Story: Marlborough places

Page 3. Outer Sounds

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Pelorus Sound

Pelorus Sound is aligned roughly north–south from its seaward beginning at Kaitira (East Entry Point) and Te Akaroa (West Entry Point) to Havelock at its head.

Guided by whaler Jacky Guard, HMS Pelorus was the first European vessel to enter the sound, in 1838. Allen Strait, between offshore Forsyth Island and the mainland, is also known as Guards Pass, and links Guards Bay and Forsyth Bay. Mussels are farmed in a number of bays.

The Nydia Track starts at Kaiuma Bay (reached circuitously from Havelock via a bridge across the Pelorus River a few kilometres west of Canvastown). The track follows the valley to Nydia Bay and Nydia Lodge (accessed only by boat or walking), and ends at Tennyson Inlet.

Portage stories

Also known as the Torea saddle, the Portage is the neck of land at which Kenepuru and Queen Charlotte sounds approach each other most closely. Mid-19th-century settler Robert Blaymires regularly carried his boat from Torea to Kenepuru, and gave the name Portage to the route. Plans for a tunnel between the two sounds were never acted on. For many years the Portage lodge on Kenepuru Sound was one of the Sounds’ most glamorous hotels. It was revived in the 1980s, becoming popular with weekend visitors from Wellington and Christchurch.

Kenepuru Sound

Once called Coniston Water after a British lake, Kenepuru Sound is an arm of Pelorus Sound. It is parallel to Queen Charlotte Sound, from which it is separated by a spine of land at its narrowest at Te Māhia Bay and Portage Bay. Resorts and holiday houses are found at both bays and the latter along the road between them.

Mt Stokes

Mt Stokes (1,203 m), the highest point in the Sounds, is surrounded by a large expanse of native forest. It was probably named after John Stokes, commander of the 1849 survey vessel Acheron. Plantation forestry is the main economic activity on the lower slopes. There is also farming, particularly at Kenepuru Head, Waitāria Bay and Manaroa, and holiday houses, especially at Nōpera and Crail Bay.

Chetwode Islands

A nature reserve comprising two islands, Nukuwaiata and Te Kākaho. The group is named for Lieutenant Chetwode, acting commander of the Pelorus. Nearby Tītī Island, off Titirangi Bay, is a nature reserve. Titirangi Bay has much evidence of historic Māori cultivation.

Port Gore

Large bay between Capes Lambert and Jackson. In February 1986 the Russian cruise ship Mikhail Lermontov, leaving the Marlborough Sounds on its way to Milford Sound, hit rocks off Cape Jackson. It sank just over five hours later in Port Gore, by which time all but one of the 738 crew and passengers had been rescued. Lying 30 metres underwater, the wreck attracts divers.

Outer Queen Charlotte Sound

The outer part of Queen Charlotte Sound (Tōtaranui) is flanked by Arapawa Island to the east and Mt Stokes to the west, with Cape Jackson and Cape Koamaru its western and eastern headlands. James Cook named the sound for Charlotte, wife of British ruler George III, in 1770. Major bays include Cannibal Cove, Ship Cove, Resolution Bay, Endeavour Inlet, Bay of Many Coves, and East Bay on Arapawa Island.


The principal islands in the outer sound are Motuara, Long Island, Blumine Island and Pickersgill Island, the latter named after an officer on Cook’s ship, the Endeavour. Long Island is surrounded by Long Island–Kokomohua Marine Reserve; Motuara is a historic reserve. A plaque on Motuara records Cook claiming the South Island for George III on 31 January 1770.

Ship Cove

Popular bay for boating, where the Endeavour first dropped anchor in the South Island in January 1770. Cook returned there in the course of his second Pacific voyage in the Resolution in April and November 1773 and October 1774 – and in February 1777 on his third Pacific voyage. Ship Cove is a historic reserve.

Endeavour Inlet

Popular summer recreation area, with resorts at Punga Cove and Furneaux Lodge. By 1887 an antimony smelter was operating at the inlet with around 50 workers, but the quantities were too small and the company failed in 1892.

The inlet acquired notoriety on New Year’s Eve 1997, when Marlborough locals Ben Smart and Olivia Hope disappeared from Furneaux Lodge. Their bodies were never found, but Scott Watson of Picton was convicted of their murder in September 1999.

Queen Charlotte Track

Walking track from Anakiwa near the head of Queen Charlotte Sound, which opened in 1993. It follows the watershed between Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru sounds, descending to Endeavour Inlet, then taking an overland route to Resolution Bay and Ship Cove. The track, 71 km long, is usually walked (most often from the Ship Cove end) in three to five days, or cycled in two to three. Packs can be shipped from one overnight stop to another.

The outer Queen Charlotte Track reaches Cape Jackson, passing penguin nests, a shag colony and old gold mines.

How to cite this page:

Malcolm McKinnon, 'Marlborough places - Outer Sounds', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 21 May 2024)

Story by Malcolm McKinnon, published 12 May 2012, updated 18 Jun 2015