Cook's spot great for a picnic

22:31, Jan 09 2012
Cougar Line
Taking a cruise on the Cougar Line

Captain James Cook anchored the Endeavour off Ship Cove in the Marlborough Sounds in 1770.

As we disembark from a Cougar Line vessel more than 200 years later, I guess the verdant native bush behind the bay looks much as it did in his day.

I've lived in Blenheim for six months, and was quick to take up the opportunity to visit Ship Cove, which I had heard is historically significant and scenically beautiful. As I found out, it's also a great place to spend a few hours, exploring, walking and taking in a picnic.

However, onlookers might have laughed at my foray into the Marlborough outdoors.

My partner and I turned out to the jetty in shorts, T-shirts and jandals, our shades fixed firmly to our heads.

We boarded the boat with a dozen others, mostly from overseas. They wore hefty walking boots and gaiters for the bush. I can only imagine what they were thinking when they saw our attire.


But in our defence, we were only going for a short walk. Some of these people were starting the popular multi-day Queen Charlotte Track.

As with many days this summer, the weather wasn't great, but Ship Cove itself really was.

Interpretation panels relay the history if this beautiful spot, known in Maori as Meretoto or Totaranui, "the big totara tree".

Captain Cook anchored his ship Endeavour here for the first time on January 15, 1770 to stock up on food, water and wood. He returned to the cove four more times.

The next European vessels to reach the cove were the Russian exploration ships Vostok and Myrni in 1820, commanded by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen. When Marlborough hosted the Russian world cup rugby team last year, the province was able to claim a long history of association with Russian national teams.

In the leadup to the World Cup last year, the Express reported that expedition artist Pavel Mikhaylov captured the landing scene, where Bellingshausen and other members of the expedition were greeted with a haka. Mikhaylov also completed portraits of several unnamed Maori.

Based on diary accounts by expedition astronomer Ivan Simonov the meeting was warm, with gifts exchanged on both sides.

After exploring the landscaped picnic area, we took a 30-minute return walk to a picturesque waterfall, then came back to enjoy a picnic at waka-shaped tables.

Cougar Lines offers several options for those wanting to explore the Sounds, catering to those who want to spend just one day there and those who want to walk multiple days.

We had a great day out and plan to return to the cove again.

The Marlborough Express