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Nature & Wildlife

Conservation, wildlife places to go in Marlborough, NZ

  • 3 minutes

Marlborough, New Zealand

Relish your wildlife encounters and places to visit in Marlborough from endangered kiwi and native birds to marine experiences with dolphins. Observe King Shag on predator free islands in the Marlborough Sounds and kayak among shorebirds in the Wairau Lagoon.

Find out about tour operators who can take the hassle out of the holiday and make your memories all about the experience. And for your Marlborough brilliant escape consider one of the accommodation options with nature at your doorstep.

Kaipupu Point Mainland Island sanctuary, NZ
Kaipupu Point Mainland Island sanctuary, NZ

Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary

Discover what local community hard work can achieve at Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary. The island sanctuary is a short boat ride from Picton. Kaipupu is a community project tasked with creating a safe haven for wildlife, such as fantail, kereru, weka, silvereye, grey warbler, tui, bellbird, and kingfisher. Shorebirds include little blue penguins, shags, black-backed gulls, red-billed gulls, and South Island pied oystercatchers.

There is a 2.7 km walking track through beautiful native bush.

Getting there Kaipupu wildlife sanctuary

Usually visitors arrive by water taxi. Remember to check before departure for up to date opening hours.

Paua mollusc farm & eels – Arapawa seafarms

The massive swirling sea serpent myth is alive and well on viewing a mature New Zealand eel. Then the other marine creatures mollusc shelled and paua marine gastropod molluscs are farmed by Arapawa Seafarms.

Observe how the seafarm spawns (breed) wild Paua, grow larvae, and release juveniles back into the wild to replace/increase wild stocks.

Look at how Haliotis iris pearls, also known as blue or Paua pearls are grown and harvested.

@Arapawa Homestead Accommodation
@Arapawa Homestead Accommodation
@Arapawa Homestead Accommodation
@Arapawa Homestead Accommodation

Tour the facilities where you can feed the Paua, enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and some home baking. Additionally we can show you our pet Long-finned eels as you depart the property.

Arapawa Homestead offers accommodation making this one of the truly magnificent holiday experiences. Stay with locals whose lives are intertwined with the marine world.

Arapawa features in our STAY section of the Marlborough guide, things to do.

Getting Arapawa seafarms

Boat or water taxis are the only access to the island. This ensures your peace and privacy for those who wish to get away from it all. It takes approximately 50 minutes by private charter. Check before booking the mail boat has a scheduled stop at Whekenui Bay, Arapawa’s jetty location.

Sting rays, swimming with dolphins

Observe orcas and whales and stingrays. Grab the opportunity to swim with dolphins as they meet and greet visitors to their watery world.

Dolphins Marlborough Sounds, Marlborough, New Zealand
Dolphins, Marlborough, New Zealand



E-ko tours

E-Ko has been running the best tours in Picton and the Marlborough Sounds on and off the water here for over 15 years, with thousands of happy customers.

Beachcomber cruises

Beachcomber Cruises have eight vessels operating throughout the Queen Charlotte Sound. The boats in our fleet vary in size and can cater for groups, functions and weddings. We also offer a range of cruises including our New Zealand Post Mail Run and a private water taxi service operating under the Picton Water Taxis brand.


Cougar Line

Based in Picton at the top of the South Island, Cougar Line provides Marlborough Sounds water transport around Queen Charlotte Sound/Tōtaranui.

Marlborough Sounds Adventure Company

As the oldest adventure company in Marlborough, our knowledge of this marine wonderland and the iconic Queen Charlotte Track that runs through her heart, is second to none. Our adventures are tailored to provide you with the best holiday possible and our end goal is to have you love the Marlborough Sounds as much as we do.

@Marlborough Sounds Adventure Company

Wilderness Guides NZ

Wilderness Guides has been part of the tourism landscape in the Marlborough Sounds for 22 years this October and we don’t plan to be going anywhere, anytime soon.

Sea Kayaking Adventures

Found in Linkwater, Queen Charlotte Drive is a large purpose built base on the Queen Charlotte Drive, with plenty of safe parking. Sea Kayaking offers the best Sea Kayaking, Mountain Biking and Hiking the Sounds has to offer. 1500km of coastline, a Great Ride and the Link Pathway all are accessible from the base for your epic adventure here in the Marlborough Sounds.

Pelorus River, New Zealand
Pelorus River, New Zealand

Observe long tailed bats

Pelorus River Scenic Reserve

Go camping at the picturesque Department of Conservation campgrounds. Enjoy the company of native long tailed bats as they leave their roosts at twilight to forage.

GETING THERE: Check Pelorus River Scenic Reserve for details.


Go kayaking on the Pelorus River and hear about the river’s role in the filming of Lord of Rings.

Maud Island Scientific Reserve

Endangered kiwi and various native birds including the King Shag thrive on predator-free islands in the Marlborough Sounds, as well as tuatara, gecko and native frogs.

Te Pākeka/Maud Island (Scientific Reserve): Places to go in Marlborough are closed to the public except for a few times in the year. If conservation and sustainability is part of your holiday experience then monitor Trips to Maud Island. Contact for details about the upcoming trips. Boats must have permission to land from the Department of Conservation.

The island is a closed scientific reserve. Entry permits are usually only granted for conservation research and DOC weed control programmes.

