New Zealand's famous Queen Charlotte Track is one of the country's most popular hikes and one of the ten Great Walks. Located at the north eastern tip of the South Island, the undulating 70km track takes in incredible views over the contours of the Marlborough Sounds encountering historical landmarks and a wide variety of native bush and wildlife. Travellers can choose to traverse the track on a self-guided, partially guided or fully guided itinerary and charming accommodation options are dotted along the route to enhance the immersion in this unique landscape. For the more adventurous, it is possible to undertake the track on a mountain bike or to combine walking with an exploration of the outer Sounds by kayak.
Most itineraries begin and end in the picturesque seaside town of Picton which is a short 25-minute flight from Wellington. From here boats transfer visitors to the start of the track, Ship Cove, passing beautiful bays and perhaps sighting native bird and marine life along the rugged coastline. Ship Cove was a favourite anchorage for Captain Cook during his explorations in the 1770s as well as being a site of significance for local Maori.
A relaxed pace is set to enjoy the sights and tranquillity of this renowned area of natural beauty. Walking is generally spread over four days with some challenging terrain balanced with more manageable sections of the track and plenty of opportunities to pause for a rest or admire lush forests, crystal clear water and an array of native birdlife. A moderate level of fitness is recommended to complete the track comfortably.
The track is broken into five sections:
Ship Cove to Endeavour Inlet, 15 km
This section of the track will take most walkers around five hours. There is plenty to learn along the way so informative panels are provided to give context to the major areas of interest. The track immediately climbs away from the beach, passing through native forest inhabited by a variety of local flora and fauna. At this section's summit, walkers admire spectacular views over the inner and outer Queen Charlotte Sound/Tōtaranui before enjoying a gentle downward stretch into Resolution Bay, a place to rest with basic campsite facilities. From here, the track follows a well-graded old bridle path over a ridge and winding down along the shoreline of Endeavour Inlet where signs detail the antimony mining era.
Inlet to Camp Bay, 11.5 km
This section of the track will take around four hours, hugging the shoreline, making the most of spectacular views across Endeavour Inlet while benefiting from the shelter of regenerating forest and birdsong from the myriad native species at home here. After rounding Big Bay this section concludes at Camp Bay where there is a campsite and private accommodation at Mahana Lodge.
Camp Bay to Torea Saddle, 23 km
This section presents the most challenging terrain and a full day of hiking however the rigours of the track are rewarded richly with breathtaking panoramas of the Sounds. A steep climb from Camp Bay to Kenepuru Saddle takes travellers to a ridge separating Queen Charlotte Sound from Kenepuru Sound. Rest stops are possible along with way with campsites overlooking the Bay of Many Coves and Kumutoto Bay providing basic facilities. The track descends to Torea Saddle between Portage and Torea Bay where a variety of accommodation options are available.
Saddle to Mistletoe Bay: 8 km
This relatively short section of track will take most walkers around four hours follows the ridgeline among gorse and mānuka. The track takes in a spectacular look out before descending towards Te Mahia Saddle.
Mistletoe Bay to Anakiwa: 12.5 km
A comfortable section of track, beginning high above the water, which should take around four hours. The track descends into Umungata Bay (Davies Bay) a nice place to pause before embarking on the final hour’s walking along an easy path through mature beech forest to the track's conclusion at Anakiwa.
You can cover the entire track during 4 to 5 day walk. Guided & Self guided Queen Charlotte Track Walking or Kayaking tours are available from here.
Every type of traveller is catered for with accommodation options ranging from backpacker hostels to luxury boutique hotels with fine dining and first-class facilities onsite. Located at the head of Endeavour Inlet, Furneaux Lodge overlooks the calm, clear water of Queen Charlotte Sound. The lodge offers a range of accommodation including one-bedroom waterfront suites and self-contained two-bedroom chalets, all enjoying panoramic views. The award-winning onsite restaurant is the ideal place to indulge after a day's hiking while the service throughout the lodge will ensure you feel instantly at home.
A warm welcome awaits weary hikers at Mahana Lodge. The purpose-built lodge is tucked away behind the historic Mahana Homestead and is surrounded by native bush and established gardens, just metres from the lapping shores of Camp Bay. There are four comfortable ensuite bedrooms with forest or ocean views and guests can select from a king size or twin beds. A central shared guest lounge provides ample space to relax and admire captivating views over Endeavour Inlet or compare tales of the track with fellow hikers.
A well-deserved night's rest at charming boutique hotel, Raetihi Lodge is a fitting conclusion to an exhilarating experience. Nestled beachside in the heart of the Marlborough Sounds, this homely yet luxurious lodge accommodates up to 30 guests in 14 elegant rooms. The onsite restaurant, lounge and al fresco dining area provide plenty of space to unwind and enjoy warm hospitality and delicious local cuisine.
For those wishing to explore the Marlborough Sounds without committing to a four-day hike, The Bay of Many Coves is a luxury retreat that promises the ultimate escape from daily life. A Luxury Lodge of New Zealand, The Bay of Many Coves offers supreme comfort, exceptional service and a wealth of immersive outdoor experiences. With suites, one, two and three-bedroom apartments, there is sure to be an accommodation option to suit and the world-class onsite restaurant will ensure weary adventurers are well fed at the end of each day.
View all Queen Charlotte Track Walking or Kayaking tours here.