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Marlborough Sounds | New Zealand | Sounds Superb!

Some say that travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. If this is so, the coves and bays of the Marlborough Sounds are yours for the banking!

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Imagine a sensory feast of nature, tranquillity, outdoor pursuits and Neptune’s bounty, then drifting to sleep listening to the sound of lapping waves and native birdsong. It’s all yours for the taking when you make Kenepuru & Pelorus Sounds your holiday destination.

When invited to Discover Pelorus, we were off! 

Our day of discovery began with a hearty cooked breakfast at the Slip Inn Bar & Brasserie on Havelock Wharf. Warm sunshine enveloped us as we dined al fresco on the deck overlooking the bobbing boats in the marina. Yacht masts swayed from side to side to the rhythm of the tide as we sipped aromatic coffee and readied ourselves to board the Pelorus Mail Boat.

A sturdy aluminium catamaran, ‘The Mail Boat’ (as it’s commonly known) is an absolute pleasure to travel aboard. Making short work of cutting her way through the water, she’s steady with very little rocking motion. Landlubbers, fear not! This is a ride you’ll talk about for the rest of your days for good reason. Some passengers head to the upper observation deck while others seat themselves indoors on the lower deck as our Captain manoeuvres the boat out of the marina into the Havelock Channel. A brief safety message hailed from the on-board speaker system then first mate Bindy began an informal commentary. Light-hearted and jovial, the Mail Boat Team extend a warm welcome and introduction to their slice of paradise.

Known as “The Greenshell™ Mussel Capital of the World”, this industry is evident as we leave Havelock and pass a mussel harvesting vessel unloading it’s catch.
Local supplier Mills Bay Mussels are located on the Havelock Wharf and offer an excellent tasting room where you can sample these delicious, nutritious morsels while watching shucking demonstrations in a large kitchen setting. Packed with selenium, iron, iodine, protein, omega 3’s & vitamin B12, Greenshell™ Mussels certainly add plenty of natural goodness and fantastic flavour to any meal.

We pick up speed out in the open water, cruising smoothly toward our first stop at Nydia Bay. Views from the upper deck are expansive and uninterrupted. Sunhats are a must, along with sunscreen if you’re out in the open. The breeze is a little cool at times so a wind breaker is also recommended. Nydia Bay is sheltered and the water is still and pond like as we pull up to the jetty and alight.

The Nydia Track comprises of 27 kilometres of walkway, traversing two saddles. The trail can also be cycled if you have the technical ability. Best attempted by advanced mountain bikers, the track can become unsuitable for cycling in wet weather. Hikers will enjoy regenerating native forests, native bird life and incredible views. Getting to the track is easy. The Mail Boat can drop you off and collect you and has facilities for your luggage and cycles. Accommodation is in basic DOC campsites or you can choose to stay a night at On the Track Lodge, a boutique bush haven with fabulous facilities. On the Track Lodge is a short, flat 15-minute walk from the jetty through beautiful bush and birdsong.

Heading back to the jetty we re-board The Mail Boat and take the short trip across Nydia Bay to Nydia Lodge. This outstanding DOC facility sleeps up to 50 people in nine bunkrooms. Facilities include;

  • Electric lighting (powered by generator up to 10 pm)
  • Fully equipped kitchen - gas oven and hobs, pots, pans, cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery
  • Large hall/dining room
  • BBQ
  • Wheelchair accessible (including 3 of the 9 bunkrooms)
  • Jetty
  • Hot showers
  • Flush toilets

Nydia Lodge is an idyllic place for track users and does require booking. If you are a group or family looking for one of the best self-catering holiday spots you can hire the whole lodge for $450.00 per night. Complete with fully equipped kitchen, gas cooking, hot showers and a generator for electric lighting, this is the perfect lodge for a remote wedding, function or conference.