Maud Island in the Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand
Maud Island in the Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

The island’s past includes Maori occupation for gardening and food production. A place for World War II military posts with a jetty and road being built at this time. As a farm Jack Shand, former owner formally handed ownership back to the Crown with significant assistance from Royal Forest and Bird Society.


Maud Island frog

Maud Island hosts the main population of this species, with approximately 60,000 estimated to live here (2016). The island is home to native geckos and other lizards. The island is a stronghold for a number of rare invertebrate species now extinct or greatly restricted in range on the mainland. These include a giant flesh-eating snail Powelliphanta hochstetteri obscura, the Cook Strait click beetle (Amychus granulatus) and the flax weevil (Anagotus fairburnii).

The surrounding sea is well known as a dolphin haunt.

A rare Malherbe s parakeet on Blumine Island New Zealand
A rare Malherbe s parakeet on Blumine Island New Zealand

Blumine Oruawairua Island Bird Sanctuary – Department of conservation reserve

A slice of a pristine native world where birds and wildlife flourish in a predator free sanctuary. You can pitch a tent on a north-facing seafront site and listen to the all day chorus of the song with a crescendo at dawn. Blumine Island/Oruawairua campsite has 6 non-powered tent sites. Fees apply and check for up to date pricing. Payment: Pay cash or use your Sounds Campsite Pass (available from local i-SITEs) on arrival at the self registration stand. DOC staff check for payments regularly. The DOC Campsite Pass can be used at this campsite.

Oruawairua Track

WWII military ruins can be explored and stunning views await along the island track. It is a 55 minute loop walk with opportunities to observate endangered saddleback or orange fronted parakeet. Blacks Fasteners are supporting the relocation of the endangered yellowhead/mohua onto Blumine Island. The yellowhead/mohua is a small, insect eating bird which lives only in the forests of New Zealand’s South Island and Stewart Island.

Getting to Blumine Island / Oruawairua

Oruawairua Track is on Blumine Island / Oruawairua which is 22 km from Picton in Queen Charlotte Sound. You can get there by your own boat, on a water taxi from Picton or by sea kayak. There are no moorings or jetties so you need to be prepared to anchor your boat and to get wet feet on the beach landing. Since you are visiting a pest free island it is vital that you take steps to ensure you do not jeopardise the island’s pest free status!

Long Island Kokomohua Marine Reserve

  • Snorkelling & Diving
  • Swimming offshore and from a sandy beach

A hidden gem in the Marlborough Sounds, Long Island – Kokomohua Marine Reserve is a great getaway for the whole family. Relax on a sandy beach (it is exposed to the prevailing winds), explore rocky reefs and admire the distinctive landscapes of the Marlborough Sounds. While diving observe (do not remove) fish, crayfish and paua ranging in sizes that are considered rare outside of a marine reserve.

Maps and boundaries: Plan and prepare

Getting to Long Island Kokomohua Marine Reserve

The reserve has submerged rocky ledges and reefs making it a challenge for boaties. Ensure you are with a pilot experienced with the area. The reserve is only accessible by a private or a charter boat. It is 35 km from Picton and can take anywhere between 30 minutes to several hours to travel, depending on sea conditions and the type of boat. There are no jetties on Long Island, but craft can land at an obvious bouldery point on the south-western shore. It is also possible to land in a bay on the island’s eastern side, where concrete generator sheds remain from a World War II submarine detection system.

There are no easy landing sites on Kokomohua Island.  Boat services operate on Queen Charlotte Sound from Picton.


No fishing is allowed in a marine reserve.




Wairau lagoons, including royal spoonbills

Meet the majestic elegant Royal Spoonbills at the sheltered waters of the Wairau lagoon. Visit the lagoons and enjoy one of Marlborough’s top 10 places to go. Allow up to 3 hours to revel in the quiet estuarine world of rushs, reeds and water grasses.

Royal Spoonbill New Zealand bird resident Wairau Lagoon
Royal Spoonbill New Zealand bird resident Wairau Lagoon

Getting to Wairau lagoons

A well marked turnoff from State Highway 1 about 5km south of Blenheim. Another way to visit the lagoons is by kayak. There are information panels near the rusting Waverly shipwreck.

Lochmara Lodge, Marlborough Sounds

A great family and friends destination with the opportunity to explore the Marlborough Sounds Wildlife Recovery Centre nestled within the lodge boundaries. The centre specialises in the rehabilitation of injured wild species, in partnership with the Department of Conservation, as well as protection, enhancement and education. Kids will enjoy meeting kune kune pigs, weta (insects), geckos (lizards) and eels.

Lochmara Lodge breeds kakariki for eventual release into predator-free environments. Kakariki are small green parrots feeding on berries, seeds, fruit and insects. At Lochmara Lodge kids and adults can be part of the feeding time for the chance to get up close. The birds are a brilliant emerald green colour.

@Lochmara Lodge
@Lochmara Lodge

Lochmara Lodge is part of the STAY section in the Marlborough guide, things to do.



Wither Hills, working farm, open to public, Marlborough, New Zealand
Wither Hills, working farm, open to public, Marlborough, New Zealand

Marlborough brilliant every day is arguably New Zealand’s sunshine capital

Stretch your legs and enjoy the views of the Marlborough Sounds on the Queen Charlotte track.

Scroll through Top 10 things to do in Marlborough and get going.

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