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Beachcomber Cruises. Beachcomber Cruises runs scheduled daily scenic and eco-cruises throughout the Queen Charlotte Sounds, including their well-known Mail Run cruise, which explores the outer reaches of Queen Charlotte Sound and Ship Cove. Help deliver mail and supplies to families living in these wild, remote spots. They can also take you to and from many points along the Queen Charlotte Walkway for one-day or longer unguided walks and bike rides. Boats depart from the Picton waterfront throughout the day (times vary according to the time of year; check the website for options). Beachcomber Pier, The Waterfront, Picton, 7220. 03/573–6175 or 0800/624–526. www.mailboat.co.nz. NZ$65–$99.
Cougar Line. Cougar Line runs scheduled trips from Picton through the Queen Charlotte Sounds three to four times daily, depending on the time of year, dropping passengers (sightseers included) at accommodations, private homes, or other points. Their scenic cruises range from a popular three-hour morning and afternoon cruises to shorter ones suitable for passengers waiting for the Cook Strait ferry. The Earlybird Eco Cruise to Motuara Island bird sanctuary (8 am departure, May–Oct.) is a great way to include an extra activity for the day: you can visit the island then be dropped off for a walk along part of the Queen Charlotte Track for the afternoon. A perfect end to the day is onboard the "Blue Cod and Chips" evening cruise to see the Sounds at sunset and savor local fish. Bookings must be confirmed before 5 pm (so the fish can be ordered). Reservations for all trips are essential at peak times and recommended at others. The Waterfront, Picton, 7220. 03/573–7925 or 0800/504–090. www.cougarline.co.nz or www.queencharlottetrack.co.nz. A Queen Charlotte drop-off and pickup service costs NZ$105 for multiday hikes, NZ$80 for day cruises and day hikes that end at Furneaux Lodge; water-taxi service to area lodges, NZ$38–NZ$55, depending on distances and number of people.