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Cruising Area Introduction

The Magical Marlborough Sounds are located at the top of the South Island, definitely a cruising area to be experienced. 

With its network of submerged mountain valleys, numerous Islands and tranquil sheltered bays, bush-clad hills and almost 1500 km of deep-water coastline to explore, the Sounds are a cruising paradise. If you like to avoid the crowds in the cruising areas up North, the Marlborough Sounds is the right place to be.

How much ground you will cover will depend on the length of your charter, the weather, and your charter vessel and your own experience. You can do as little or as much as you desire within the limits of your charter area. Compass Charters is based in Waikawa Marina in the Queen Charlotte Sound.

The two major Sounds, the Queen Charlotte Sound and the Pelorus Sound form the heart of this cruising area. 

There is plenty to see and do while you are cruising the Sounds. You are able to moor up at night to one of the private and secure charter moorings. Hike in native bush along the Queen Charlotte Track, Nydia track and several other walking tracks located around these waterways. Walk up to the summit of Motuara Island to enjoy the amazing views, while listening to the beautiful birdsong. Follow in the footsteps of Captain Cook and visit historical Ship's Cove. There is plenty of history to be discovered.

Of the several offshore Islands D'Urville Island is the largest. D'Urville is separated from the mainland by the narrow, tidal channel of French Pass. The scenery on D'Urville is spectacular, ranging from towering forest clad mountains to tranquil bays and coves to the rugged exposed shoreline. West of D'Urville is Tasman Bay. Rugged D'Urville is surrounded by plenty of wildlife.

French Pass, for those with enough time, will certainly be an exciting and navigational challenge for the more experienced sailors. A cruise across Nelson bay will reward you with the sight of the golden beaches of Abel Tasman/Golden Bay.

To experience the Pelorus Sound you will have to head around Cape Jackson. Parts of the Pelorus are like the Queen Charlotte also flanked impressively with native forest-clad hills. A beautiful example of this can be found at World's End. This is also the start of the Nydia Walk to Nydia Bay and beyond. Ferns and Nikau palms are growing in abundance along this track and the views are spectacular.

Check our T and C's to see if your vessel can head out of Queen Charlotte Sound.

Marine Farming

The Sounds are also used for marine farming and is an important industry for the local economy. The most famous kind are the green-lipped mussel farms. You will find most of them in Pelorus Sound but they can also be seen in Tory Channel and Port Underwood. There are also a couple of Paua and oyster farms and several salmon farms, again mostly found in Tory channel but also found in Queen Charlotte Sound.


Much of the wildlife of the Sounds is best viewed from the water. While you are chartering you might have the chance to visit the gannet colony in East Bay. If they are not there, they might be diving for some food near a school of Kahawai. Other bird life will include: Blue Penguin, different species of shags, terns, and mutton-birds and of course sea gulls. On the Land you will find parrots, Saddleback, robins, fantails, Bell birds, and the large wood pigeon. Dolphins (common, Bottlenose, dusky and the rare Hectors) are frequent visitors. If you are very lucky, you even might see the world's biggest dolphins, Orcas. There will be no shortage of seals either. And if you are venturing in the underwater realm there will be numerous other species to admire. Some of those could also be on the menu. You should still be able to catch Blue Cod, Sea Perch, Gurnard, Terakihi, Kahawai and for some maybe a Snapper or Kingfish. When not too fussy to get wet green-lipped or blue mussels, paua, crayfish, Butterfish and scallop are still within your reach.

For more info see Charter Area Intro and Points Of Interest Map


Click below to see all our Boat Rates, Additional Services info and Rates, Season dates and Discount structure. As well as additional info about Bonds, Onboard accommodation etc. If you need a quote, further help or information please contact us.


Quick Quote

Simply give us a few details about your proposed charter and we will send you an obligation free quote back for consideration. It's QUICK and EASY,  just click below to take the first step towards your floating holiday.


Compass Fleet

Compass Charters' diverse fleet consists of fully equipped and well-maintained yachts, launches and runabouts. If you need help choosing which vessel to charter, just contact our crew and we will be happy to help you. 


Compass Fleet



Here's what our clients have been saying about us.

"Thanks to you and the Compass Charter team for the great day we had in the amazing beautiful Marlborough Sounds. Would love to come back within 12 months although not sure if I will be able to manage that. For sure I will connect again when ever I will be in New Zealand." - Chartered Orion

"Thank you very much, we really enjoyed our trip and are telling our friends and family that Compass Charters are a good company to deal with and offer great holiday opportunities." - Chartered Okoromai

Contact us now - spaces are filling up fast for the 2019/20 season!

Special Offers

The longer you charter the more you save! Our MULTIDAY DISCOUNT has proved very popular so we are continuing the offer for the 2021/22 season.

Now is a great time to get your crew organised, book 6 months or more in advance and get an additional 5% off your daily rate with our "EARLY BOOKERS" discount - make the most of this offer before the opportunity passes.

To view our latest Special Offers click here.

"Multiday" AND "Early bookers" discounts can be used together during eligible periods.


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