Queen Charlotte Track
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Queen Charlotte Track
New Zealand

The Queen Charlotte Track is 70 kilometres of stunning natural landscape, located in Marlborough Sounds, South Island, New Zealand.

Marlbrough sounds is an area of outstanding beauty, being a collection of ancient river valleys that now make up a vast route of shoreline inlets and coastlines.

The Queen Charlotte Track is also part of a much longer trail, Te Araroa or The Long Pathway, a hiking path that travels the length of New Zealand.

Beginning at Meretoto/Ship Cove, the Queen Charlotte Track path winds through clifftop paths, beaches and forests to Anakiwa,

This path has plenty to offer both the experienced as well as those who are new, as the walking is fairly easy. To make it more of a challenge, try hiking it in one go with overnight camping stops!

If you don’t fancy carrying all your gear for overnight stays, it is possible to walk the path in sections.

You can walk this path in any direction, however most people prefer to walk from Meretoto/Ship Cove to Anakiwa. This is because there is no road access to Ship Cove, so it is easier to get a variety of transport at the end of your walk if you finish in Anakiwa.

Highlights
  • Coastal views
  • Waterfalls
  • Wildlife
  • Native rainforests
  • Rich Maori and European history
Walk Map
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About the route
  • Travel

There is no road access to Meretoto/Ship Cove, so you will need to have boat transport.

Boat taxis are plentiful, and travel takes approximately an hour from Picton. There are also boat services to transport you to different parts of the track.

  • Airports

If you are flying into Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch International Airports, there are transport options to Picton, such as buses and vehicle rentals. There are also connecting flights with Air New Zealand from all three airports to Blenheim Airports, a 20 minute drive to Picton.

From Christchurch, you can travel by train to Picton, through Kiwi Rail Scenic Journeys.

  •  Length

The Queen Charlotte Track is 70 kilometres of gentle terrain. While there are some hills, the inclines are mostly gradual and long, rather than short and steep, although there are some exceptions.

Hikers often complete the trail in 3-5 days with ease. It is possible to lengthen your stay by having rest days where you can relax and soak up this beautiful area, or perhaps add in some side excursions.

  • Grade and difficulty of the walk

Grade 2/5. The Queen Charlotte Track is a well-used path that is easy to moderate in places. There are a few steep areas in places, and some areas can be muddy at times.

The highest point on the trail is the Bay of Coves ridgeline, at 470 metres elevation.

This unique landscape can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

The paths are generally good underfoot and wide, allowing for hikers and mountain bikers.

  • Experience

You do not need to be an experienced hiker to enjoy the Queen Charlotte Track. As long as you have a good level of fitness, you should be able to complete the trail with ease.

If you are camping and wish to hike the length under your own steam, then you will need to be fit enough to carry your camping equipment and supplies.

There are placed to refill your water bottles along the route, although in dry seasons water may be limited. In that case you will need to carry extra supplies with you if camping overnight.

If you do struggle with your fitness levels, you can walk the path in stages. There are many tour operators in the area, and you can arrange transport to take you to different areas along the trail, and pick you up again after your walk.

The terrain is varied, but not especially challenging, and the path is well-marked so no navigational skills are required.

Having a map is always recommended, as although you may not need it for navigation, it gives information about the area that will enhance your experience.

  • Permits

Some parts of the Queen Charlotte Track cross private land. If you wish to walk those sections of the trail, then you are required to purchase a track pass. This can be bought from the visitor centres in Picton, Blenheim and Havelock.

  • Guided or Self-Guided

Most hikers opt for a self-guided hike along this track. The path is well-marked and easy to walk.

If you don’t fancy carrying your backpack the length of the track, there are operators that will transport it to your overnight accommodation for you.

Guided walks are available. The benefits of guided walks is that you get expert local knowledge, as well as the camaraderie of walking in a group.

best time to walk

The Queen Charlotte Track can be walked at any time of the year.

During the height of summer, temperatures can reach up to 30°C of the hottest of days, however you can usually expect it to be a little cooler on average.

In the winter, temperatures are around 12°C in the daytime. This is still pleasant for hiking, although do take plenty of warm clothing.

You can expect lots of different weather in one day in New Zealand, so no matter what the season, be prepared for anything! Make sure you have waterproofs and plenty of light layers.

A typical itinerary would be:

Day 1:
Meretoto/Ship Cove to Endeavour Inlet: 15 kilometres

Day 2:
Endeavour Inlet to Camp Bay: 5 kilometres

Day 3:
Camp Bay to Torea Saddle: 23 kilometres

Day 4:
Torea Saddle to Mistletoe Bay: 8 kilometres

Day 5:
Mistletoe Bay to Anakiwa: 12.5 kilometres

Accommodation

There is a range of accommodation available along or off of the track. If you plant to walk the length independently, with overnight stays, Department of Conservation campsites are a great option.

Campsites on the track:

  • Schoolhouse Bay
  • Camp Bay
  • Bay of Many Coves
  • Black Rock
  • Cowshed
  • Umungata – Davies Bay

There is also private accommodation available, including lodges, B&Bs, hostels and holiday lets. These range from basic to luxury, so there is something for any budget.

What to do

Along the route, you will discover history related to Maori tribes and European settlers.

In 1770, Captain Cook claimed British rule in the area. He was a frequent visitor to Ship Cove, where he met many local Maoris.

Learn the Maori legends of how this complex coastline was formed, one story involves a giant octopus and a warrior!

The Queen Charlotte Track has a diverse terrain. You get glorious beaches and rocky inlets, combined with lush green hills and ridgetop walking.

Combine that with ancient forests and undisturbed habitats, and you have some of the best places to see land and marine wildlife and flora.

The remoteness of the area means that wildlife has been largely undisturbed. This means that wildlife is not generally afraid of humans, so you get a chance to see native species up close!

If you enjoy spotting wildlife, you will see an array of colourful birds in the native forests, such as the Tui and Bellbird.

Fantails are friendly birds who will follow you inquisitively. Wekas are also curious, and keen to share a sandwich!

Wild pigs roam the area. These are not native, but were release by Captain Cook as a food source during his stay.

These pigs do tend to be shy, and are likely to hide if they hear you coming.

In the water, you may be lucky enough to see orca whales, dolphins and seals.

If you like plenty of action, there are opportunities to mix your walk with some mountain biking or kayaking.

Or, if you choose to have rest days along the way, you can try some side trips or kayaking excursions.

Published: December 6, 2019 Modified: February 19, 2020

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At a glance
Skills RequiredHiking
Difficulty 2/5
Starts at Ship Cove (Meretoto), New Zealand
Finishes at Anakiwa 7281, New Zealand
Length of route 70 Km
Average time to complete 5 - Days
Possible to complete sub-sectionsYes
Permit requiredYes
Equipment neededCamping equipment, food supplies, walking boots
Countries visited New Zealand