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Marlborough (Queen Charlotte)

41°5'38" S 174°14'4" N

Marlborough Sounds (Queen Charlotte Sound)

Covering some 4,000 km² of sounds, islands, and peninsulas, the Marlborough Sounds lie at the South Island’s north-easternmost point and makes 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.

Marlborough Sounds is made up of four Sounds:

  • Queen Charlotte
  • Pelorus
  • Kenepuru
  • Mahau

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.

Queen Charlotte Sound has calm water and is popular for sailing – a marked contrast to the notorious waters of Cook Strait.

Queen Charlotte Sound suits ships wanting some scenic cruising. Only very small vessels can anchor and they tend to be at Ships Cove or Motuara Island.

For ships wanting to berth, berths are available in Picton.

Contact your shipping agent for more information.

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.

The Sounds are home to the entire breeding population of the rare and vulnerable Rough-faced Shag (also known as the New Zealand King Cormorant) which nests on a small number of rocky islets there. The Department of Conservation manages a total of over 50 reserves in the area.

Destination Marlborough
Contact: Tracy Johnston, General Manager

Port Marlborough
Contact: Carmen Gimpl , GM Operations

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