7 days in the Marlborough Sounds on a superyacht

Picton / Tawa Bay

The Marlborough Sounds are one of New Zealand’s best-kept secrets – an area of sea-drowned valleys at the top of the South Island, where fingers of deep water reach between the hills. It is a maze of waterways dotted with small bays and tiny sounds. The waterways consist of three large sounds – Queen Charlotte Sound, Kenepuru Sound and Pelorus Sound.

Abundant indigenous forest around the Marlborough Sounds is home to native wildlife, while the deep waters teem with dolphins and seals. And it is here that you can sample the local delicacy – green-lipped mussels, washed down with that famed Marlborough wine – Sauvignon Blanc.

Most of the 550 mussel farms are located in the Marlborough Sounds, while one of the best wine regions in the world lies further inland with an abundance of acclaimed wineries where Marlborough’s finest Sauvignon Blancs can be sampled.

Whether visiting on a private yacht or planning a luxury yacht charter in New Zealand the area has plenty to offer.

Day 1: Picton / Tawa Bay

Join the yacht in Picton, a small, harbourside town, nestled at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound, known as ‘the gateway to the Marlborough Sounds’. Spend some time in the village, exploring quaint arts and crafts shops, or take a helicopter flight for a spectacular overview of the coastline.

Departing Picton Marina, cruise down Queen Charlotte Sound, taking in the magnificent scenery before anchoring in Tawa Bay in the Endeavour Inlet, one of the many places connected to Captain Cook, who used the Sounds as a base from which to explore the Southern Ocean. Spend the afternoon exploring bays and inlets by kayak.

Wine aficionados may wish to make an inland excursion to one of Malborough’s wineries for a wine tasting and end the day with a meal at Herzog Restaurant.

Picture courtesy of  Yevgen Belich/Shutterstock.com

Ship’s Cove / Ketu Bay

After breakfast on board, set out for a hike along a stretch of one of New Zealand’s great walks — the Queen Charlotte Track from Resolution Bay to Ship’s Cove, where Captain Cook set up a camp on his voyages to New Zealand. The elevated track offers great views of the Sound and your yacht at anchor.

Arrive to find a picnic lunch set up by your crew, which can be enjoyed with a spot of bird-watching — look out for oyster catchers, paradise shell ducks and pied shags. You may even be paid a visit by a weka — a flightless native bird with a very curious nature.

The afternoon could be spent on Long Island, great for fishing, snorkelling or diving, or meeting the penguins of the Motuara Island bird sanctuary, which has magnificent 360 degree views from atop an old gun emplacement.

Leaving Queen Charlotte Sound, head around Cape Jackson and through Allen Strait into Forsyth Bay, anchoring for the night in Ketu Bay.

Picture courtesy of Jiri Foltyn/Shutterstock.com

Tennyson Inlet

Cruise down the Pelorus Sound – a long, drowned valley with steep, wooded slopes that extends some 31 miles inland – keeping an eye out for dolphins while heading for ‘World’s End’, where three inlets terminate.

Those looking to walk off lunch can follow the well-kept trail at the head of Tennyson Inlet for an invigorating hour-and-a-half climb through the forest to a ridge overlooking Nydia Bay to the south, while the more adventurous could walk the entire 5-hour Nydia Bay Track. Alternatively take out the water toys, go swimming, snorkelling or kayaking.

Picture courtesy of Zoonar Gmb H/Shutterstock.com

Stephens Island / D’urville Island

In the morning, continue back up the Popoure Reach to the Waitata Reach in the Pelorus Sound, passing the wildlife sanctuary of the Chetwode Islands, and perhaps stopping to do some fishing nearby. If there’s time, take the tender to the private island of Forsyth which can be explored on foot.

Then head for the ruggedly beautiful D’Urville Island passing Stephens Island — unique home to the tuatara, a type of gecko. Anchor for the night in Port Hardy, a natural harbour on D’Urville Island, which is named after a French explorer who was a botanist and linguist.

PIcture courtesy of Rudmer Zwerver/Shutterstock.com

Grevill Harbour / Guard’s Bay

After leaving the spectacular Port Hardy, proceed down the rugged coastline of D’Urville Island, perhaps stopping for lunch in Grevill Harbour, or taking the tender ashore to meander along one of the island’s fantastic walking tracks or partaking in a spot of cray fishing.

Continue on to Current Basin, passing through the narrows of French Pass to reach Guard’s Bay where you can spend the afternoon messing around on water toys.

Picture courtesy of Tomas Pavelka/Shutterstock.com

Motuara Island / Bay Of Many Coves

Cruise back around Alligator Head, calling into Port Gore so that the divers onboard can explore the wreck of the Mikhail Lermontov, one of the best shipwreck dives in the world this Russian cruise liner sank after venturing too close to the coast in 1983.

Return to the Queen Charlotte Sound, anchoring off Motuara Island, famous for its native birds and wild penguins, for a walk to the lookout platform that offers a panoramic 360-degree view of the sound, including Cook Strait. Alternatively moor off the next door Long Island for some stunning diving and snorkelling in the marine reserve.

Anchor the night in the Bay of Many Coves and dine at the resort restaurant ashore, where the chef prepares seasonal dishes with fresh Marlborough ingredients – green lipped mussels, plump, succulent scallops, cherries, stone fruits, olives and grapes.

Picture courtesy of Noradoa/Shutterstock.com

The Brothers Islands / Tory Channel / Lochmara Bay

Sail to Cape Koamaru at the head of the Queen Charlotte Sound, into Cook Strait and past The Brothers Islands, another wildlife sanctuary with a prominent lighthouse on top and buildings that used to house the families who ran the light before it was automated. This is a good place to fish for one of New Zealand’s best fish – the blue cod.

Cruise down the rugged coastline and enter Tory Channel, where you can stop off to visit a perfectly preserved whaling station. Take a leisurely cruise back down the sound to Lochmara Bay, where you will bid the yacht and crew farewell before returning to Picton.

Picture courtesy of Mike Fennell/Shutterstock.com

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