Discover an underrated walk. Queen Charlotte track is part of the Marlborough Sounds. It’s beautiful and where the sea, sky and land tantilise the senses and calm the soul. Brilliant every day. The Sounds are a network of sunken river valleys, where the land has slowly sunk and the water level has risen, flooding a vast area over millions of years. The area is not a national park but many areas are protected as reserves.
Best time to go to Queen Charlotte
November to March
Queen Charlotte highlights
- Scenic views of the Marlborough Sounds, lush deep green coastal podocarp forest, historic bays where whalers once slaughtered their catch, skyline ridges outlining sea to sky panoramic views.
- Walking, kayaking & cycling options integrated into a unique journey. It is an extraordinary part of the Queen Charlotte track, the ability to customise your holiday to enjoy on water and on land experiences.
- Less crowded, space to enjoy secluded untouched forest. Enchantment as you enjoy the space and peace of the bush.
- Touch of comfort with lodges and luxury hideaways at the end of the day. Nothing like soft bedding to add glamour to the walking experience.
- An accessible trail for mountain bike enthusiasts except for the section from Ship Cove to Kenepuru Saddle, which is closed for mountain biking from December to February. The track is also one of New Zealand’s Great Rides as part of Nga Haerenga The New Zealand Cycle Trail.
- Excellent day walk options throughout the trail with side trips to waterfalls and secluded coves for a quick dip. Check out the Marlborough guide, things to do for side track walking suggestions.
- The joy of gourmet meals at the end of the day’s walk with luxury lodges dotted throughout the track. This is the benefit of private and public ownership of the land. A glass of local sauvignon blanc in hand to contemplate the sights and sounds of the Marlborough Sounds.
- Opportunities to break your tramp with a stay at Mistletoe Eco Lodge, home to a number of great short walks. Mistletoe Bay Peninsular Track (signposted Loop Track) starts at the beach and leads to regenerating forest and up through pines with views of Mistletoe Bay. At the tip of the peninsular is a lookout.
- Visitors relish the opportunity to immerse themselves in the flora and fauna of New Zealand.
Look on the underside of the fern for the design origins in Maori art and notice the small black seeds attached. The fronds are part of the rugby All Black clothing design. From the lush original sub-tropical coastal rainforest to farmland dotted with sheep and areas where the forest is slowly regenerating, the track offers an insight into New Zealand’s native bush life cycle.
- Birdlife is diverse and friendly. The inquisitive weka, a flightless New Zealand native bird is a frequent companion on the track. The weka is not to be confused with the rarer and nocturnal Kiwi. Forest birds include the bellbird, Tui, Kereru (native pigeon), and grey warblers. Consider planning a guided trip to the Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary on the way to Ship Cove, where the birdlife is prolific.
Queen Charlotte track – what is it
The Queen Charlotte Track is a 71 km long New Zealand walking track between Queen Charlotte Sound and Kenepuru Sound in the Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand. It extends from Ship Cove in the north to Anakiwa in the south. The trail is brilliant every day with its seamless transport options ensuring wet weather shelter is available.
The track is maintained by the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) and is well maintained with a firm surface. There is excellent signage. It is one of the most popular tramping tracks in New Zealand. The walking track leads over mainly clay soil, with bridges over all major streams, and reaches from sea level to 470m high. It is not a difficult track, however, there are long sections of up to 23 km (Camp Bay and Torea Saddle is over 23 km).
There are direct flights to Blenheim with a regular shuttle service to Picton where many transport operators are based. You can catch the interisland ferry services which berth in Picton. There is a regional airline Soundsair which has a base in Wellington airport. The Kiwi Rail Scenic Journey from Christchurch to Picton is an option for overseas visitors. There are intercity bus services to Picton and Blenheim.
Marlborough is brilliant weather wise. Summer temperatures are between 20 – 28 c. Spring temperatures (September to November) between 14 – 20 c. Autumn is a cool 16 – 18 c daily range. Winter temperatures dip to 10 c. In winter night is usually in the single digits. Rain is possible any time of the year with January – March the driest months.
You need to be able to walk for up to eight hours a day to negotiate the entire track.
The small black soundless black fly is common throughout New Zealand and frequently found near water. Bring insect repellant and bite sting lotion.
You can opt to catch a water taxi at any time. Remember in some parts of the track there is poor Wi-Fi coverage. If you are travelling with a guided tour they can arrange transport for you.
