New Zealand is a mecca for keen hikers, blessed abundantly with unique flora and fauna, stunning mountains, sweeping coastlines, picturesque waterways and an incredible network of tracks winding through it all. The nine famous “Great Walks” are legendary, but the country has much, much more to offer than just these, including a little-known gem: Queen Charlotte Track.
This track along a particularly picturesque part of New Zealand’s coast, the Marlborough Sounds, is the perfect way to get up close and personal with some of New Zealand’s best assets: beach, bush and stunning scenery. Although certainly a challenge, it is achievable for any keen hiker, well-supported with transport, accommodation and services, and will make unforgettable memories.
Walk the Marlborough Sounds
The track is located along the coast of the Queen Charlotte Sound in Marlborough Sounds at the top of the South Island, not too far from a few regional centres - so it is easy to get to for all comers. A Nelson car hire will give you a lovely scenic drive through the Sounds to Picton which serves as a base for hikers, while a Blenheim car hire makes for a shorter jaunt across the braided Wairau River and through wine country - perhaps plan a stop along the way!
The Queen Charlotte Track stretches from Ship Cove near the entrance to Queen Charlotte Sound for 71 kilometres all the way to Anakiwa in the Grove Arm not too far from Picton. It’s an ambitious adventure, taking most people from three to five days to complete, and there are quite a few campsite options along the way so trampers can go at their own pace. Those who like a bit of luxury in the evenings can also book more comfortable accommodation on some stretches, such as cabins, lodges and self-catering digs.
Take a look at the Queen Charlotte Track website for accommodation and transport providers.
The track requires a good level of fitness, but is not steep (ranging from sea level to 400 metres above sea level at the highest point), so most people can do it with no worries, especially if they spread it over 5 days. The paths are generally wide and well-formed, and all major streams are bridged, making it accessible and pleasant to hike.
A boat transfer is required to or from Ship Cove at the beginning or end of the walk, depending on which direction you pick. These are readily available from a range of providers, often departing Picton. Transfers to other points along the track can also be arranged for those attempting a shortened version, and some companies also provide a luggage transfer service to accommodation along the route, so hikers need only carry a day pack.
The track is in fact also beloved amongst mountain bikers, who can ride it almost continuously from start to finish thanks to the high quality of the paths.
Logistics aside, the Queen Charlotte Track makes for a magnificent adventure. The highlight reel includes spectacular coastal scenery, miles of unique native bush, gorgeous and secluded bays and coves, and the general beauty of the Marlborough Sounds. The coast is ragged and indented, forming charming vistas. The Sounds are also often home to dolphins and other wildlife, so keep your eyes peeled.
There are also historical sites along the way, where significant events for both Maori and early Pakeha inhabitants and visitors took place. Pa sites can be spotted in the area, a fascinating look at the native culture, and there is a memorial at Ship Cove where Captain James Cook took shelter during his initial visits to New Zealand.
A New Zealand car hire can take you to many unique, unforgettable and visually stunning places - and your own two feet can take you even further! Why not undertake the challenge and delight that is walking the Queen Charlotte Track in the beautiful Marlborough Sounds? Have you done any of New Zealand’s many scenic walks?