New Zealand Travel Tips members receive a 10% discount on Beachcomber Cruises.
With a number of memorable cruises, transfers and walks, this is the best way to see the marvellous Marlborough Sounds.
Book with Beachcomber Cruises & save 10%. Promo code NZTT10.
Beachcomber Cruises offer a number of memorable scenic transfers and boat trips, allowing you to explore the Queen Charlotte Track Walk and the many beautiful bays in the area.
Choose from the following popular cruises, and many more.
Magic Mail Run
Perhaps the most popular journey through the sounds, the Magic Mail Run is a truly unique experience. Join your crew on the only licensed New Zealand Post service through the Queen Charlotte sounds/ Tōtaranui.
Share the excitement of mail day as the skipper delivers the New Zealand rural post bags, essential groceries and freight to the residents that call the Queen Charlotte Sound waterways home.
The mail has been delivered by boat for over 150 years in the Queen Charlotte Sounds and Beachcomber Cruises are proud to uphold that service!
This trip is designed to take you off the beaten tourist path so you can experience the real Queen Charlotte Sounds/Tōtaranui.
Operating from Monday to Saturday, no one day is the same as the route changes daily covering a different area delivering the mail. Each mail route has its own highlights, and if time allows, your cruise will also take a short stop where you can disembark in the Queen Charlotte waterways.
While on board, sit back and relax, and take in the skipper’s amazing knowledge as they provide an interesting and informative commentary.
The mail boat vessel provides excellent views and is the most comfortable way of cruising the sounds. Keep your camera handy for any wildlife encounters!
Sailing later in the day, this 4-hour cruise is one of the most popular on offer.
Ship Cove Cruise
As you make your way through the Queen Charlotte Sounds, your skipper will provide a commentary on the surroundings, history and wildlife – be it bird, fish or mammal!
Take in the sights of ancient drowned river valleys through the Queen Charlotte Sound/Tōtaranui, as you continue on to historical Ship Cove.
As the name would suggest the highlight of this tour is a visit to Ship Cove. Named by Captain James Cook in 1770, when his ship, The Endeavour anchored here to replenish supplies of food, water and wood, it soon became a favourite anchorage for his crew. In fact, Captain Cook returned here a further four times between 1770 and 1777.
Take the opportunity to dabble in the creek where Captain Cook made home brew for his crew and share the beach with the resident wildlife. Have your photo taken beside the Captain Cook Monument, commemorating his visits to this area, or just relax and enjoy the tranquil surroundings.
Upon re-joining your vessel, cruise via Endeavour Inlet to view some of the resorts by boat before returning to Picton.
With its 3-hour morning sailing, this is a popular option for families (particularly those with young children) and nature lovers.
Motuara Island Bird Watchers Cruise
Immerse yourself in natural surroundings, native birdlife and stunning views on the Motuara Island Bird Watchers Cruise.
Available from the beginning of October until the end of April this trip is perfect for bird lovers!
On arrival, listen to the chorus of songs from the local inhabitants, sit and enjoy the bird viewing station, and wander the track approx 800m one-way around the gentle hill.
Enjoy spectacular views to the North Island from the Cook Straight Lookout. Lift the lid on one of many wooden nesting boxes along the track, and keep your eyes peeled for sleepy Little Blue Penguins may just glance up.
Unsurprisingly, Motuara Bird Sanctuary Island attracts bird lovers from all over the world. All introduced pests were removed in the early 1990s, now providing a safe home to a variety of native species that have struggled to survive or died out on the mainland. Many of these are critically endangered but offered a secure future on the island.
Some of the wildlife you will see includes:
- NZ Robin/toutouwai
- grey warbler/riroriro
- NZ Pigeon/kereru
- silver eye/tauhou
- the endangered South Island Saddleback
- the very rare king shag
- Maud Island frog
- Marlborough green gecko.
Finish off with a trip to historic Ship Cove for a quick visit before returning to Picton in time for the afternoon ferry to Wellington.
One Day Queen Charlotte Track Walk – Ship Cove to Furneaux Lodge (17km)
The longer one-day Queen Charlotte Track walks begins cruising north from Picton onboard a Beachcomber Cruises vessel through Queen Charlotte Sound and past idyllic bays. Head towards Ship Cove and learn about the history, geology, flora and fauna of the area. If the opportunity presents itself, you’ll get a great view of passing wildlife, including dolphins who like to play in the wake of the boat.
In the 1770s, sheltered Ship Cove provided safe anchorage, food, water and timber for explorer Captain James Cook and his ship crews on five separate occasions. It also saw some of the earliest sustained contact between Māori and Europeans.
There is plenty of historical information to soak up at Ship Cove before walking away from the beach through native forest (consisting of mānuka, kānuka, five finger and tree ferns) and past many native New Zealand bird species (such as tūī, fantails, silvereyes and tomtits). When you stop for a break, a curious weka may come to check you out, so have your camera at the ready!
Upon reaching Tawa Saddle, stunning views of the Queen Charlotte Sound unfold in front of you. The track then drops into Resolution Bay and follows an old bridle path into Endeavour Inlet, before eventually arriving at the famous Furneaux Lodge.
Grab a drink or something to eat and relax before boarding the cruise vessel at approximately 4 – 4.30 pm for your return to Picton.
This incredible walk is not to be missed!
- Depart: 8 am or 9 am (season-dependant)
- Walk distance: 17 km walk
- Approximate walk time: 5 hours
- Return to Picton: 5.30/6 pm.
One Day Queen Charlotte Track Walk – Furneaux Lodge to Punga Cove
If you’re keen to walk the Queen Charlotte Track but don’t want to cover quite as much ground as the previous trip, the Furneaux Lodge to Punga Cove part of the trail will be just the ticket.
Cruise from Picton to historic Ship Cove for a site visit, before making your way around to Furneaux Lodge. This location is the starting point for your 12km walk. Take the opportunity to grab a coffee or even brunch before beginning your walk to Punga Cove Resort.
This section of the Queen Charlotte Track mainly follows the coastline around Endeavour Inlet through regenerating native bush. Once farmland, this part of the walkway has reverted to nature and the forest is once again lush and alive with the sound of birdsong.
The area is also rich in history as it was once the site of an Antimony Mine. We recommend you take some time to read the interpretation panels there. Continue around the shore, with pasture land on either side and then through native forest with views right down the inlet to the main Queen Charlotte Sound.
Upon arrival at Punga Cove Resort, relax on the deck of the Boat Shed Café with a well-deserved beverage before boarding your cruise at 4 – 4.30 pm for the return boat journey to Picton.
- Depart: 9 am
- Walk distance: 12 km walk
- Approximate walk time: 4 hours
- Return to Picton: 5.30/6 pm.
Please note: You must be a member of the New Zealand Travel Tips Facebook community to access this discount. Joining is free and easy. Operators may ask you to prove you’re in our group when honouring your exclusive member-only special – just show them the Facebook group on your phone. By booking through us, you will enjoy a discount while supporting NZTT.