There was an interesting article about paddling in New Zealand in Issue 44 of NSW Sea Kayaker, that is, interesting picking out the mistakes. Unfortunately the writer doesn’t seem to actually have been across Cook Strait to the ‘Mainland’.
The Marlborough Sounds consist of 3 parts, Queen Charlotte Sound, Pelorus Sound and Kenepuru Sound, the last two of them are joined. Torea Bay is just across the water north from Picton (not down the Sound). I often have a day of gales in Queen Charlotte Sound but not so when paddling the other two Sounds but that is not to say that it isn’t possible to get a week or two of reasonably good weather and with a little luck with no more wind than one would expect on any coast in the form of sea breezes. There’s a day or two of paddling over the hill from Queen Charlotte Sound in Port Underwood.
More importantly for visitors, at Queen Charlotte Sound there is one hire outfit in Picton, one just round the corner at Waikawa Bay and one to the east (and north side) at Anakiwa.
At Pelorus Sound there are two in Havelock and one at Elaine Bay with transport from Nelson.
At the top of the Marlborough Sounds lies D’Urville Island, at least a 4 day trip and one operator working out of French Pass village.
Abel Tasman National Park depends on the last count but I have heard the figure of 10 operators, 3 big ones at Marahau and others working out of Nelson and Motueka providing transport to the Park. There is one operator at the north end. I personally wouldn’t recommend going there over the Christmas/New Year break and the later in the year the better. Some really good paddling in winter if a frosty morning doesn’t deter one.
There are a series of central lakes in the South Island besides the southern lakes.
Of the southern lakes, Wakatipu is completely different from the Fiordland lakes mentioned in the article in the same paragraph. It is surrounded by mainly bare mountains and is similar to Lake Wanaka, a little to the north and much more like the central South Island lakes. The Fiordland lakes, Manapouri and Te Anau are actually joined and Manapouri isn’t long and narrow. Easy enough to find at least 3 or 4 days paddling in each.
Fiordland can be paddled by beginners (Milford) as well as only slightly more experienced paddlers with an outfitter in Te Anau providing transport and kayaks into Doubtful Sound. There are other operators providing paddling in Milford but that is only a day paddle (5 hours out to Stirling Falls and back). Dusky Sound would need some arranging (fishing boats or helicopter) or working with the operator in Te Anau and being transported by boat to the Sound which would give you an accompanying support boat.
Banks Peninsula is the paddling area for the greatest concentration of ‘owner’ paddlers (paddlers who are not hiring) in the South Island. Two long harbours, each about 16 km long and a rugged coast with interesting features in between; Lyttelton, about 10-30 minutes from Christchurch (depends which suburb), and Akaroa, about an hour away. The furthest bays are a bit over an hour’s drive away. Great area for year round paddling. About a 50 mile paddle from Lyttelton to Akaroa. Note the towns and the harbours have the same names (i.e. Lyttelton the town, Lyttelton Harbour).
The West Coast has a number of lakes which are well worth a visit.
Punakaiki on the coast is an interesting place to paddle (only an hour or so) but I will admit it’s on an open coast and very weather dependant.
Stewart Island – 2 operators and a large sheltered area for paddling, Patterson Inlet, 3-4 day trip at least. With one’s own kayak there is semi-sheltered paddling, down the east coast a bit would extent the range, after that it gets serious.
Climate – Auckland is wet. Parts of the South Island can be dry for months at a time. It can be cold in winter with frosts at sea level at the north end of the South Island and snow further south. It can be generally expected that there’ll be rain in the south west every few days, only proved wrong now and again when someone comes back from a couple of weeks of fine weather paddling there!
Canterbury Sea Kayak Network