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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

  •   4.44 out of 5 (from 908 reviews)

    2017 Manuka

    Went into the trip not knowing what to expect. Took the trip solo. Was hesitant on taking a guided tour. Felt like i wouldn't have the freedom to do things at my own speed. Not the case at all! Had virtually no restrictions on the hikes. Amanda and Holly let us move at our own paces. Overall trip was a blast! Couldn't have wished for more. Great hikes, great food, good sleeping accommodations, hard charging guides, everything was taken care of, didn't have to lift a finger. I will be back.
    Dan Baker Review Image
    – APO/FPO AP, United States
    Manuka, May 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4983 reviews)

    Perfect Trip for anyone who loves Nature!

    If you enjoy being outdoors and like to challenge yourself this trip is for you. I wasn't an avid hiker before signing up for the Rimu trip but after reading the itinerary I knew I couldn't pass up this amazing opportunity. You never know what you are capable of until you try and that is how I feel after climbing up to the Angelus Hut and hiking to Mueller ridge. I had never climbed a mountain before (since there are no mountains where I live) but the views are more than worth the climb.
    This trip is the best way to see all that the South Island has to offer, it is the perfect balance between adventure, relaxation, self-exploration, and cultural immersion. Anyone can go to New Zealand and rent a car and go hiking, biking, and Kayaking; however, they will miss out on the best parts of traveling to a new place and that is the knowledge and culture that only someone who lives there would know. The guides (Tory and Vanessa) were awesome! Tory is an amazing cook, and Ness was great at making jokes and keeping the atmosphere cheery during the longer drives. I loved listening to the guides tell us about the Maori people and the local legends or folklore. I actually thought Ness was lying to me when she would tell me that the views get better after being left speechless by the scenery, but every day was better than the previous!
    I have to mention the FOOD!!! The food alone is enough for me to sign up for this trip again. When I travel I don’t always know what the local food is or would be but with this trip the guides cook you all sorts of local food and all the food is fresh and delicious. If you don’t like something they will make sure to accommodate you.
    Ness and Tory made you feel like this was a trip among friends and family, not strangers. I will come back to New Zealand again!
    Brian Heinz Review Image
    – Wisconsin, United States
    Rimu, May 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4983 reviews)

    Exceeded my Expectations. A Trip to Treasure.

    Active adventures provided an outstanding New Zealand experience. Our guides (Tory and Jordie) went above and beyond during our South Island Rimu trip. Their passion for the outdoors as well as the traditions and culture of NZ enhanced the two week journey. As guides, I was most impressed by their attention to detail and safety. I appreciated the warm smiles, gems of knowledge and yummy meals on even the challenging hike days. For my birthday, during the three day hike at Nelson Lakes National Park, Tory and Jordie surprised me with two delicious cakes to share with my new hiking family. A moment I will treasure, enhanced by the breath taking views of the alpine lake at Angelus Hut.

    The beauty of the country surpassed my expectations, particularly sites like Milford Sound and Mt. Cook. Such a diverse, lush landscape, each hike offered a unique perspective of the stunning views. Combined with the kayaking and biking options, allowed for an exciting and interesting mix. The highlight of my two weeks was my heli-hike on the Tasman Glacier, such an unforgettable experience.

    I'm looking forward to future Active Adventure trips, but will definitely keep a little piece of NZ in my heart. A truly bucket list destination.


    Gigi (from The Bahamas)
    Gigi Smith Review Image
    – West Virginia, United States
    Rimu, July 2017
  •   4.68 out of 5 (from 244 reviews)

    New Zealand and Kiwis are the Best!

    It would be difficult to overstate how impressed I was with our Active Adventure tour. Mel and Claire were absolutely incredible!! Steve was great too, but he was only with us for the hike up and back from the Aspiring Hut. Plus, he was weighed down by a rock he so generously carried up the hill for Mel.
    Anyway, Mel and Claire made Active Adventures (and New Zealand) look so good! They were EVERYTHING I could hope for: friendly, funny, knowledgeable, professional, hard-working, kind, easy-going, energetic, .... Thank you for one of the best 2-week periods of my entire life!
    Mike Schimpf Review Image
    – California, United States
    Kea, January 2017
  •   4.48 out of 5 (from 298 reviews)

    Weka - New Zealand

    Wow!! What a trip! This hiking & biking tour was breath-taking both figuratively and literally. Our guides made our adventure challenging, yet fun. They were knowledgeable, encouraging and you could tell they are truly passionate about what they do. This tour captured all the great highlights of New Zealand staying just off the beaten path so we could really experience the diverse beauty and savory tastes of the island. Our group enjoyed ourselves so much we are already discussing another Active Adventure trip in 2019. Thank you Active Adventures for a wonderful experience!
    Sue Stohrer Review Image
    – California, United States
    Weka, March 2018

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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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