Similar to the Pelorus arm of the Sounds there aren’t too many roads along the Kenepuru arm to explore either, although there are quite a few tiny settlements with a handful of houses and holiday homes. Just up the road from the campground is the one & only ‘major’ road junction, it’s 45kms from the beginning of the road and 25kms to the end at Titirangi Bay. Once again 25kms doesn’t sound like far but on these winding metal roads they seem to take forever and especially when you’re stopping regularly to explore and take photos.
The road at first runs through farmland up the Kenepuru Valley behind the head of the bay before climbing sharply up to the top of Kenepuru Saddle. Our first stop is at the Punga Cove turn off which is also where the Queen Charlotte Track crosses & also meets the Kenepuru Road. The QC Track is a 71km 3-5 day walk that tracks along the ridge between Queen Charlotte Sound & Kenepuru Sound. Most of the accommodation and views of the bays & coves are out over Queen Charlotte Sound and this junction is one of only 2 or 3 that gives access to the Kenepuru side.
Twenty percent of the QC Track passes through privately owned land, especially at the beginning, and a Track Pass must be purchased before walking the track. The section from Punga Cove around Camp Bay & Endeavour Inlet and on to Ship Cove is Crown land and provides day walk options without having to buy a pass. Two vehicles arrived while we were stopped, their occupants heading off towards Camp Bay.
We drive the short distance down into Punga Cove and get our first view of Queen Charlotte Sound. The road leads directly into the Punga Cove Resort (very steep) and we can also see Mahana Lodge just across the point, both provide a range of accommodation options for track walkers. I always wonder what overseas visitors think when they arrive at a NZ ‘resort’. Images of golden sand beaches, beautiful swimming pools, swaying palms, luxury rooms, sun loungers & bronzed bodies come to mind when I think of resort. NZ resorts are quite a bit different.
We carry on along the road which continues to climb higher & higher. Through the trees and bush we catch tantalizing peeps of Queen Charlotte Sound but no wide open gaps where we can see the water far below. We both think that the ‘powers that be’ should at least include a couple of look outs along this section of the road (and in fact on the road in too). First it would stop people from parking their cars on the road in dangerous positions and secondly if you’ve driven all this way in from the main road it would be great to see something for your money!
Below was the one & only reasonably clear view of Endeavour Inlet we had and I had to stand on the back tray to get a little more height. Across the water to the right is the historic Furneaux Lodge, a popular place for boating holidaymakers to visit over summer. Exploring, as we are on our travels, has been great, I’m able to put names to places. I didn’t realise that the lodge and Endeavour Inlet were so far out in the Sound. Sadly this part of the Sounds will always be associated with disappearance (& murder) of a young couple on New Years Eve 1998.
The road ahead of us winds around the edge of Mt Stokes (1203m), there’s a 5 hour hike to the summit which seems rather excessive, this must be a minor peak. We won’t be doing that walk any time soon.
We stop a few more times when I catch sight of gaps caused by windfall ahead of us, some I can see over the top but most don’t have clear views. Even though the road has a lot of twists and turns we’re both surprised at how wide it is in places, especially this far down the arm. It feels like a four lane highway compared to some of the gravel back roads we’ve been on recently.
Through one gap we can see the road winding up the hill ahead of us and we think we might have to take the road to the right but in fact our road drops over the ridge at the junction with a farm track that cuts across to the right. And down below us we can see Melville Cove which is at the top end of Port Gore. We’re now in the outer sounds.
Further on and finally we break out of the bush and have a clear view across Port Gore to the long thin finger of land that is Cape Jackson, which points out to Cook Strait. The outer Queen Charlotte Track also finishes at the Cape.
Port Gore is the final resting place of the Mikhail Lermontov, a Soviet cruise ship that sunk in 1986. The ship in the care of the Marlborough Harbourmaster, & carrying 750 passengers & crew, hit rocks as it passed through a narrow passage between Cape Jackson & the old lighthouse. One person, an engineer, died as the hull was ripped open and there were also 11 injured people but passengers & crew were rescued before the ship sunk. The ship, badly listing, limped into Port Gore where it lost all power & got stuck on a sandbank. The incoming tide lifted it off the sandbank and the ship then sank, 5 hours after the initial impact.
Below is Melville Cove (Port Gore) with those ever present mussel farms blotting the seascape. This is taken from the the road junction with the farm track. We’re quite a height above the Cove, you can see the slope on the left is covered in ‘tiny’ punga ferns (tree ferns) which will give you a bit of perspective.
We’ve finally reached Titirangi, we’re heading down to the Farm Park for a picnic and to check out the camping site. At least this time we don’t have to stop and ask permission as we did in Bulwer. Titirangi Farm Park is crown land that is leased out. Again it looks like our road cuts around the edge of the hill when in fact it doesn’t, it drops down to the left just around the corner ahead of us and winds for 3 km all the way down into the bay.
The view down into Titirangi Bay is spectacular, some might recognise this photo as the one that appeared on TV One’s weather a few nights ago. This is looking north-west towards Pelorus Sound with some of the outer sound islands dotted across the horizon.
We stop near the bottom as the left hand side of the bay comes into view, I can see a little kiosk in the middle of a paddock and assume that’s where we’re headed.
There’s also lovely smooth expanse of inviting white sand on the beach, one of the very few sandy beaches in the Sounds.
On the other side of the small ridge, the road passes along the front of a large sheltered homestead and farm buildings, this is Waitui.
We head left to Titirangi opening the gate and driving down to the picnic table disturbing the resting & grazing sheep along the way. What a great place this would be to camp (except for the rather large sheep poo!), a fair way out and a tough road down to the bay but once you were here, paradise!
The ‘kiosk’ turns out to be the toilet/shower/kitchen/laundry block complete with a stock gate to keep the sheep out! Of course it’s basic (what do you expect for $5) but perfectly adequate. There are 4 narrow flushing loos on the other side, a shower to the left and tubs for everything else on this side.
And what would a picnic be in the Sounds without a weka making itself at home! Once again there were about half a dozen birds who quickly came over to see what we might have for them- in between chasing each other around the paddock. We’re now familiar with the habits of these birds and it didn’t take long for us to pick that one bird had chicks hidden in the undergrowth over the fence. She gathered up the pieces of bread I threw her, stuffing her bill full before running as fast as she could back along the fence line disappearing under the bottom wire and through a gap in the bushes. She must have had very young chicks as they didn’t make an appearance while we were there.
Another bird did the same but ran back across the paddock to some reeds, we could see two large chicks wandering about beside the stream and when I went over to see them one was more than happy to check me out. It’s sibling ran off and hid but this one kept coming closer until it’s parent squawked and must have told it to come away. It sauntered off down the sheep track in the general direction of the parent pecking at this and that, looking around and taking its time. Just your typical teenager.
After finishing our lunch & a walk along the beach we packed up and headed back to the turnoff for the long climb back out of the bay.
The road is steep and narrow and while it wouldn’t be so bad towing the 5th-wheeler in or driving a bigger rig, it would be a tough haul out of the bay when it came time to leave. Although we decided, if we did want to come here camping another time, it probably wouldn’t be wise towing anything down the road because of the narrow hairpin corners, many of which are hidden behind that first bend.
Once again we had a lovely afternoon exploring and while we’re enjoying the Kenepuru arm of the Sounds we both think the Pelorus side has superior views; perhaps that’s just because we couldn’t see them on this side.