Marlborough Sounds

The Marlborough Sounds are an extensive network of sea-drowned valleys created by a combination of land subsidence and rising sea levels at the north of the South Island of New Zealand. According to Māori mythology, the sounds are the prows of the sunken waka (canoe) of Aoraki.


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Covering some 4,000 km² of sounds, islands, and peninsulas, the Marlborough Sounds lie at the South Island's north-easternmost point, between Tasman Bay in the west and Cloudy Bay in the south-east. The almost fractalcoastline has 1/5th of the length of New Zealand's coasts.

The steep, wooded hills and small quiet bays of the sounds are sparsely populated, as access is difficult. Many of the small settlements and isolated houses are only accessible by boat. The main large port is Picton on the mainland, at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound. It is at the northern terminus of the South Island's main railway and State Highway networks. The main small boat port is Waikawa which is one of New Zealand's largest and provides a base for leisure sailors and vacationers.

The main sounds, other than Queen Charlotte Sound, are Pelorus Sound and Kenepuru Sound. Tory Channel is a major arm of Queen Charlotte Sound, and between them they isolate the hills of Arapawa Island from the mainland. Other islands in the sounds include D'Urville Island.

DOC manages a total of over 50 reserves in the area.