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Queen Charlotte Track

The Queen Charlotte Track offers a spectacular trip through the Marlborough Sounds, from the historic Ship Cove through to Anakiwa in the Grove Arm.
It passes through lush coastal forest, historic bays, and along skyline ridges with unsurpassed views of Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds.
Most of the track is wide and benched, and all major streams have been bridged.
For walkers, boots and a good level of fitness are required, and the 71-kilometre trip can be done in 3-5 days.
The entire Queen Charlotte Track is open to mountain biking from March 1 to November 30 each year. The trip takes about 13 hours.
At other times of the year, from December 1 to February 28, mountain bikes are permitted on the Kenepuru Saddle to Anakiwa section of the track only.

History

Long before the inter-island ferries plied its waters, Queen Charlotte Sound (Totaranui) was an important trade route for Maori, and provided good shelter and bountiful seafood for the many Maori who lived there.
The early European explorer, Captain James Cook, also took advantage of the shelter and natural bounty of the Sounds, making Ship Cove (Meretoto) his New Zealand base. He spent more than 100 days there between 1770 and 1777.
Since that time, the area has been the scene of a diverse range of activities from gold and antinomy mining, whaling and fishing through to tourism and forestry.

Natural History

The track passes through a variety of vegetation types, from grassy farmland to undisturbed native forests. At sea level, the forests are particularly lush. Ferns, tree ferns, nikau palms, climbing kiekie vines and perching plants make up a spectacular coastal forest.
Several forest birds are common along the track, including the bellbird, tui, fantails and the weka.
Along the shoreline shags (cormorants), gannets, terns and shearwaters can also be glimpsed.

Getting There

Nearly all walkers and mountain bikers arrive via Picton, a small town nestled in the Marlborough Sounds, at the top of the South Island. Picton can be reached by road from Christchurch or Nelson, or by commercial ferry from Wellington.

Track Guide

For walkers
Ship Cove to Resolution Bay, 2 hrs, 4.5km Most walkers start from Ship Cove, which can only be reached by boat. Transport can be arranged through a range of Picton tourist operators, who can also carry your pack to each night's intended destination.
No camping is permitted at Ship Cove.
Resolution Bay to Endeavour Inlet, 3hrs, 10.5km
The track follows an old bridle path over a ridge and into Endeavour Inlet. Cabin and motel accommodation is available along the way.
Endeavour Inlet to Camp Bay, 4hrs, 11.5km
The track stays near the shoreline on the way to Camp Bay, where there is a DOC campsite. Cabin accommodation is also available at near-by Punga Cove.
Camp Bay to Torea Saddle, 8hrs, 20.5km
This is the longest and most arduous section of the walk, as it traverses the main ridge between Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds.
DOC campsites are located above the Bay of Many Coves and Kumutoto Bay. Near Torea Saddle, there is a DOC campsite at Cowshed Bay and accommodation at Portage Hotel.
Torea Saddle to Mistletoe Bay, 4hrs, 7.5km
This part of the track also follows the main ridge, with a significant climb out of Torea Saddle.
A DOC campsite is located at Mistletoe Bay, and there is also accommodation at near-by Te Mahia Bay.
Mistletoe Bay to Anakiwa, 4hrs, 12.5km
This section follows old bridle paths high above the water. There is a DOC campsite en route at Umungata (Davies Bay). At Anakiwa, bus and boat transport is available to Picton and near-by accommodation.

For Bikers
Ship Cove to Camp Bay, 5hrs, 26.5km
Ship Cove can only be reached by boat. Transport can be arranged through a range of Picton tourist operators, who can also arrange to carry your bags to your intended destination.
No camping is permitted at Ship Cove, but there is a DOC campsite at Camp Bay. Accommodation is also available on the way through Endeavour Inlet and at Punga Cove.
This section of track is mostly single-track, and is the most technically demanding part of the ride. This section is closed to mountain biking from 1 December to 28 February each year.
Camp Bay to Torea Saddle, 4hrs, 20.5km
The section of the track leads bikers on a long climb to the main ridge between Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds, but offers spectacular views.
DOC campsites are located above Bay of Many Coves and Kumutoto Bay. Near Torea Saddle, there is a DOC campsite at Cowshed Bay and accommodation at Portage Hotel.
This section is open to mountain biking throughout the year.
It is also possible to cycle from Camp Bay to Torea Saddle via the Kenepuru Road, which offers an easier ride at sea level.
Torea Saddle to Anakiwa, 4hrs, 20km
This makes a good day trip, with bikers able to continue from Anakiwa to Picton along the road.
This section is available to mountain biking throughout the year.
It is also possible to cycle as far as Mistletoe Bay via the Kenepuru Road, which offers an easier ride at sea level from Torea Saddle.

Huts and Campsites

There are a number of accommodation houses along the track route, providing cabin, motel and hotel lodgings and tent sites.
There are also seven DOC campsites, each with toilets and a water supply. Camping fees should be deposited in the self-registration boxes at the campsites, or paid to the DOC office in Picton.

