Governors Bay Track

Governors Bay Track

Queen Charlotte Sound


6 Rankers Reviews

6 Face-to-Face

7 Picton / Marlborough Sounds

Your Nature Guide

Marios Gavalas's avatar

Marios Gavalas

Author And Researcher

Nau mai, haere mai

Nau mai, haere mai

I'm Marios, delivering the best of Aotearoa's nature walks to your device.

I've personally walked hundreds of New Zealand's tracks and spent months in libraries uncovering interesting information on New Zealand/Aotearoa. And you'll find a slice of that research on this page - enjoy!


Deep Nature

FREE MAP - The best of 21 nature guidebooks on one map.

Online Maps

FREE Header

Deep Nature NEW

Author Marios Gavalas, Rankers and hundreds of contributors bring you a free web map to help you get lost (and find yourself) in Aotearoa's nature.

FREE Header

Camping NZ NEW

Welcome to New Zealand's most comprehensive database of freely available camping information. This is the only travel map of its kind in NZ.


200 m return | 20 minutes return

Pack a lunch, togs, sunscreen and hats. Plan on spending the day here. It is beautiful. The water is a deep green, the coastal forest lush and filled with tui, bellbirds and kereru.


8.7 km from the Picton end of Queen Charlotte Drive and 4.5 km from Momorangi (shortly after Ngakuta Bay), Governors Bay Beach Walk is signposted. A track leads down to the beach.


Although the track is unmetalled it is fairly grippy with a carpet of leaves and twigs over hard-packed soil. It snakes down to the beach, where there are also toilets.


Geologically the Marlborough Sounds are a continuation of the Richmond Range, but this north-eastern end is actually subsiding into the sea. The innumerable indentations are drowned river valleys, which would resemble their overland counterparts were it not for their submergence. The complex lines are confusing to both the casual map observer and passing visitor. Only those with many years experience in boats can get to know the nooks and crannies intimately.

The genesis of most Marlborough Sounds rocks took place 280 million years ago during Permian times, when large quantities of sediment were transported to the sea at the edge of Gondwanaland. The beds of silt, mud and sand accumulated to form the greywackes composed of sand, argillite made up of silt and the metamorphosed schists, a product of heating and folding deep within the earth. Into this matrix several undersea volcanoes vented magma, which intruded into the overlying rocks.

This volcanic belt was responsible for the formation of an unusual rock sequence known as the Dun Mountain Ophiolite Belt. These ultramafic rocks exhibit a concentration of magnesium and iron, rendering poor soils and a distinct flora. The curious feature of this ‘mineral belt’ is it’s ‘twin’ in the Red Hills of Otago, 480 km to the south. How such distinct rocks could occur in such geographical isolation confounded geologists until the development of the plate tectonics and continental drift theories. The explanation now holds the Alpine Fault responsible for bisecting the once-homogenous outcrop and slowly nudging the two pieces apart over the last 25 million years.

Between 140 and 110 million years ago those original rocks, metamorphic schists and sedimentary rocks, underwent a severe torturing, being buckled, folded and uplifted in a phase of mountain building known as the Rangitata Orogeny. Subsequent erosion reduced the peaks to stumps and the low-lying peneplain was overlain with other rock sequences.

During the last 5 million years the Kaikoura Orogeny has renewed the thrust skyward however the uplift has been checked by the general north-east tilt of the land to the west of the Alpine Fault, which runs along the Wairau Valley and through Cook Strait. A transverse fault associated with this movement is currently uplifting the Wellington side, conversely down-thrusting the Marlborough Sounds side.

During periods of global glaciation over the last 2 million years, vast quantities of water became locked up in the ice sheets. At the height of the last ice age around 18,000 years ago, sea levels were 120 metres lower than today. Farwell Spit was joined to Taranaki and Cook Strait didn’t exist. During relatively warm periods (inter-glacials), this pent up water is released back into fluid form and causes sea levels to rise. Those north-easternmost valleys of the Richmond Range became inundated, causing the drowned river valley system to evolve.

