Queen Charlotte Track: A Complete Traveler's Guide

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. The total length of the track is 70km and is graded easy to intermediate. 



In this Complete Traveler's Guide, we answer all of the frequently asked questions, and provide you with everything you need to know to make an informed decision about what kind of trip you are looking to have to this unforgettable location.


Taking On The Queen Charlotte Track


Where is the Queen Charlotte Track?


How do you get to the Queen Charlotte Track?


How difficult is the Queen Charlotte Track?


How to walk the Queen Charlotte Track: Guided or Self-Guided


What are the different sections of the Queen Charlotte Track?


Things to do in Picton (starting point of Queen Charlotte tours)


Biking the Queen Charlotte Track


Kayaking the Queen Charlotte Sound


Queen Charlotte Sound cruise


The best accommodation near the Queen Charlotte Track






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. You can traverse the entire track on a 4 or 5 day journey featuring stunning coastal views and native bush on a unique walking and cycling experience.




(Photo Credit: Miles Holden)

The Queen Charlotte Track 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.



Aerial view of the Marlborough Sounds on an Autumn Morning


Queen Charlotte Track Weather & Climate


Because much of the Marlborough region is sheltered by high country to the west, south and in some areas to the east, its New Zealand’s sunniest region, averaging 2,400 hours of sunshine each year.The Marlborough Sounds is blessed with a great year round climate – however, New Zealand weather generally is said to have ‘four seasons in one day’ so it is important to come prepared. Layered clothing is best including a thermal undergarment, fleece top, shorts, long trousers, warm jacket and rain coat.

Summers are filled with warm, dry and settled weather. Typical summer daytime maximum air temperatures range from 20°C to 26°C, but occasionally rise above 30°C. High temperatures are sometimes accompanied by dry, hot winds from the northwest that create distinctive ‘wave’ cloud formations.

Winter days often start with a frost, but are usually mild overall. Late winter and early spring is normally the most unsettled time of the year. Typical winter daytime maximum air temperatures range from 10°C to 15°C. Mean annual rainfall is around 1,200mm, with only 76 wet days on average per year; the micro-climate of the Marlborough Sounds has slightly higher rainfall.


Where To Stay Near The Queen Charlotte Track


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. From pre or post walking to completing the track, find accommodation in Marlborough, Picton and ofcourse, along the Queen Charlotte Track. Here are some of our top picks: Best Accommodation Near Queen Charlotte Track.

Furneaux Lodge

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.

Bay Of Many Coves

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 in the heart of the sounds. A Luxury Lodge of New Zealand, The Bay of Many Coves is accesible only by boat and 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.




Punga Cove Resort

Located amongst the stunning Marlborough Sounds, Punga Cove Resort is a very popular choice for Queen Charlotte Track ontakers and boasts luxurious accommodation in the midst of native New Zealand bush. Only moments from a private beach area and in easy reach of famous sights, bask in the sunshine in the terrace area, play by the waves in the resort’s private beach, and find a spot of quiet tranquility in the garden or enjoy the myraid of activities on offer.




The Sounds Retreat

The Sounds Retreat offers the ultimate luxury and is gorgeously located amongst some of the best natural views New Zealand has to offer. Being just a 30 minute drive from Picton, you remain close to the action, while basking in blissful seclusion and privacy. Take in the stunning bay views from your private hot tub, on your room’s private terrace. You can stay fit and thriving at the retreat’s state of the art fitness centre, or explore the wonders around you on a canoe or bike. Take the worry out of airport transfers as these are taken care of by The Sounds Retreat.



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