what you can carry in a pack, or fit in a kayak.

My list is now pretty comprehensive. I'm happy to share if it's helpful, you can simply tailor it to suit your needs. Flick me an Email                                    Happy Camping - Just Go. 

Forget normal bath or beach towels when you head into the outdoors as they are bulky and take ages to dry. Microfibre towels (on left) come in a variety of sizes, take less room and most importantly dry really quickly. However it's best to only use them to dry off after a swim or shower; don't sit on them as dry grass and twigs stick to the fabric. I would also avoid buying red ones, as the colour continues to leach out when washing, even after multiple washes. I haven't experienced this issue with any other colour.

When space is really limited we have even been known to use large chux multi cloths (available at any supermarket) to dry off. 

When bigger fold out chairs are not an option due to space or weight,  but you don't  fancy sitting on the ground all the time, these little beauties are just what you need. They take very little space and when kayaking fit up the pointy nose end especially well. We have had ours for quite a few years and have used them on frequent trips, so I can personally recommmend these Roamer Tri Stools. Available  from Kathmandu, you can often pick them up for less than $20. Check them out  HERE 

At some locations in NZ at certain times of the year, and certain times of the day (especially in Fiordland) sandflies or mosquito's can be a nuisance.

Insect shelters are a great solution when eating or reading and you don't want to be confined to your tent. They are light and compact when not in use.

Head nets. Constantly waving your hands in front of your face to ward off sandflies (the Milford Wave as its known in Fiordland) can be effective but is not especially helpful when you need both hands free to set up camp.

While far from glamorous, these head nets are very effective and stop pesky sandflies buzzing around your face. Available at outdoors stores for around $10 they are a great investment if you're heading to Milford Sound, spending time in the deep south or on the West Coast.. 

In NZ you need a sturdy tent capable of withstanding strong winds and heavy rain as our climate, even in summer, can be changeable and unpredictable. The expensive alpine range is for the specialists; the cheap, flimsy tents are for the kids in the backyard; mid-range suitable for most conditions. (Keep an eye on the sales when you can often pick up a great deal.) Specifications by the manufacturers are a guide only, so be sure to check the ease of putting up; height; weight; and dimensions (erected and when packed); ventilation; insect screens; inbuilt groundsheet; vestibule areas; and access points before you commit. Beware, some tents are too short, requiring you to sleep crosswise, which is not ideal.

When the car is close by, or when rafting, the Coleman Lakeside is perfect for two people, with plenty of room inside for air mattress and clothing, a large front vestibule with built-in ground sheet for stashing all your gear, front and side entries, insect nets and great ventilation.

For tramping and kayaking when space and weight are issues, opt for a more compact tent.


An electric air pump makes easy work of blowing up your air mattress. Plug into the cigarette lighter socket, or socket in front consul or rear compartment,  and hey presto you have a fully inflated mattress in minutes. Don't over-inflate, a rock hard mattress is not comfortable. In the past we have struggled to fit a fullly inflated mattress into the front opening of a small tent, however we recently discovered this effortless method.

Air mattresses: Double and single styles available, perfect if you are camping close to your vehicle when weight and size not an issue. Lengthwise 185cm is a snug fit in our tent, however many of the new ones are 200 – 215 cm and will not fit in some compact dome tents. Many are also double the height, suitable only for large tents.

Sleeping mats: Thermarest are known for a quality product, however they are very expensive and you pay a heavy price for the brand.  There are plenty of cheaper alternatives which do the job just fine.  Great improvements have been made over the years and you can now buy longer,  thicker mats which surprisingly are more compact when rolled up. Our older style 3/4 length sleeping mat on the right, barely 2 cm thick, has now been discarded for a full length EXPED Airmat that is 7.5cm thick, it provides a much more comfortable sleep and comes with a nifty 'schnozzle' inflation bag. 

Sleeping bags: There's nothing worse than being cold, so choose one suitable for the coldest conditions you expect to encounter.

Sleeping bag liners. For multi-day trips when  showers are not an option. They fit into a little bag about the size of your fist and you simply chuck in the washing machine at the end of the trip. They help preserve and extend the life of your sleeping bag. 

Stackable plastic cubes are fantastic to keep all related items together and the car stays nice & tidy. We can fit twelve boxes and access from back and rear doors means you only ever need to move one box to reach what you want.

The boxes sit neatly on top of one another, with the weight supported by the rim, so nothing in the boxes gets squashed. See-through boxes are even better. They are not square, so fit together using less space when not in use.