Polynesian History

Several Maori legends relate to the Marlborough Sounds. All show a close connection with the waterways based on mental maps and generational knowledge, passed on in the absence of written words and maps.

One of the earliest creation stories tells of a time of darkness. Out came Maku (moisture), who married Mahoranuiatea. Their love bore a son called Raki, who in turn married Pokoharua-te-po. Their sons were Aoraki, Rakiroa, Raaraki and Rarkiroa and they all lived in the heavens. One day Raki fell in love with another woman, Papatuanuku (Earth Mother) and descended to earth to marry his new-found lover. Angry at their father’s infidelity, Aoraki and his three brothers decided to visit Papatuanuku and jumped aboard their mighty canoe Te Waka o Aoraki. After meeting Papatuanuku they realised their father’s complete love for her and decided to return home to support their mother.
Aoraki commenced a sacred chant to enable the heavenward journey but made errors in his recital. They were earth bound and sea condition grew stormy. The waka was thrust onto its side and the brothers climbed atop the hull. Their calls for help were in vain and over time their bodies became stone and their hair white. The brothers now form the snowcapped peaks of the Southern Alps, with Aoraki (Mount Cook), the tallest. Their canoe became Te Waka o Aoraki (South Island), later named Te Waipounamu (The Greenstone Waters). The prow, which had been a finely crafted maze of carvings, disintegrated and became partially submerged to form the Marlborough Sounds.
Another notable legend recalls the legendary explorer Kupe, who tussled with a giant octopus. During the struggle the many tentacles gouged the land into the labyrinthine curves of today. Kupe eventually won over the monster of the deep and scooped out his eyes, tossing them into the ocean where they metamorphosed to Ngawhatu, the Brothers Islands off the head of Cape Koamaru.

With the multitude of sheltered waters, abundance of sea food, proximity to the offerings of the forest and location at the cross-roads of both land and sea based travelling networks, it comes as no surprise the Marlborough Sounds were well settled by Maori. Many archaeological sites are scattered throughout the sounds and middens confirm the bountiful resources of the sea formed an important part of the diet. Argillite tools, fashioned from raw material derived from D’Urville Island became a highly tradable commodity. Prominent headlands such as Karaka Pa became fortified sites, as they commanded extensive lookouts and gave early warning of impending invaders


Feature Value Info


DOC Marlborough

Central government organisation


South IslandMarlboroughPicton / Marlborough Sounds


  • Walking
  • Free


Helen Worner's avatar

Helen Worner


Ranking: 8/10

Short walk, good for a break with little kids.

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in December 2016

Avoid Camping Fines!

Each camping location is approved by a regional council in NZ. So if it shows on the map, you’re allowed to stay.

The Rankers Camping NZ app, is also in association with…

Frankie Princide's avatar

Frankie Princide

United States

Ranking: 9/10

A relaxing walk along the banks of the bay with stunning views and very secluded. Nice morning walk!

Reviewed almost 6 years ago and experienced in March 2016

Camping NZ App Icon

Camping NZ App

Every camping site on your iPhone™, iPad™ or Android™ phone or tablet. Avoid camping penalties using this council approved app. Featuring offline maps.

Download from the App Store Download Android app on Google Play

Alison Seidl's avatar

Alison Seidl

United States

Ranking: 10/10

Half an hour walk through woods but along the bay with stunning views. A relaxing stroll to take before breakfast!

Reviewed almost 6 years ago and experienced in March 2016

Patrick Veber's avatar

Patrick Veber


Ranking: 10/10

This little paradise on earth is just a 10 minute walk down from the Queen Charlotte drive. Many mussels in the water (make sure to wear water shoes). You can also see giant sea stars when you snorkel. Amazing!!

Reviewed almost 6 years ago and experienced in February 2016

DOC Managed

Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍

Cymen Crick's avatar

Cymen Crick

Rankers Owner