Back on board The Mail Boat commentary continued and local stories were relayed of early settlement and the logistical challenges of living in the remote coastal havens of the Sounds. Just as city dwellers have places of communal congregation, so too did the Sounds. Local lady Melva tells us about weekend dance functions that were held in Homewood War Memorial Hall in Marys Bay. Many arrived by boat or dinghy and if they failed to moor their vessel correctly partygoers were called upon to help locate boats that had gone adrift. Apparently, stock farmed on the hilly terrain had two legs shorter than the other to accommodate the gradient and muster was complimented by shore boats hurrying straggling stock along.

Lunch was booked at The Lodge at Te Rawa at Wilson’s Bay in Pelorus Sound. We pulled alongside Te Rawa’s wharf and were greeted by owner Robert and his very welcoming Jack Russell terrier. Te Rawa is generally accessed by boat, however, the wharf doubles as a helipad if you have the means to fly in. Nestled perfectly into the hillside, The Lodge at Te Rawa sells fuel and basic grocery items to boaties and explorers. The Lodge itself comprises of a gorgeous waterfront restaurant & café with accommodation ranging from the opulent Kingfisher Suite to well-appointed chalets or bunkrooms. The views are utterly magnificent and your hosts Anne & Robert are genuinely welcoming. We settled into the dining room and filled out plates with delicious cheese from The Cranky Goat, fresh salads made by Anne with produce grown in the Te Rawa garden and melt in your mouth salmon from New Zealand King Salmon. Sitting on the deck at Te Rawa devouring the freshest and most delicious lunch was totally divine. Places like this are few and far between and when you find them, they leave an everlasting impression. Completely sated both in body and spirit, we bid our grateful farewells at Te Rawa. It was time to head back into Kenepuru Sound and make our way to the last stop of the day.

Hopewell Lodge is a hidden gem and I don’t mean that in a colloquial sense. If you didn’t know it was there, you’d miss it. That’s the charm! Set in beautiful native bush surrounds with incredible water views, Hopewell is accessible by road as well as boat. If you are visiting from the North Island, you can fly directly from Wellington to Nopera, (the local air strip) with Pelorus Air. Impeccably clean, comfortable and picturesque, Hopewell offers backpackers and families a deluxe self-catering accommodation option. Watercraft and cycles are available for guest use. Your hosts Mike & Lynley have been greeting guests at Hopewell for more than 20 years. Down to earth, friendly and passionate about their slice of paradise, they are happy to guide you to local attractions and activity operators. Hopewell is a soulful place that calls you to relax, unwind and rejuvenate. It’s unpretentious while gifting you a feeling of luxurious comfort. 

Our excursion was drawing to a close and it was time to head back to berth at Havelock. We departed from Hopewell taking in a short coastal tour of Nopera & St Omer. Two charter boats were moored in the bay. Pelorus Tours operators Gary & Ellen Orchard were on board with us and Gary is a mine of local information. He’s a third-generation tour operator offering exceptional tours of the Sounds aboard his beautifully restored vessel ‘Toroa’. Pelorus Tours also operate eco tours to Maud Island, a wildlife reserve within the Sounds and water taxi services. The other was ‘Foxy Lady’, a large launch available for fishing charters and stationary accommodation. Sleeping 12, she’s a spacious vessel with a large deck area perfect for group fishing tours.

If you don’t have great sea legs but would still love to stay and play in the Havelock District, the team at Sounds Great Holiday Homes have several holiday rentals you can choose from. Some are absolute beachfront while others are set high in the bush overlooking the Sounds. Holiday lets are a fantastic option for families who would like their own space and privacy while self-catering and exploring at your leisure.
After a brief viewing of the shipwreck ‘Amokura’ we made our way back to the Slip Inn for nibbles & a wee tipple of their specialty drink ‘Hugo’.

It was a big day out, with so much to see and appreciate in the company of happy, positive people. Of course, you can enjoy a similar experience with a trip on The Mail Boat or a stay at any of these incredible locations.

Pelorus & Kenepuru will steal a piece of your heart while filling your soul with magical, lifelong memories. Take the time to truly absorb the beauty that surrounds you and enjoy the fantastic kiwi hospitality on offer. It’s second to none!

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