Tennyson Inlet is a remote part of the Marlborough Sounds off Pelorus Sound with a small resident population of 18 and a number of holiday homes. Residential development has occurred in Duncan Bay, Penzance Bay, and Tuna Bay, however much of the area remains in pristine indigenous beech and podocarp forest. Several walking tracks exist in the area including the Nydia Track, Archer Track, and Opouri Track. There are boat launching ramps in Penzance Bay and Duncan Bay. Most of the area has no cell phone coverage.
Tennyson Inlet itself is named after the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, while Tuna Bay is named for the abundance of eels (tuna in te reo), Duncan bay after the pioneer sawmiller, and Penzance Bay from the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta "Pirates of Penzance", after a notorious former resident of the bay who, along with her family, engaged in a variety of criminal activities.
The area was first explored in 1838 by Lieutenant Chetwode aboard the HMS Pylorus. The area was exploited for timber for a limited period after Alexander Duncan purchased land for sawmilling, however due to the rugged terrain, isolation, and more accessible alternatives, the milling was short lived. At its peak, milling resulted in a community of about 80, who named the location World's End, for its isolation. After the milling ended, Peter Archer purchased the cleared land in Tuna Bay for farming.
Until the establishment of a road to Tennyson Inlet, Elaine Bay served as a port and post office for the area.
In the 1950s, the Archer family set up the Tennyson Inlet Development Company Limited with the view to developing the area for tourism by subdividing land to provide 80 sections for holiday homes, and the establishment of road access. The company created 24 kilometres of road over the Opouri Saddle, with the road opening in October 1962, but not fully completed until 7 December 1962. For a time, the road was operated as a toll road with a charge of 10'.
At the time of the road development, Tennyson Inlet was part of the Sounds rather than the Marlborough County, however the Sounds although technically a county, had no administrative body or means to raise funds, so the Archers petitioned the Marlborough County Council to incorporate Tennyson Inlet in its area of administration. The council eventually agreed, on condition the Tennyson Inlet Development Company completed the road to a suitable standard. In 1968, the Marlborough County Council took over the road.
In 1973, reticulated electricity was provided to the area.
Reference: Dinghy to Daimler and Beyond, by Betty Archer and Family, published by Archer Family.