Our favourites here are Pete and Takutai Beech with their classic old launch, custom built for the area. Not right for you if you like chrome and gilt, these guys are the old school kaitiaki (guardians) of the area and have an unrivalled depth and breadth of knowledge of the history and ecology of the Sounds. If you're keen to go further, go well off the beaten track and stay overnight on the boat. Maybe 1 star lodging but countless stars for authenticity and depth.
This is the area which made New Zealand famous with its Sauvignon Blanc wines. If sophistication is more your thing, then there are some excellent wineries and restaurants. The Bay of Many Coves provides good accommodation out in the Sounds and the Marlborough Lodge (wine district) and Sounds Retreat (remote Sounds) are all well up there in terms of quality.