If you're traveling to New Zealand to see its raw beauty, then you must put Marlborough Sounds on your list. Its landscape and the solitude it offers, easily make up for the effort it takes to get there.
Unlike most places in New Zealand, Malborough Sounds is virtually impossible to tour by car (or other vehicle). It's a maritime environment, comprising of narrow channels that wind their way through the mountains. In other words, touring by boat is your best option. There are a number of options. You can go through a local tourist agency, book a seat on the mail run boats or use your own equipment (canoe, kayak...) Whatever your choice, you'll find yourself plunged into another universe.
However, before you head off there are some things you need to bear in mind. You may well not cross another human being (important for safety reasons, if you're going out alone), make sure you have a clear map of the waterways, take enough food and drink (if you're planning to be autonomous) and try to plan in advance when and where you'll take breaks or stop for the night. The easiest way to start a tour of Marlborough Sounds is to leave from Havelock, famous for its green-lipped mussels, which, for information, are delicious! This little town is easily reached from Blenheim or Picton, the latter taking you along the stunning Queen Charlotte Coastal Road.
Just remember that you're entering an area that is a bit off the tourist track, so make sure you're fully prepared, to avoid any nasty surprises!
If you're in New Zealand to visit its musuems, lose yourself in its streets and stroll from one monument to another, then you may well feel a bit disorientated in Malborough Sounds ! Here you'll only have its landscape to admire and its museum is Mother Nature herself. But it's spectacular; sunken canals snaking their way through green mountains, a clear unpolluted sky and more hiking trails than you can imagine!
You can still meet people, particularly those who have chosen to live here, from sheep rearers to retired tour guides. Every now and then you'll come across stunning (and very expensive) hotels. Drinking an ice cold beer, by a seaplance, on the banks of a cove is the perfect way to end a day paddling along these rivers. It's something to try at least once during a trip to New Zealand!
If any of you want to try something different, then you should check out working holidays such as Helpx or Wwoofing. It's a great option if you're up for working on a farm for a few days, in return for food and lodging. You could also rent a house during summer and spend a week cut off from the rest of world - cell phone coverage is poor and internet access almost non-existant. Marlborough Sounds: a unique experience in a unique setting!