Important Information

All users of the track are reminded that:

  • Fires: No open fires are permitted. The use of gas cookers if preferred.
  • Cooking: There are no cooking facilities at the campsites.
  • Water: It is advisable to carry water between the Kenepuru and Te Mahia Bay saddles. Please use water in the campsites sparingly.
  • Private land: Sections of the track cross private land. Please respect the owners' property, and do not take vehicles, firearms or dogs on the track.
  • Rubbish: There are no rubbish facilities on the track. Please take your rubbish away with you.
  • Wasps: Wasps are common in late summer and autumn. Carry anti-histamines if you are allergic to their stings.
  • Walkers should remember that the track is open to mountain bikers throughout the year.
  • Expect to meet mountain-bikers: Bikers are allowed on the Kenepuru Saddle to Anakiwa section of the track throughout the year. They are also allowed on the Ship Cove to Anakiwa section from March1 to November 30 annually.
  • Respect their right to be there: Bikers have as much right to be on the track as you.
  • Co-operate with their movements: Help bikers to help you. No one wants collisions or close shaves.
  • Mountain bikers are reminded to observe the Mountain Bikers Code at all times. In particular:
  • Give way to walkers: Walkers have the right of way at all times. It's your responsibility to make room for them on the track.
  • Overtake with care: Don't surprise walkers from behind. Carry a bell or give a yell.
  • Control your speed: Don't go so fast that you can't stop within the visible distance ahead of you.
  • Avoid excessive braking: Heavy rear braking can damage the track surface, especially after rain.

Trip Reviews

Trip of a Lifetime!

I am still basking in the glow from this remarkable trip! I admit that I was a bit nervous at first as I was the oldest person in our group and not as fit (for hiking) as some in the group, so I worried about 'keeping up' on the hikes - especially the steeper climbs. Ben and Lauren were very reassuring and encouraging and I felt that I was able to 'hold my own'. In fact, while the hiking was probably the most challenging I've done in at least 7 years, it was the most rewarding/exhilarating part for me. I loved our group - a very positive, health-conscious and fun group of people from all walks of life. It was also wonderful that we were only 12 people - it helped to create a much more intimate and personal atmosphere. I felt we bonded together well - again, thanks to Ben and Lauren's great skills with ice-breaking, fun games, and ability to set and maintain a positive atmosphere from the beginning.
From the moment we set off from the airport to the emotional farewells back at the airport at the end of the trip, this was a top notch adventure. Our transportation was comfortable, our accommodations were always different and unique and very comfortable - I loved that they weren't all in your standard hotel and that some of them were really off the beaten track. The food was amazing - from the snack basket in the van, loaded fresh every day with fruit and other snacks, to the amazing meals that Lauren and Ben created and the breakfasts and dinners that we had at various restaurants - there was a lot of variety, special dietary considerations were accounted for and there was lots of it!
I did the kayak option and it was outstanding. The B&B and our hosts were wonderful (the hot tub at the end of the day was most appealing!) and our kayak guide, Nick was terrific - very accommodating, skilled and he made it all very interesting and fun!
I cannot say enough about our incredible guides - Ben and Lauren - they truly moved the bar for me from a great trip to one that will go down in history for me as the trip of a lifetime. They were so knowledgeable about the island - I loved listening to the legends/folklore and learning more about the vegetation, birds, etc. Ben was a terrific driver - I always felt safe. Lauren was terrific with her cooking and meal presentations - meals looked fantastic and tasted even better! Both Ben and Lauren added those special touches from decorating the bus for the Christmas season, organizing our Secret Santa, making a fantastic Christmas morning breakfast, complete with Christmas crackers and special hats, managing extra logistics like re-booking the paragliding for us, setting up the helicopter tour, taking the time and effort to help reconnect people with items they had left behind either in our accommodations or on a hike/kayak. They even had the perfect music for when we went through the Homer Tunnel and down into Milford Sound - the combination of the music and the scenery was so moving it had several of us in tears! They really ensured that they got to know each person and took a genuine interest in each person. Their positive energy and enthusiasm was infectious. They took kindness and customer service to a new level! The scenery was breathtaking everywhere we went. It would be hard for me to say what the favourite part was or favourite view as the South Island is simply spectacular. I felt that the trip was organized in such a way that I really got a good feel and appreciation for the South Island. Truly New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places (both 'inside and out') that I have ever visited (and I've visited over 20 other countries around the world). I really loved the more laid-back way of life and the local people we met were so welcoming and kind. I would love to come back again and see the North Island but also re-visit the South Island!
I highly recommend this trip and have already suggested it to a number of my friends. It really was transformational for me on so many levels! My heartfelt thanks to Ben and Lauren and everyone at Active Adventures!
Sue Hazell Review Image
– Ontario, Canada
Rimu, January 2018
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