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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

  4.53 out of 5 (from 4941 reviews)

LEGENDARY

Travelling to New Zealand has been on my bucket list for nearly half my life, and I'm so glad I spent three weeks there with Active! I was a bit worried going by myself, but it turned out to be the best vacation of my life. They took us to so many spots that I probably would have never seen if I tried to organize everything on my own. It was great to have them feed me, drive me, hike me, and take me to our accommodations at night - not once did I have to worry about anything. The accommodations themselves were so fun and unique, staying in them was a highlight of my trip. Our guides, Kim and Ashleigh, were fantastic young ladies. Ash was an amazing chef and Kim rocked the in-bus narration. I also think we had a phenomenal group of people who clicked very well, and absolutely the best weather one could wish for.

Even when there were a few changes to the itinerary due to road damages, weather issues, or anything else, the guides were on top of it so fast that we barely even noticed there was a problem. We did miss out on snorkeling with the fur seals, and our Franz Josef Heli-Hike was cancelled, but we were still able to see seals and take a helicopter ride to a glacier at another time. No loss whatsoever.

I'm a fairly active person under thirty, who lives in an mountainous region, and I was still challenged by the hikes and activities they provided. I also have bad knees, and was still able to get up and down the more difficult mountains. For those wondering abut the multi-day hike, it's definitely a work-out, but totally worth it! And be sure to invest in a hydration bladder, you'll really appreciate it! If you're looking for an outdoor adventure with lots of activity and fun, this is definitely one of the better ways to explore New Zealand.
Janine Carbone Review Image
– New Hampshire, United States
Rimu, April 2017
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Why travel with Active Adventures?

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It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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