We arrived by ferry in Picton which is situated on the Northern part of the South Island on Mainland as it is sometimes called. Picton is well up a bay or sound in the region known as Marlborough Sound.
The sounds are a protected inland waterway which sometimes interconnect and all open to the north into the Tasman Sea and Cooks Straight. They are a favorite area for recreation and vacations and we could see why.
We went straight from Picton to the town of Havelock. It is a small community with a good sized small boat harbor. We rented a 16 foot runabout for a few of hours and cruised around the sounds.
The sounds are protected from the fury of the Cooks Straight but they still get a wind chop that can toss a 16 footer around. We had a few places where we needed to go a bit slow but we covered a lot of ground in 3 hours. The mountains around the sounds are mostly planted in timber and they clear cut a section when they log. It looks bad but they replant shortly after and within a year it is growing back. Timber is a big industry in New Zealand and you see managed forests all over both islands. It is a big reason for the diminishing native bush.
The area is also well known as for its recreation possibilities. There are some beautiful vacation homes built on the water. There is still heaps of available land but much of it has no services and is connected only by a long tenuous dirt road or maybe with no road access.
It is where most of the Green Lip Mussels come from. These tasty devils are a gaining an export market most most are consumed in New Zealand. They sell for NZ$.85 per kilo in season and we had a few GLM pigouts. If you are on a boat on the Marlborough sound we have been told that it is OK to pick a few off of the farm lines in the first couple of feet because they wipe these off to get the line on a winch to haul it in. We found out too late but at 85¢ a kilo we may not have bothered. Mussel Brothers in Havelock has a number of yummy recipes for GLM's.
We departed the South Island on the new inter-island ferry and it seems to be flop. It had a lot of start up problems, and last we heard it wasn't running. It had one major design flaw we found uncomfortable. In a moderate wind, 25 knots, it heeled almost 10 degrees. This was not a roll and it was inside the calm Marlborough sound. It remained heeled over to the extent shown in the picture. This made us feel that it wasn't very positively buoyant. We recommend you try to reserve on the old ferry.
You can also forget the car and reserve a trip on the fast Lynx ferry. It looked like fun though it passed us in rough weather and it wasn't having a much better time than the larger new ferry. Rough seas bounce around any boat, large or small. It is expensive to cross on the ferry, particularly with a car. You can save up to 50% if you reserve ahead but we are talking 3 months or more for that kind of discount during peak periods. We received a 30% discount and 2 people plus car was NZ$360 round trip. The car was $270 of that.
If you are on vacation and are renting then you will want to switch cars rather than paying to haul it on the ferry.