Marlborough Revisited

by Holly Dukeson


Dawson Charters have a reputation for providing personalised fishing and diving charters with a difference – packed with humour and above all providing an experience that you’d struggle to find on any Marlborough charter.

Having relished two previous Dawson Charter expeditions, we were eager to share the magic with three of our five children (and their partners). Greg Dawson, the charismatic operator, and his delightful wife, Kath, orchestrated a seamless beginning to our adventure, personally fetching us from Blenheim Airport. Two vehicles stood at the ready, setting the stage for a journey that promised excitement and unpredictability from the get go! 

Our inaugural stop took us through the scenic vineyards around Blenheim, where we indulged in some of the tasty local Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc wines. Departing from the vineyard’s grace, we made our way to Havelock for a ‘quick interlude’ at the Slip Inn, enjoying a couple of drinks that set the tone for the adventure ahead. Soon after, we boarded “Ohana”, a 250hp Yamaha powered Southern 770, destined for Dawson Charter’s Marlborough haven in Miro Bay, in the Pelorus Sound. 


The home base, two charming Kiwi-style bach’s (known as cribs in the South Island), sit cradled in a beautiful bush location in the Bay, welcomed us with open arms, offering all the amenities one could need. A deep-water wharf granted easy access to the tide, while a trusty quad, stood ready to assist those finding the initial stretch of Dawson Charter’s escapade a touch strenuous. The newer separate, two bedroom house on the property, catered to larger groups, boasting a lounge, kitchen, and bathroom. Our first day was a leisurely affair, complete with a sound sleep and board games, as the weather played coy with some wind and showers. No qualms for the weary travellers; it served as a perfect initiation to settle in and acquaint ourselves with our new surroundings. We were well aware that pristine weather awaited us for the next 3-4 days, ideal for fishing and boating, anticipation was running high. 

The subsequent days unfolded with thrilling escapades on the water. Some members of our crew, novices in the art of fishing, were a joy to witness as they discovered the delights of the experience. Blue cod, plentiful in the area, graced our haul alongside snapper and gurnard, with (for excitement only), a shark and Barracuda muscling their way into the action. Swiftly reaching our daily limit, we set off to procure fresh mussels from the generous mussels supplies throughout the Sounds. Evenings transformed into seafood extravaganzas, with sumptuous feasts of ocean bounty, while the remaining meals hailed from the skilled hands of the local butcher of Renwick. 

Our explorations extended to the outer islands and bays of the Marlborough Sounds, culminating in a venture across the notorious French Pass. Anchoring beside its entrance, with the tide roaring at an impressive 7 knots, we found ourselves in the company of the most voraciously hungry fish. Each drop of the line resulted in an instant blue cod – one bite, one fish! To heighten the fishing experience, barracudas occasionally tried to claim our cod on the ascent, but our skilful manoeuvres thwarted their attempts. 

French Pass, named by Dumont D’Urville in 1827, or Te Aumiti in Maori, offered a historical backdrop that added depth to our journey. The Marlborough Sounds, with its many spots to pause and rejuvenate, beckoned us to explore both the beauty of the landscape and the essence of maritime serenity. At Te Rawa Resort in Wilson Bay, we refuelled both the vessel and ourselves, indulging in snacks and some well-deserved drinks. 

Recent upgrades by the new owners have transformed Te Rawa into a popular hub for boaters in the area. From fantastic fishing, water sports, tramping, exploring Marlborough has a lot on offer…. Combined with the excellent host skills of the Dawson’s it is a break to rejuvenate and enjoy the adventure. 

As the inevitable moment arrived to bid adieu to this slice of paradise, reflections on an exhilarating six days and seven nights enveloped us. Safely returned to catch our flight back to Auckland, we carried with us a trove of stories and cherished memories (not to mention blue cod and mussels). The prospect of a return trip looms on the horizon, and who knows, perhaps we’ll extend the invitation to even more fortunate adventurers next time, ensuring that the saga of Marlborough continues to unfold with each passing expedition. 

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