History and culture
According to Maori tradition, the South Island is the canoe of Aoraki. Its sunken prow forms Queen Charlotte Sound/Totaranui and Pelorus Sound/Te Hoiere. The sounds provided good shelter and food for Maori. To avoid travelling by sea from one sound to another, they carried their waka/canoes over low saddles.
Captain James Cook also used the sounds for shelter and food. He made Meretoto/Ship Cove his base in the 1770s and discovered a plant (Cooks scurvy grass) high in vitamin C to cure scurvy. On Motuara Island, he proclaimed British sovereignty over the South Island. Some areas are known for their whaling history.
Access this area by boat or from Queen Charlotte Drive between Picton and Havelock.
Know before you go
- The weather in the Sounds is generally mild, but conditions can change quickly, especially on the water. Ensure that you have adequate equipment and experience, and, if you are going out on the water, check the marine weather forecast.
- The Sounds has a restricted fire season all year round and any fire must have a permit.
- Boil, filter, or treat water for drinking. On some tracks you must carry water.
- In late summer and autumn, carry antihistamine if allergic to wasp stings.
Marlborough Sounds Foreshore Reserve permits
Residents and bach owners adjacent to Sounds Foreshore Reserve may be permitted to construct and maintain access related structures and tracks on the reserve. Get more information.