All aboard with the Marlborough Sounds Mail boat!

There’s something very appealing about being a postie – you see a lot of places, deliver a lot of eagerly awaited mail, and meet a lot of people.  And one of the best places in the world for the job has to be New Zealand’s magnificent Marlborough Sounds at the top of the South Island.  

The best news for visitors to the Marlborough Sounds is – anyone can tag along with the local postie boat to see some of its most remote and pristine bays and beaches.

Isolated homes in the Marlborough Sounds depend on the Postal boat service

Marlborough Sounds actually has four sounds  – Queen Charlotte, Kenepuru and Pelorus and Mahau.    The post – parcels, letters, food, building materials etc – is delivered by boat three times a week, and for a fee, visitors can go along for the ride!  If you fancy repeating the trip, pick a different day – because the boat has varying routes.

The Pelorus Mail Boat has been delivering mail by water to residents in the Marlborough Sounds since 1918. And even in these days of internet communications, it is still a necessary and valuable service.

I travelled with them back in 2014, and apart from the introduction of a newer postie boat and a higher fee since then, little has changed.  Marlborough Sounds remains one of the world’s most beautiful areas with a special charm of its own, and the chance to sail with the postal boat service is a unique opportunity for visitors.

The boat drops by jetties in numerous exquisitely beautiful and isolated bays where it is met by locals and a lot of dogs trained to do parcel pickup!   And I do mean a LOT OF DOGS!

They accompany their owners collecting the mail. But it’s clear many of these canine New Zealanders see the pick-up of mail as their job. They intently watch the postie boat as it pulls up to their jetty – a jump ahead of their owners to collect mail bags. If there was an international competition for the best dog postal pick-ups, Marlborough Sounds would surely win a Gold medal!

The postie boat also drops off people joining walking tracks or visiting specific areas of the Sounds. Whilst there are homes and some tourist developments in the Sounds, there also are more than 50 reserves run by the New Zealand Department of Conservation.  Included is one of NZ’s great land routes – the Queen Charlotte track for walkers and mountain bikers.  

One of the multitude of picturesque bays along the route
You can disembark to explore or enjoy your picnic lunch
Crystal clear water in Marlborough Sounds

The mail run provides a full day tour for visitors, operating out of Havelock, about 35 km from Picton.  Take your own lunch – there’s a good picnic stop – tea and coffee are provided on board.  The 2022 price is $130 adults, $50 children between 5 and 15 years of age.  

It departs Havelock at 10 am, returning between 3.30 to 4.40pm.  This is a mail run after-all, so everything depends on how many deliveries need to be made. Bring your own picnic lunch.  Tea, coffee and hot water is provided aboard. 

For more details check out:

I also suggest you take your camera because the beauty of the Marlborough Sounds can be so overwhelming it’s hard to take it all in.  It’s also great to look back on with photos – even eight years later – and remember a wonderful voyage!

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