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Maritimo boating destinations - magic Marlborough Sounds

by Maritimo 1 May 14:15 PDT
Marlborough Sounds © Maritimo

New Zealand is considered one of the most picturesque countries in the world with its breath-taking landscapes. Nestled at the tip of the South Island is one of New Zealand's most remarkable natural wonders, Te Tauihu-o-te-Waka; the Marlborough Sounds.

'The Sounds', as it is affectionately known as, is perfect for anyone looking for wilderness and adventure, yet still offering all the luxury comforts, and this just has to make it the perfect place for cruising.

This area is full of stunning beauty, crystal clear waters, isolated coves, and also offers some of the world's best seafood and wine. It's also rich in early New Zealand history, and has some of the country's most important conservation efforts, with a plethora of National Parks to see.

The Sounds covers an area of 4000 square kilometres, from Tasman Bay in the West to Cloudy Bay in the Southeast. There are four main sounds that make up the Marlborough Sounds region; Queen Charlotte Sound, also known as Totaranui, Kenepute Sound, Pelorus Sound, and Mahau Sound.

The area was created around 10,000 years ago following the last ice age. The movement of the tectonic plates caused the ancient river valleys to be flooded by the sea, thus creating an intricate network of sheltered inlets, bays, coves and islands. Representing one fifth of New Zealand's total coastline, the 1,500 kilometres of lush, forested coastline, much of which is only accessible by boat, provides endless opportunities to explore this wilderness away from others.

Conrad Gair from one of Maritimo's of New Zealand's consultancies, 36 Degrees Brokers, has been visiting the area for decades, and just simply calls it, "God's country! There is just so much to do. 520 nautical miles from Auckland, it is a destination that you can easily spend four to six weeks exploring all the different coves and sounds going from anchorage to anchorage with your boat."

Anchoring in many parts of the Sounds is in very deep water (10 metres plus) close to shore, so it is very common to also use stern anchors. Another option is to join one of the boating or cruising clubs, which are inexpensive, and this gives you exclusive access to about serviced 100 moorings situated in some of the best location across the entire region. These are more bountiful than the public moorings.

However, you do need to keep an eye on the weather as fronts can come through, but there are so many coves you can go in to, where you will be totally protected.

Due to its unique ecosystem and the growing number of conservation reserves there is an abundance of wildlife. It is home to a diverse range of bird species including the famed Kiwi. The area is also home to the entire breeding population of the rare and vulnerable rough-faced shag (also known as the New Zealand king cormorant/king shag), which nests on a small number of rocky islets. It is common to see blue penguins, seals, bottlenose dolphins, Hecto's dolphins, and if you are lucky, you might even see orca or humpback whales. There is also the Tuatara reptile.

The area has rich Maori and European history. Captain James Cook made anchor at Ship Cove, located in the Queen Charlotte Sound, in the early 1770s to replenish his ship's stores. He fell in love with the place, making it his favourite rest stop in between exploratory expeditions. The cove is an excellent spot for a swim, or take a picnic lunch on to the beach.

It is also the starting point for the iconic Queen Charlotte Track. This is a 73.5km track that you can bike ride or walk through lush native bush, and offers stunning views of Marlborough Sound, literally everywhere. There are guided tours and accommodation on offer should you want to make it a longer stay.

The Sounds is not only about amazing views. It is also a region famous for producing some of the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world, brought about from the combination of sunny days and then cool nights, which extends the ripening period for the grapes on the vines, and it is this that delivers the more intense flavour and aroma characteristics that these wines celebrate. Marlborough's wineries account for 75% of all wine produced in New Zealand. Some of the wineries include Cloudy Bay, Brancott Estate Wines, and Hans Herzog Estate Organic Winery. Waikawa and Picton Marina in Queen Charlotte Sound provide options to berth your boat and explore local vineyards.

The region is highly regarded for its farmed salmon and green mussels. 75% and 70% of New Zealand's bounty of these species come from here. Havelock is worth at least a lunch stop to try the delicacies. Mills Bay Mussels Tasting Room is the favourite with all visitors.

If you and your guests are after a little pampering, Marlborough Sounds also offers a number of luxury resorts, similar to what you would find in Europe, where you can pick up a mooring and they will come out to collect you. You can stay for lunch or stay longer and enjoy the offerings of the area.

The Bay of Many Coves is a luxury five-star resort set in the heart of the Queen Charlotte Sound in a secluded bay offers a world class fine dining experience or you may choose to spend some time at the Day Spa or even stay ashore for a while.

D'Urville Island Wilderness Resort is a more remote option located in Catherine Cove, should you be looking for added peace from less foot traffic. It is home to only fifty permanent residents, and only accessible by boat or helicopter. The Wilderness Café offers a fine waterfront dining experience. Gair says of this location, "This is a very cool spot and is so memorable, regardless of the weather."

D'Urville is also known for its hiking and cycling trails, offering panoramic views of the Sounds. It is also an excellent spot to enjoy some fishing in Stephen's Passage and the French Pass, where Kingfish, Schnapper, Grouper, and Blue Cod are on offer.

While Marlborough Sounds is sparsely inhabited and has many wilderness areas, it is still accessible for your guests to fly in or out of Picton or Blenheim. Restocking for your trip with food, produce and diesel can also be done at Picton.

Conrad Gair has now opened a 36 Degrees office in Picton, should you need any help with arrangements with your trip to this magnificent area.

Marlborough Sounds has magnificent scenery, food, wineries, accessibility for your guests, combined with ability to escape and explore by finding your own bit of paradise in one of the many secluded bays. It is a place of so many opportunities, and literally is, magic...

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