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:

  • Ultimate South Island Adventure - Rimu

    14 Days  | 

    South Island  | 

    US$5499 + tax

    ACTIVE 3 - 4
    • ACTIVE 1

      What's The Rush?

      I’m not a triathlete, but I’m in decent shape and I’m not looking to experience a place just through a bus window. I’m happy to slow down on the trail, soak it in and breathe in the fresh air.


    • ACTIVE 2

      Leg Stretcher

      Sure, I own some hiking boots, they’re even worn in, but they don’t go on long trips. I like my creature comforts and I like to give a range of activities a go.


    • ACTIVE 3

      Earn Your Lunch

      I stay active on vacation so that I can eat and drink what I like without feeling guilty. I season my trips with a little fresh exercise.


    • ACTIVE 4

      Challenge Accepted

      I’ll let my trusty guides sweat the small things, so I can focus on my goal. Getting to the top, reaching the end, achieving my dreams! Sure, it’ll be tough, but the views will be worth it.


    • ACTIVE 5

      The Ultimate

      I’ve put in the hard yards and now I get to reap the rewards. I’m a seasoned adventurer, not afraid to get my boots wet.


    • Read more about the Active Range

    4.53 out of 5 (from 5044 reviews)

    We'll take you on an unforgettable journey exploring our mountains, coastlines and countryside, on foot, by bike and with a paddle in your hands. Experience our unique culture and wildlife along the way.

Visit this page to learn more about Kayaking in New Zealand

Trip Reviews

  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16217 reviews)

    Another Memorable Trip with Active!

    The Rimu trip was my 6th trip with Active Adventures and it again confirmed why I enjoy traveling with them. The trip was very well organized. The guides (local to New Zealand) were professional & FUN! We did so many activities that will forever be etched in my memory...kayaking Milford sound, hiking a section of the Routeburn Track, 3 day backpacking trip through Nelson Lakes. All amazing!
    Kristy Woodward Review Image
    – California, United States
    Rimu, March 2018
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16217 reviews)

    Excellent Trip

    If you like outdoor activities this is your dream trip. The itinerary is very well planned. The scenery and landscapes are beautiful. Our guides Tia and Alex are fabulous. They are youthful, caring, knowledgeable, and extremely professional. Their hardwork made the entire trip smooth and enjoyable. Everyday is packed with interesting and exciting outdoor activities: multi-day hiking in Nelson Lake NP, kayaking in Milford Sound, biking along the shore of Wanaka Lake, and day hiking the Routeburn, Kepler, Sealy Tarns, Hooker Valley and many other beautiful short tracks in various NPs of the South Island. The group mates are very friendly and fun and the small group size made it easy to socialize. In addition, the food is healthy and very delicious. Thanks to every member of the group, in particular our great guides Tia and Alex, it is your care, warmth, encouragement, and tolerance that made this trip truly unforgettable.
    Siyuan Han Review Image
    – Kansas, United States
    Rimu, January 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16217 reviews)

    Rimu—Feb., 2018

    Could not have been happier with our guides, their level of preparation/organization and the stunning scenery of the South Island.
    Tom Townes Review Image
    – North Carolina, United States
    Rimu, February 2018
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16217 reviews)

    It doesn't get much better!

    What a fantastic time traveling with family and new-found friends! New Zealand is an absolutely beautiful country, with thrills and adventure around every corner (and there a lot of them)! Our guides Ken and Elder were as good as they come; from their knowledge of the country, to their welcomed encouragement on the trail and the water. Oh, and did I mention their wholesome and delicious cooking?!?
    I would not hesitate to travel with Active Adventures again. Their organization, communication and willingness to please were simply over the top. Next year in Patagonia perhaps???
    Dean Altaras Review Image
    – Washington, United States
    Rimu, February 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16217 reviews)

    Tui experience

    This trip provided a good balance of activities with the necessary travel time to access the different parts of the South Island. The trip was well organized, and the guides were super. They accommodated our individual desires and capabilities, as well as being good cooks, leaders, and knowledgeable guides. Our group quickly melded into collegial and interesting companions, and that make the experience that much better. The itinerary provides a taste all that the South Island offers. I'm happy to have chosen this company to tour with.
    Gary Ezzell Review Image
    – Arizona, United States
    Tui, February 2017

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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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