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Queen Charlotte Drive itinerary, things to do

The must-do road trip is about breathtaking views of the iconic Marlborough Sounds. Things to see and do range from photo opportunities galore, sea kayaking, visiting artists studios and soaking up views of quiet bays and inlets. The distance is short, approximately 40 kms however it is a journey winding its way through the Marlborough Sounds and is one of New Zealand’s top scenic drives. Not sure whether to take a motorhome, check out FAQ’s for helpful hints and best way to get there.

Excited by the road trip and want to find out more about check out what to see and do on the Queen Charlotte Track attractions, things to do, places to go.

1 day or several days
0 nights or several nights

Trip Overview

Brilliant every day

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Glorious views of the Marlborough Sounds, South Island
  • Sea kayak in safe sheltered inlets and bays with experienced locals
  • Discover LINKWATER PATHWAY track, take a walk
  • Discover artists studios and creative talent whose marketing is a roadside flag
  • Enjoy exploring Havelock, sampling green lipped mussels fresh from the ocean
  • Wonder about the detour and what is at the end of the road
  • Superb insight into the sunken river valleys that make up the Marlborough Sounds
  • An itinerary to take the headache of what to see and do while on the Queen Charlotte Drive
Start Havelock / Picton
Finish Picton / Havelock

BEST TIME TO GO

Year round

NOTE

Journey description is Havelock to Picton

The road demands the driver’s attention. The hilly topography, narrow and winding road means the driver has little time to focus on the views. Take time and pull over to enjoy the views and relax into Queen Charlotte Drive time.

Start Havelock / Picton
Finish Picton / Havelock

Route map

Queen Charlotte Drive Havelock to Picton (or reverse). Including detour to Kenepuru Heads

Havelock

Havelock Mussel Festival offerings, Marlborough, New Zealand

What’s so great about Havelock is green lipped mussels, seafood delicacies, art galleries and an interesting museum narrating the story of saw milling, settlers and pre-European Maori activities. The historic town is fronted by Victorian era wooden buildings reflecting the brief gold rush in the 19th century. Consider joining a boat cruise exploring the Marlborough Sounds or a fishing charter. A favourite is a trip to a mussel sea farm.

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Cullen Point Lookout

View of Pelorus Sound from Cullen Point Lookout on Queen Charlotte Drive, Marlborough Region on South Island of New Zealand

The day starts with a bang. Within fifteen minutes of the Havelock turnoff to Queen Charlotte Drive you have the first of many lookouts. Cullen Point Lookout with its views of Pelorus / Te Hoiere Sound. From the Cullen Point Lookout you are travelling the coastal route of the Mahakipawa Arm of the Pelorus Sound with little bays, coves and inlets swinging into view. Mahakipawa is too shallow to be used by other than small trailer boats. The inlet has a number of holiday homes with private access to the emerald green water, often paths leading to a boat shed.

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Havelock, Linkwater

Queen Charlotte Drive, Marlborough, New Zealand @leonie.morgenstern
Queen Charlotte Drive @leonie.morgenstern

The narrow winding road and the Sounds disappear from view as you enter the Linkwater straight ( 6 km). The straight road is where the river flats support dairy cows. The three largest streams in the area are Cullen Creek, Linkwater Stream and Ada Creek.

TIP

A gaily coloured flag is up indicating an art studio. Pull and park (and it’s probably tricky as the road is narrow). Take the opportunity to browse art galleries and crafty places for holiday souvenirs that are unique.

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Linkwater, Queen Charlotte Drive, things to do

Queen Charlotte Drive, Linkwater, Marlborough, New Zealand @Bayleys
Queen Charlotte Drive, Linkwater @Bayleys

Linkwater is a thriving community with a primary school, pub and is one of the Marlborough Sounds Music Festival venues. In the vicinity is SEA KAYAKING and SMITH HOLIDAY PARK.

  • LINKWATER PATHWAY TRACK, a shared walking / cycling trail in the beautiful Marlborough Sounds
  • Sea Kayaking base for adventures on water and land
  • Grab a coffee and chat to the locals
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Detour to Kenepuru Sound

Marlborough Sounds, Marlborough, New Zealand @tamkusm
Marlborough Sound @tamkusm

Linkwater is the detour point for Kenepuru Sound. It is the road access for two well known resorts. A road trip is approximately 2 hours to the end of the no exit road (you have to return on the same route). The road climbs up a saddle above Endeavour Inlet of the Queen Charlotte Sound and then loops, winds its way around the side of Mt Stokes, above Gore Bay, and finally down to the north into Titirangi Bay.

PUNGA COVE RESORT is road accessible via this route as is MISTLETOE ECO-RESORT. A gem is unwrapped at the end of the road. Titirangi Bay is a pretty remote beach; the reward for turning up.

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Linkwater to Momorangi Bay

Paddling escapes in Momorangi, Marlborough, New Zealand @cameron.ford96
Paddling escapes in Momorangi @cameron.ford96

Queen Charlotte Drive is weaving past Aussie Bay campsite and Momorangi Bay. Momorangi Bay is one of the visually stunning bays of the Marlborough Sounds and a popular location for photographers.

Momorangi Bay campsite and the nearby wharf is a favourite for water bombing, Kayaking and SUP, stand up paddleboarding

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Governors Bay - Marlborough Sounds

Governor's Bay, Marlborough Sounds, Marlborough, New Zealand @Skinny dipping around the world
Governor's Bay, Marlborough Sounds @Skinny dipping around the world

One place you definitely want to visit is Governors Bay. It’s a 5-10 minute walk down to the narrow beach. The lush forest brushes fine gold sand and the sheltered shallow waters invite you to paddle or swim. The 15 minute short easy walk to the beach is a great reason to stretch the legs and take great gulps of fresh air as you soak in the scenery of the Marlborough Sounds. Governors Bay is part of a Department of Conservation reserve with a grass picnic area and compostable toilet. There is no drinking water available.

You will start to get glimpses of Picton as you are now approaching the end / entrance to Queen Charlotte Drive.

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