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This will literally be a ‘post’ with a difference! Most of us will have done some form of lake or sea cruise before on our travels, but how about one with a fun (and functional) twist?
Rural New Zealand mail has been delivered by boat for over 150 years in the Queen Charlotte Sounds. The Picton Mail Boat Cruise (run by Beachcomber Cruises) allows you to be part of that service and literally get hands on with passing over parcels and mail bags to local residents. It runs 6 days a week (Monday to Saturday), and each day, the route slightly changes based on where needs to be delivered to.
Picton, at the top of New Zealand’s south island, is a beautiful place to visit given its coastal position. It is where you first arrive if you are getting the Interislander ferry (or Bluebridge) from the north island. The sights you see on the mail boat, as you journey along the Cook Straight and into the majestic Marlborough Sounds are similar to those that you see on the ferry, but in much more smaller (and more picturesque) bays.
On the day we set sail to watch and help deliver post, we were treated to glorious sunny skies and good weather. Note that it can get quite breezy on the top outdoor deck so do bring along some warmer clothes as well.
Our Captain for the day provided us with running commentary during the trip (and also reminded us slightly of a New Zealand version of ‘Dog The Bounty Hunter’ with his amazing long blond hair!). As well as introducing us to all the locals via the tannoy, we were also given a historical overview of the area as well as lots of interesting facts. The one minor downside to the cruise is that due to the engine noise inside and out, it can be quite hard to hear the commentary so if you are keen to capture every spoken word, it might be best to sit indoors downstairs, near to the Captain.
At our first delivery of the day, the Captain asked for a volunteer to hand over both the mailbag at the dock plus treat the resident doggy to a dog biscuit. Caroline gamely volunteered and we are pleased to report she didn’t fall in (just).
At each stop, a different volunteer is the bearer of post, packages and parcels to the lucky island recipient. This is what makes this mail boat cruise such fun – you get to meet and interact with locals. Plus most dwellings have dogs who are so happy to see the boat arrive, and run down the piers to eagerly greet you (although that may have something to do with the dog biscuits that were handed out at each stop!).
From outlying farms to incredibly remote accommodation, the cruise delivers to a wide variety of local and appreciative residents. The backstories to the area and people we meet make this much more fascinating than your typical cruise.
Once the deliveries were out of the way, we picked up some local residents to ferry back to Picton, as well as making a short stop at historic Ship Cove, Meretoto. This is where Captain James Cook anchored the Endeavour in 1770, to replenish their supplies. A statue and interpretive panels also detail the history of the site here, if you wish to learn more.
Once back on board and before the final departure back to Picton, you can warm up and quench your thirst with some complimentary tea and coffee.
We really relished this Mail Boat Cruise, mainly because it was so different from similar activities. You encounter local people and appreciate what it must be like to live so remotely and have to rely on others to provide a lifeline to all your supplies and post. The remote lifestyle wouldn’t suit us (we love going to bars and restaurants too much!) but it makes you think about what life would be like to live in the rugged yet ravishing sound surroundings of Picton. Like the outlying residents, we hope you enjoyed this ‘post’.
Backpacker: Piwaka Lodge / Tombstone Lodge
Flashpacker: Picton Waterfront Luxury Apartments / Harbour View Motel
More New Zealand blog posts
- Things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand
- Things to do in Nelson, New Zealand
- A day trip to Milford Sound, New Zealand
- A Guide to Arrowtown, New Zealand
- Wine Tasting at Gibbston Valley, Queenstown
- Visiting the Monteith’s brewery in Greymouth
- Visiting the Moeraki Boulders, South Island
Disclosure: We were invited onto the Picton Mail Cruise by Beachcomber Cruises, but as always, opinions are all our own.
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