Queen Charlotte Sound

Queen Charlotte Sound (Tōtaranui in Māori) is the easternmost sound of the Marlborough Sounds in New Zealand’s South Island.

Like its neighbours,Queen Charlotte Sound is a drowned river valley (also called ria) and runs south-west to north-east before joining up with Cook Strait. Its calm waters, which contrast with the notoriously rough waters of Cook Strait, make it popular with sailors.

The entrances to Queen Charlotte Sound can be hazardous, as shown by the number of ship wrecks: Most remarkably in recent years the Russian cruise liner Mikhail Lermontov, which sank in 1986 in Port Gore after striking rocks.

At the head of Queen Charlotte Sound lies the picturesque seaside town of Picton, the northern terminus of the South Island's rail and road networks and the gateway to the South Island. Picton's Waikawa Bay is also home to New Zealand's third-largest marina.

Other small, isolated settlements dot Queen Charlotte Sound and often comprise of individual properties or holiday homes, known locally as a 'bach'. Due to the rugged nature of the coastline, many of these properties are solely accessible by boat. 

To the east of the Queen Charlotte Sound are Arapaoa Island and Tory Channel (Kura Te Au). Interisland ferries use Tory Channel and Queen Charlotte Sound on their journeys between Picton and Wellington in the North Island. To the west is the Marlborough Sounds' highest peak, Mt Stokes (1203m), with Cape Jackson and Cape Koamaru as its western and eastern headlands.

It was from a hill on Arapawa Island in 1770 that Captain James Cook first saw the sea passage from the Pacific Ocean to the Tasman Sea, which was subsequently named Cook Strait. Captain Cook sheltered in Queen Charlotte Sound during each of his three voyages of exploration at various points. James Cook named the sound for Charlotte, wife of British ruler George III, in 1770.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, whaling occured in the Tory Channel area, most notably at the base at Perano Head on Arapawa Island. Remnants of the whaling factory remain on the island in Tory Channel.