Remember if you are flying out of Blenheim airpot ensure you are booked as late as possible in the day. Ideally you should arrange your flight for the next day.
Yes, as water taxis start their journeys early in the morning.
Intermittent, sporadic and do not rely on mobile connections. Lodges and accommodation have limited internet access for guests. Plan accordingly and download plans. Consider the old fashioned option of printing itineraries on paper.
Yes, it is user pays.
Lodges accept electronic payments. Camping requires DOC passes to be prepurchased. Cash is useful when you need to catch a water taxi and/or purchase food unexpectedly.
The 71 km Queen Charlotte track is between Queen Charlotte Sound and Kenepuru Sound in the Marlborough Sounds. It extends from Ship Cove in the north to Anakiwa in the south Wikipedia Queen Charlotte Track for handy topographic coordinates check Wikipedia.
There is road access at Anakiwa, Te Mahia Saddle, Mistletoe Bay, Torea Saddle and Bay and Kenepuru Saddle. There is limited and unsecured parking. Ideally you will use shuttle buses linking the area or water taxis.
3 to 5 days. The track is largely easy walking however there are some steep sections to the ridgelines.
The track walk is NOT free. Check with Department of Conservation for up to date fees. Queen Charlotte Track
Water taxis generally have a weight limit of 15 kg. Arrange for excess luggage to be stored before starting your trip.
No, it is not necessary however you will need strong walking shoes or lightweight boots. Remember to walk in comfortable road tested footwear.
Outer waterproof layer, thermal breathable top, T-shirt, pants, sun hat, sunglasses, drink bottle as there is no water available on the track, sunscreen and insect repellent, blister patches.
Queen Charlotte Track has several Department of Conservation campsites, as well as private accommodations, as it crosses private land on some sections. Side tracks lead to the Bay of Many Coves and Lochmara Bay. The official website lists Camping Queen Charlotte Track check for details. Check the travel pack section for your track map, the names of transport operators, accommodation providers are listed.
Check the official website for up to date weather information and track conditions here: Useful Links for Picton and Marlborough. For self-guided walks Queen Charlotte Track will offer you options ranging from half day walks to multiple day walks. The tour operator takes the hassle out of the walk with the logistics not dominating the walk. There are various options from budget friendly to pampered luxury. It is recommended for families that meals and transportation are part of the deal to ensure that all ages enjoy one of New Zealand finest tracks that is walkable all year round.
Queen Charlotte Track where to stay
Mahana Lodge is an oasis for the weary with its delightfully restored historic homestead and purpose built hiker lodge with four ensuite rooms and shared guest lounge. Enjoy free range eggs for breakfast and dine in the delightful conservatory. Your peace will only be broken by the song of the bellbird.
Furneaux Lodge offers a range of accommodation depending on your requirements. The waterfront suites used for our Classic guided walk are contemporary one-bedroom apartments, and are absolutely private with stunning views. Our standard independent packages stay in the Tobias Junior Suites, each with own ensuite. The Premier package stays in upmarket studio suites with private ensuite and views out to the bay.
Bay of Many Coves
At the Bay of Many Coves, there is a casual waterfront café, a guest lounge and the Foredeck fine-dining restaurant where you can savour the delights of fresh local seafood and produce, with specially selected wines from Marlborough’s leading vintners and international labels. Of course you can soak up the serenity in the Cedar Hot Tub and indulge in a treatment at the Day Spa too. And then, there’s the view: there are few places in the world that offer such a luxurious, mouth-watering, sensory combination.
Set amongst stunning scenery in the magnificent waterways of New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds, Punga Cove is the perfect retreat for people wanting to relax in style. You’ll be accommodated in a modern ensuite unit with stunning views of the bay. There are budget options available.
Set on the tranquil shores of the Queen Charlotte Sound, Lochmara Lodge features quality accommodation as well as aviaries and enclosures with endangered species, an organic vegetable garden and orchard, educational signage, sculpture trail and art gallery. Our premier guided walk stays in the very best Kakariki ensuite units with stunning water views.
Travel pack information
Excellent day walk options throughout the trail with side trips to waterfalls and secluded coves for a quick dip. Check out the Queen Charlotte Track, Attractions, Things to do, Places to go for side track walking suggestions.
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