© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

Cruising the Marlborough Sounds by Mail Boat

© NZPocketGuide.com

80 Days on the Road

Life in the South Island, or more specifically, the Tombstone Backpackers, begins with freshly baked scones. Yum! Can you believe this is the free breakfast of the hostel?!

Now Robin is pumped to hop on one of the hostel’s free bikes and head to a few meetings in Picton town, despite the rain. (Yep, that sunny weather we saw yesterday soon disappeared). So Robin is currently riding around town getting a wet ass from all the water flicking from the wheel and Laura is getting on with some work in the dry hostel.

Time to deliver some mail!

1pm soon rocks around and we have some mail to deliver. We are heading on Beachcomber’s Mail Cruise! The cruise goes around delivering mail and supplies to people living in the remote coves and bays of Marlborough Sounds. It’s a great chance for us to see more of the Sounds, while the ship is doing something productive! We like it!

A farewell from the seals of Picton

After meeting our skipper, Bruce, and having a quick and necessary safety briefing about the boat, we are hitting the water once again and making our way up Queen Charlotte Sound. The seals are still rolling around in the Picton Harbour, waving at us and wishing us luck on our Mail Boat Journey. (Or, at least that’s what we like to believe they said).

An atmospheric Queen Charlotte Sound

Queen Charlotte Sound has a completely different view from yesterday. Although it’s often mandatory to complain about the weather, we feel pretty lucky to be seeing the Sound in a completely different and dark light from yesterday.

Fog hangs at the highest peaks of the mountains, giving an eerie atmosphere. Although it is raining a bit too much to comfortably sit in the viewing area on top of the boat, a sheltered outside section on the back of the boat becomes our new favourite spot to watch the mountains, that have emerged from the sea, passing by.

Dog delivery

No two days are the same on the Mail Boat Cruise but we are assured that each route is special with its own highlights. As we pull into the first two remote coves, we can see why. Each cove is more wild and hidden than the last. One cove-dweller even has a mini train to pull his supplies up his mountain.

There’s five scheduled stops today, with mail stop number three being occupied by five dogs! The dogs see us coming for miles and are already out and barking at us from the end of the jetty as we arrive! In true mailman style, Bruce gives some dog biscuits to the dogs. We dock up here for a while, so we end up playing with the dogs.

No dolphins today, but we do see some unprepared tourists

Although Bruce says that the dogs are always expected on the Mail Boat Cruise, seeing dolphins is a common but not always predictable. With that, Robin has the binoculars stuck to his face as he scans the horizon searching for a sign of life.

It seems we are not going to be too lucky on the dolphin front today, but we are luckier than the people we are about to pick up on our unscheduled cove visit. A group of German tourists may have got caught in bad weather when hiking the Queen Charlotte Track, a multi-day hike through the mountains and forests of the Queen Charlotte Sound. Bruce picks up unprepared tourists from various small jetties along the Endeavour Inlet. When the tourists walk on the boat wearing jeans and carrying nothing else but an umbrella, we can see why they were so unprepared… (They clearly needed to give this article a read: How to Prepare for a Great Walk in New Zealand).

The many faces of the mail boat cruise

Please just leave us at Punga Cove

Our last scheduled stop for the day is the stunning Punga Cove, named simply because there are a sh*t load of pungas, a fern tree that sticks up on top of the forest canopy. We are here to pick up a group of friends that arrived here earlier today, but we also have the chance to hop off the boat and have a look around. This place looks like paradise, with hammocks, kayaks, ferns (which always looks similar to palm trees, right?), and a bar on the waterfront. Ok, Bruce, you can leave us here! You can tell the staff at Beachcomber that you forgot about us. It’s fine.

Although Punga Cove does have backpacker accommodation to service the Queen Charlotte Sound Track, we know we should get back to the Mail Boat and enjoy the rest of the cruise!

Becoming the skippers

On the wider and more open waters of the Sound, Bruce allows us to get behind the wheel and drive the Mail Boat! Wahoo! We do our best to avoid yachts and islands and we succeed in keeping us all alive. Go us!

(We don’t know if we just give off that ‘boatie flare’, but for some reason, we keep being invited to drive ships and boats in New Zealand, including the freakin’ Interislander ferry! Check out yesterday’s post).

Seals welcome us back

When we see black flippers waving at us from afar, we know we must be returning to Picton Harbour. (Thanks, seals. You’re always so inviting).

We give a massive thanks to Bruce as we leave the Mail Boat feeling we’ve got to see a lot more of the Sounds and all its beauty at a fast pace!

Back at the Tombstone

Back on dry land (or wet land from all the rain), we drive back to Tombstone in the little car we borrowed from the hostel. (Admittedly, Robin didn’t fancy biking into town again in the rain).

Tomorrow, we are exploring Marlborough for what it is most famous for: it’s wine! Yes, we’ll be vineyard hopping and tasting the region’s most spectacular winos. (I.e. we gonna get drrruuunnkkk). See you then!

Keeping out of the rain while searching for dolphins on the Marlborough sounds

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See you tomorrow!


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