The intricate waterways of the Marlborough Sounds make up a fifth of the New Zealand coastline.
According to legend, the Marlborough Sounds were formed when Kupe, a great Maori warrior, was chasing a giant octopus and finally caught it in Cook Strait. The battle that ensued formed the waterways and headlands of the Sounds.
The Marlborough Sounds are best explored on water, with a range of cruises and activities from a self-guided kayak excursion to a chartered luxury yacht. There are four Sounds that link together to make the Marlborough Sounds each offering a different experience; the Queen Charlotte, Pelorus, Kenepuru and Mahau.
The Queen Charlotte Sound
The Queen Charlotte Sound is the most well known and visited of the four sounds and is also the scenic highlight of the inter-island ferry journey from Wellington to Picton. At the head of the Sound is Ship Cove where visitors can trace the steps of Captain Cook: Motuara Island, now a bird sanctuary, is where he claimed British sovereignty over the South Island. Queen Charlotte Sound is also home to the Queen Charlotte Track; 71 kilometres of spectacular walking tracks that traverse historic sites, secluded bays, skyline ridges and coastal bush.
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There are water activities galore in the Marlborough Sounds: jump aboard one of the scheduled services for a guided tour, to meet some of the locals join a mail boat as it delivers everything from the weekly shop to a Shetland pony! If you prefer to make your own way then sailing or kayaking are great ways to explore, and getting close to wildlife is easy with dolphin swimming and visits to one of the Sounds’ many wildlife sanctuaries. After a hard day’s sightseeing, chill out with a glass of Marlborough wine and some freshly caught mussels in Havelock, the Green Shell Mussel Capital of the World.
The Magical Marlborough Sounds are located at the top of the South Island, definitely a cruising area to be experienced. Click on the “holidays” menu to find examples of boating holidays in and around the Sounds.
With its network of submerged mountain valleys, numerous Islands and tranquil sheltered bays, bush-clad hills and almost 1500 km of deep-water coastline to explore, the Sounds are a cruising paradise. If you like to avoid the crowds in the cruising areas up North, the
Marlborough Sounds is the right place to be.
The two major Sounds, the Queen Charlotte and the Pelorus Sound form the heart of this cruising area. Of the several offshore Islands D’urville Island is the largest one. D’urville is separated from the mainland by the narrow, tidal channel of French Pass. Scenery is spectacular, ranging from towering forest clad mountains, through tranquil bays and coves to the rugged exposed shoreline of D’urville Island. West of D’urville is Tasman Bay. A cruise across this bay will reward you with the sight of golden beaches.
What area you will cover during your holiday will depend on the length of your charter, the weather, and your charter vessel and of course your own requirements. Compass Charters is based in Waikawa Marina in the Queen Charlotte Sound. There will be plenty to see and do while you are cruising. You will be able to moor up at night at one of the private and secure charter moorings. Hike in native bush like the Queen Charlotte Track, Nydia track and several other walking tracks located around these waterways. Walk up to the summit of Motuara Island to enjoy the amazing views, while listening to the beautiful birdsong. Follow in the footsteps of Captain Cook and visit historical Ship’s Cove or admire the remnants of the Whaling station in Te Awaiti Bay. There is plenty of history to be discovered.
To experience the Pelorus Sound you will have to head around Cape Jackson. Parts of the Pelorus are like the Queen Charlotte also flanked impressively with native forest-clad hills. A beautiful example is the surroundings of World’s End. This is also the start of the Nydia Walk to Nydia Bay and beyond. Ferns and Nikau palms are growing in abundance along this track.
Rugged D’urville is surrounded by plenty of wildlife. At Stephens Island passage, food layers are whirled up from the deep, attracting the remainder of the species from the food chain. French pass will certainly be an exciting and navigational challenge for the more experienced sailors.
The Sounds are also used for marine farming. The most famous kind is the green-lipped mussel farm. You will find most of them in Pelorus Sound but they can also be seen in Tory Channel and Port Underwood.
There are also a couple of Paua farms and several salmon farms.
Much of the wildlife of the Sounds is best viewed from the water. While you are chartering you might have the chance to visit the gannet colony in East Bay. If they are not there, they might be diving for some food near a school of Kahawai. Other bird life will include: Blue Penguin, different species of shags, terns, and mutton-birds and of course sea gulls.
On the Land you will find parrots, saddleback, robins, fantails, bellbirds, and the large wood pigeon. Dolphins (common, bottlenose, dusky and the rare Hectors) are frequent visitors. If you are very lucky, you even might see the world’s biggest dolphins, Orcas. There will be no shortage of seals either. And if you are venturing in the underwater realm there will be numerous other species to admire. Some of those could also be on the menu. You should still be able to catch Blue Cod, Sea Perch, Gurnard, Terakihi, Kahawai and for some maybe a Snapper or Kingfish. When not too fussy to get wet green-lipped or blue mussels, paua, crayfish, butterfish and scallop are still within your reach.