Locals will forgive you for thinking you've seen what the Marlborough Sounds are all about after crossing from the North Island to the South Island on the ferry—in reality, it's just a taste of better things to come. Picton is the base for cruising in this labyrinth of waterways that formed when the rising sea invaded a vast area of river valleys at the northern tip of the South Island. Backed by forested hills that rise gently from the water, the Sounds consist of sheltered bays and deep waterways, some little-changed since Captain Cook found refuge here in the 1770s. The Sounds are a wild, majestic place edged with tiny beaches and rocky coves and studded with islands where native wildlife is free from introduced animal predators. Māori legend tells how the Sounds were formed when a great warrior and navigator called Kupe fought with a giant octopus, Te Wheke. Its thrashings separated the surrounding mountains, and its tentacles became parts of the sunken valleys. You can
hop on board the mail operator boats as they deliver the mail, groceries, and farming supplies to isolated residents and farms. From Havelock the Pelorus Mail Boat delivers mail and supplies to outlying settlements scattered around Pelorus Sound. To get on the ground in and around the Sounds, you can walk or cycle part or all of the scenic Queen Charlotte Track.