Heart of THE SOUNDS
If you have heard that Picton is merely the gateway to the South Island, then think again!
O nce upon a time it may have been considered a good place to fuel up and grab a coffee or snack before the journey south. However, times have changed. Picton-based adventure outfitters Wilderness Guides, run by long time locals Juliet and Steve Gibbons, have witnessed a transformation in the pretty seaside port since they began operating tours there in 1999. “In many ways Picton hasn’t changed – it’s just that people’s desire for what Picton offers has,” says Juliet. “Picton has always been at the heart of the Sounds with natural attractions in abundance but at last it’s getting the recognition it deserves as the best launch point for adventure in one of New Zealand’s most loved marine playgrounds.” With internationally renowned attractions such as the Queen Charlotte Track being complemented by up and coming trails like The Link Pathway and an ever burgeoning list of local walking and biking tracks in the town, this reputation looks only set to grow. The Marlborough Sounds themselves are a network of sunken river valleys, where the land has slowly sunk and the water level has risen, flooding a vast area over millions of years. This intricate land mass is not only spectacular but unique in New Zealand as it is the only large land area that is still sinking into the sea. Three main bodies of water make up the Sounds – Queen Charlotte, Kenepuru and Pelorus – and a number of islands are dotted throughout its expanse. Picton is strategically located at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound and is where the interisland ferries berth.
Wilderness Guides offer adventures designed to capture all the activities of the area including guided and independent walks, guided kayak tours and freedom hire of kayaks and bikes from their central Picton Waterfront base. Whether you have a few hours or a few days, the friendly team at Wilderness Guides can create an experience just perfect for you. “We’ve got every type of tour for the adventurer at heart,” says Juliet. Hire a bike and explore Picton’s growing number of dedicated cycle ways and dual use trails in the town. This is a great option if you are on a timeframe with bike hire available by the hour. If you have a day, venture further to explore completed
sections of the area’s latest attraction, The Link Pathway. This purpose-built trail will ultimately stretch between Picton and Havelock, taking in historic bridle paths as well as sections of newly cut track designed for most ages and abilities. The views into Queen Charlotte Sound need to be seen to be believed. For those wanting a longer adventure, the 70km Queen Charlotte is a well-defined walking and biking track suitable for most people of moderate fitness, although biking is pretty challenging in parts. There is a wide range of accommodation along its length and Wilderness Guides offers a variety of day and multi day walking and biking packages. And let’s not forget sea kayaking. With 1500km of coastline to explore, stretching from just north of Kaikoura to the tip of d'Urville Island, the Marlborough Sounds is a truly remarkable sea kayaking destination. If time is short, you can experience the beauty of the area on a half day guided sea kayak tour taking in the western end of Queen Charlotte Sound with its sheltered coves, beautiful beaches, azure waters and lush native bush. Tides permitting, you might also stop for a short walk at the Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary, located just a short paddle from the Picton foreshore. This predator-free peninsula is an exciting community project encouraging native birdlife back into the Sounds. “Yes, it’s exciting times for Picton,” says Juliet. “And what’s more - it’s still a great place to get a coffee”.