Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand

Photo: Phillip C. (flickr.com) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Phillip C. (flickr.com) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
It’s almost springtime in New Zealand! While you may still be able to ski farther south on the South Island, the northern end of the island is already thinking about warmer temperatures. Green grass is starting to sprout, the trees are beginning to bloom, and baby lambs should arrive anytime. The days may start off chilly, but you’ll appreciate the crisp air when you set off to explore the Marlborough Sounds.

The Marlborough Sounds are a drowned river valley in Cook Strait, which separates New Zealand’s North Island and South Island. With calm water, mostly sunny days, and gorgeous scenery, it’s a sailor’s paradise.

You arrive in Picton and board a ferry bound for Queen Charlotte Sound, the easternmost sound. You pass uninhabited islands, isolated coves, a pod of social bottlenose dolphins, and freshly painted sailboats before the Bay of Many Coves starts to come into view. A long dock juts into the water. The hillside resort sits on Arthurs Bay and blends in with the surrounding bush. Plus there are amazing bay views from the restaurant, the library, the pool, your balcony . . . well, just about everywhere.

Photo: Bay of Many Coves
Photo: Bay of Many Coves

Your apartment-style room is modern, cozy, and all about the view, but you’re in a hurry to return to the water. Follow the shoreline in a sea kayak, stopping at the salmon farm in Ruakaka Bay and then Ratimera Bay for lunch on the sandy beach. You might see dusky dolphins doing backflips, playful fur seals, or even a southern right whale, if you’re lucky. Board the Lady Karen and ride past Captain Cook’s Monument at Ship Cove and Motuara Island. The island is a bird sanctuary where South Island Saddlebacks, little blue penguins, and Okarito kiwis breed.

Return to the Bay of Many Coves to catch the end of a rugby match on the big screen at Bight Café. Steamed clams with chili make a perfect afternoon snack. As dusk starts to fall, curious Wekas and swooping kererūs come out to play. Watch the birds from the binoculars in the library. Relax your tired muscles in the cedar hot tub. Then watch the sun set and the moon rise over the water from Foredeck Restaurant. Everything is local, from the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and the South Island cheese to the Nelson scallops and the out-of-the-bay snapper. You’re exhausted, well fed, and ready to crash at this point, but there’s one more thing you need to see: the glow worms. The bioluminescent insects live in grottos just a short walk from the hotel.

Tomorrow you might go for a bush walk along the Queen Charlotte Track for amazing views over the sound. You might fish for blue cod and be disappointed to throw your catch back in the catch-and-release area. Or you might glide across the bay on another kayak trip. There are so many options now that spring is on its way.

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