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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 26 June, 2023
Expert travel writer: Mark Chipperfield

The 40 or so families living in traditional, isolated settlements around Queen Charlotte Sound rely on the ‘Magic Mail Run’ ferry to bring them their post and groceries.

Apart from offering the chance to experience a charming local ritual, this four-hour round trip takes the visitor deep into one of New Zealand’s remarkable wilderness regions – the Marlborough Sounds – a truly dramatic landscape of steep cliffs, thickly wooded hills and remote coves and inlets. Seals, dolphins, seabirds and other wildlife abound.

Price from: £50
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 10+
When: All year around
Duration: 4 hours

Getting there & doing it

The magic mail boat departs from the main harbour at Picton – just a few minutes’ walk from the town centre. There are multiple stops at isolated communities scattered along its remote shorelines. The boat delivers mail, groceries and even corrected homework.

The boat can take up to 80 passengers, so you don’t need to book. Turn up by 1pm latest. Cruises last approximately four hours.

There is free tea and coffee onboard, but bring your own snacks. And just remember, if you get off, you’ll need to camp overnight.

When to do it

Operates all year round, Monday-Saturday. No service Sunday.

While the summer months offer more pleasant weather, it’s equally dramatic during cold and wet weather.

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