Hiring a sea kayak, with a friend (we are unable to hire to solo paddlers), for a few hours, a day, or many days, is one of the best ways to explore the water wonderland that is the Marlborough Sounds. There are over 1500 kilometres of coastline to explore, made up of a multitude of bays, coves and inlets – a fabulous place for exploring by sea kayak.
Wildlife in the Sounds is prolific. At various times of the year there are dolphins (including the rare Hector’s dolphin), seals, whales, not to mention a wide array of birds like gannets, little blue penguins and various native land-based species. Other rare species include the Little Spotted Kiwi, King shags, saddlebacks, tuatara lizards, and the carniverous snail Polliphanta.
There are magnificent stands of native podocarp forest, and also areas which were originally cleared for agriculture and which are now largely regenerated.
Sea kayaking in the Sounds is very different to other areas of New Zealand, and in fact, the world! The large expansive waterways mean that you can really get away from it all, but still enjoy the small luxuries such as water-taxi pick up if required – or you can call into a resort for a cup of coffee if you want to!
As New Zealand’s oldest sea kayaking company, our knowledge, expertise, equipment and service are unsurpassed. Get in touch with us to talk through the best options for your timeframe and skill level.
From Picton, there are an infinite number of options for kayak trips in the Sounds. These options range from easy, relaxed cruising to adventures for the experienced expeditioner.
With over 50 Department of Conservation campsites within the Sounds, and over 1500 kilometres of sheltered coastline, there is plenty of space. Paddlers also have the option of using some of the various lodges dotted around the Sounds. We recommend that you don’t plan your itinerary until you have your safety briefing with us. At this time our staff will assess your skills, the weather and suggest the best options for your group.
To give you an idea of some of the options, here are some of the best routes (starting from the easiest and going through to the more challenging):
- The Grove Arm of the Queen Charlotte Sound. Paddling from Picton for one or two days. This area suits family groups, and those wanting a fairly easy paddling trip. It offers a good range of campsites, nice native bush, walking tracks and options for accommodation.
- The Queen Charlotte Sound to Ruakaka Bay. A good two or three day trip. Perhaps including the Grove Arm, but also Kumutoto Bay, and the Ratimera campsite with it’s lovely sandy beach and native bush.
- The Kenepuru Sound. There are a number of good campsites, and some good accommodation places.
- The Outer Queen Charlotte Sound. Allow a minimum of three days (but preferably four or more) to see this area. Perhaps use a water taxi to take you one way in order to spend more time in the outer area. This is arguably the most interesting paddling area in the Sounds, with a real feeling of remoteness, and some of the best campsites. Special places include Captain Cook’s monument at Ship Cove, the bird sanctuary at Motuara Island, the marine reserve at Long Island and Blumine Island.
- Tennyson Inlet to Moetapu Bay, or Picton via Portage. Tennyson Inlet is beautiful, with it’s heavy native bush, and tranquil bays. The drop off is about 2 hours 30 minutes from Picton, and you need at least five days to do the (one-way) trip back. Conditions can be difficult at times. There is much to see in the outer Pelorus Sound and through the area around Nydia Bay.
- The Kenepuru Sound is worth a couple of days exploring if there is time. Transport of gear to the Queen Charlotte Sound at Portage can be arranged at a small cost.
Half Day – $40 per person – Maximum of four hours – 8.30am and 12.30pm briefing
1 Day – $60 per person (8.30am to 4.30pm)
2 Days – $100 per person
3 Days – $135 per person
4 Days – $160 per person
5 Days – 5th Day FREE
Kayak rental includes:
- Kayak – large stable fiberglass doubles; or plastic singles. Specifically designed for kayak rental.
- Spare paddle
- Spray deck
- Buoyancy aid
- Detailed map (waterproof)
- High flow bilge pump
- Paddle jackets
- Dry bags for cameras.
All kayaks have foot operated rudders, and watertight storage compartments.
Every group is given an extensive briefing covering safety and rescue procedures, the equipment, local conditions and hazards, weather, and the paddling area.
Kayak rental is available throughout the year.
We have large, stable, fiberglass double sea kayaks and durable, plastic singles.
Included with sea kayak rental are:
- buoyancy aid
- spare paddle
- water pump
- paddle jacket
- dry bag for cameras (all other gear goes into plastic bags in hatches with two covers)
When you book your trip, we will send you some detailed pre-trip information. However, to give you an idea of what we recommend you bring:
We suggest you include all of the items in your personal gear. It is not an exhaustive list, but is the ‘essential’ gear you shouldn’t do without. Pack it in plastic bags, or dry bags. A number of smaller bags are easier to pack than one or two larger bags.
- Two changes of warm clothing (wool or polypropylene, not cotton) – one suitable for adverse paddling conditions, and one for on-shore.
- Warm hat & gloves
- Raincoat or parka (for example, a nylon windbreaker)
- Windproof jacket, suitable for paddling
- Spare plastic bags
- Insect repellent
- Rubber sandals, sandshoes, or neoprene booties for wearing while paddling
- Optional: long wetsuits for cooler months
How do I know if I had enough experience to go sea kayaking with my friends?
Sea kayaking, like any water activity, has inherent risks. Kayak rental is available to people with outdoor experience, preferably in water activities. Every group must have an experienced person who is familiar with marine environments, and is able to anticipate and deal with adverse conditions, if they develop. On the morning of departure we will provide a full safety briefing which covers area such as weather, itinerary planning, on-water skills, capsize and re-entry. For inexperienced groups it’s a good idea to hire a guide for part, or all, of your trip – or join our One Day Trip for your first day, and use it as a training day before heading off independently.
How much can I take in my sea kayak?
The double sea kayaks can take the equivalent of one large backpack and a half, per person. You can normally take fresh food for up to three days and it will remain fresh and edible. Single kayaks take approximately the equivalent of one pack per person.
Can I hire a sea kayak and camp out overnight on my own?
For safety reasons, we are not able to rent to solo paddlers.
Can we plan our itinerary now so that we can get organised?
We always recommend that people discuss their itinerary options with their guide during their safety briefing. At that time we can assess the weather forecast, the group’s abilities and, from this, recommend a suitable itinerary to meet your needs. Therefore it is a good idea to not plan your itinerary until the day of arrival.
Can we find our own campsites or do we have to use Department of Conservation campsites?
We strongly urge all our clients to use the Department of Conservation (DOC) campsites as this ensures that we are all protecting our environment. Also, in most cases, the DOC campsites are in the best spots in the Sounds anyway. We sell tickets for DOC campsites at our office.
Can I catch a water taxi to the Outer-Sounds and paddle back?
If you haven’t paddled in the Marlborough Sounds before, we always recommend that you paddle from Picton to the Outer Sounds. This means that you will be feeling more comfortable with the conditions by the time you reach the more exposed Outer Sounds. It is not a problem to organise water transport for your return to Picton.
Do you have a question? Please fill in the form below or, maybe you want to check availability before making a booking?
If you are ready to book a trip, then please click the “Book Now” button above which will take you to our check availability page and book now page.
Sometimes it is easier to just pick up the phone and get the answer you need, in which case, please give us a call on (+64) 03 573 6078, NZ Freephone 0800 283 283, or Australia Freephone on 1800 007 083 anytime. We are usually contactable by phone from 8.00am to 10.00pm (NZ time) each day.