Queen Charlotte Sound

Image: Shellie Evans | ©


Camp at one of the many coastal campsites, or take in spectacular bays from the numerous tracks. Visit Captain Cook's favourite New Zealand base.

Place overview


  • Camping
  • Mountain biking
  • Walking and tramping

In this section

Find things to do and places to stay Queen Charlotte Sound/Tōtaranui area

About this place

History and culture

According to Māori tradition, the South Island is the canoe of Aoraki. Its sunken prow forms Queen Charlotte Sound/Tōtaranui and Pelorus Sound/Te Hoiere. The sounds provided good shelter and food for Māori. 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.

Getting there

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.


Whakatū / Nelson Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 546 9339
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Email:   nelsonvc@doc.govt.nz
Address:   Millers Acre/Taha o te Awa
79 Trafalgar Street
Nelson 7010
Postal Address:   Private Bag 5
Nelson 7042
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