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Kayaking Queen Charlotte Sound

The Marlborough Sounds is located at the 'top end' of the South Island and covers an area of 50,825 ha. Unlike many parks, it is not a single unit but rather separated into 104 different reserves, allowing a wide range of activities to occur within the many confines of its watery expanses. Reaching out into the Pacific Ocean like the fingers of a welcoming hand, the Marlborough Sounds is made up of three different sounds - the Queen Charlotte, Kenepuru and Pelorus Sounds. This collection of drowned river valleys is a natural wonder, created when the mountains sank in earth movements and the sea flooded into the valleys. Bordered by forested hills rising almost vertically from the water's edge, the Marlborough Sounds are a true scenic wonder. The water displays a thousand shades of colour, ranging from the deepest green to the brightest turquoise. The backdrop is also a myriad shades of green due to a combination of overhanging native tree ferns, rata vines and beech trees.

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It is just waiting to be explored and there is truly no better way than by sea kayak. Our kayak trips specialize in venturing into remote and unspoiled areas of the stunning Marlborough Sounds. Experience is not necessary for our trips as we provide training for beginners & challenges for the experienced! The wildlife is testimony to this magnificent environment with fur seals, dolphins and penguins a common sight and nothing beats cruising around wildlife with the near silence of a sea kayak.

The Sounds are home to a wide variety of bird and marine life, with a number of specific wildlife sanctuaries dotted throughout its waterways and inlets. Seabirds are in abundance and include species such as blue penguins, petrels, shags, gannets, terns and gulls. The local marine life is also varied with fur seals, dolphins and at times whales. Hectors dolphins, gentle creatures are currently endangered and are endemic to New Zealand waters, can also sometimes be found within the sheltered waterways of the Sounds. Throughout the Sounds, there are nature reserves that are open and accessible from the water. You can paddle your kayak up to one of these islands and go and explore the protected worlds they contain.

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A 3-day/2-night sea kayaking option is available on the 14-day Ultimate South Island Adventure 'Rimu' tour, see the full itinerary here:

Visit this page to learn more about Kayaking in New Zealand

Trip Reviews

  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4983 reviews)

    It doesn't get much better!

    What a fantastic time traveling with family and new-found friends! New Zealand is an absolutely beautiful country, with thrills and adventure around every corner (and there a lot of them)! Our guides Ken and Elder were as good as they come; from their knowledge of the country, to their welcomed encouragement on the trail and the water. Oh, and did I mention their wholesome and delicious cooking?!?
    I would not hesitate to travel with Active Adventures again. Their organization, communication and willingness to please were simply over the top. Next year in Patagonia perhaps???
    Dean Altaras Review Image
    – Washington, United States
    Rimu, February 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4983 reviews)

    Rimu Was Extraordinary

    We have been dreaming of visiting New Zealand for a long time, we wanted to see and explore all the best sites in an active way, but doing this on our own would have been overwhelming! Active Adventures was the complete answer. They took us to the best places, sites and beautiful landscapes that we could only have dreamed about. Our group was small which allowed us all to bond, our guides Astrid and Steve could not have been better - fun, knowledgeable, organized and excellent cooks. I got the sense they really enjoyed what they do! I would strongly recommend this tour - a trip of a lifetime that words can’t describe - we will never forget it.
    Colleen Clark Review Image
    – Ontario, Canada
    Rimu, February 2018
  •   4.70 out of 5 (from 266 reviews)

    A Marvelous Exprerience

    This trip was worth every penny. We had marvelous lodging that we could not have accessed on our own. Our access to trails, parks and activities was all arranged and all we had to worry about was showing up for the experience. We were truly touched by the extent to which our guides went out of their way to respond to our special food needs. I felt truly safe, supported by the experience, training and good will of our guides. I came home stronger and with new confidence that as an elder I can still take on physically challenging experiences and succeed. What a gift that is.
    Wendy Ball Review Image
    – New York, United States
    Kiwi, December 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4983 reviews)

    Best Trip Ever

    You go hiking, exert yourself, see spectacular views, and you think "this is the best day, it can't get better than this." Then you go kayaking, see wildlife, lush rain forest and red tinted water, all with the backdrop of snow capped mountains, and you think "no, this is the best day, it can't get better this. Then you go biking along a teal colored river and through a birch forest with snow capped mountains ringing a suddenly peaceful lake and you think, "okay, THIS is the best day." And then you drive to Milford Sound, gawk in awe at waterfalls tumbling down towering cliffs along the road and you get to the Sound and you kayak with dolphins, and you come to the realization, "this is my New Zealand trip, every day better than the last," so that on your last day when you are lying beneath the stars, staring at the Milky Way and the Southern Cross, you know you've experienced something beyond special.
    Tanya Karimi Review Image
    – Colorado, United States
    Rimu, March 2017
  •   4.70 out of 5 (from 266 reviews)

    Review of the Kiwi trip

    I chose to visit NZ with Active Adventures because I wanted to experience the South Island from tip to toe in an active fashion. The trip was exactly what I wanted. I loved hiking and kayaking, enjoyed visiting the towns and was swept away by the scenery. I learned a lot about the country's history, geology and mythology from my two guides. And I had fun.
    Barbara Delaney Review Image
    – Maryland, United States
    Kiwi, March 2017

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Why travel with Active Adventures?

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

As soon as you get off the plane, we've got all the details of your vacation covered – top notch meals, comfortable transport & accommodation, amazing guides and INCREDIBLE service.

Whether you’re new to adventure travel, or you’ve never travelled in a group before, you’ll find yourself arriving home positively different from when you left.

With our small groups (no more than 14), you'll get to know our team, your fellow travellers, and have the flexibility and freedom to do as much (or as little!) as you like.

It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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