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Queen Charlotte Track

The Queen Charlotte Track offers a spectacular trip through the Marlborough Sounds, from the historic Ship Cove through to Anakiwa in the Grove Arm.
It passes through lush coastal forest, historic bays, and along skyline ridges with unsurpassed views of Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds.
Most of the track is wide and benched, and all major streams have been bridged.
For walkers, boots and a good level of fitness are required, and the 71-kilometre trip can be done in 3-5 days.
The entire Queen Charlotte Track is open to mountain biking from March 1 to November 30 each year. The trip takes about 13 hours.
At other times of the year, from December 1 to February 28, mountain bikes are permitted on the Kenepuru Saddle to Anakiwa section of the track only.

History

Long before the inter-island ferries plied its waters, Queen Charlotte Sound (Totaranui) was an important trade route for Maori, and provided good shelter and bountiful seafood for the many Maori who lived there.
The early European explorer, Captain James Cook, also took advantage of the shelter and natural bounty of the Sounds, making Ship Cove (Meretoto) his New Zealand base. He spent more than 100 days there between 1770 and 1777.
Since that time, the area has been the scene of a diverse range of activities from gold and antinomy mining, whaling and fishing through to tourism and forestry.

Natural History

The track passes through a variety of vegetation types, from grassy farmland to undisturbed native forests. At sea level, the forests are particularly lush. Ferns, tree ferns, nikau palms, climbing kiekie vines and perching plants make up a spectacular coastal forest.
Several forest birds are common along the track, including the bellbird, tui, fantails and the weka.
Along the shoreline shags (cormorants), gannets, terns and shearwaters can also be glimpsed.

Getting There

Nearly all walkers and mountain bikers arrive via Picton, a small town nestled in the Marlborough Sounds, at the top of the South Island. Picton can be reached by road from Christchurch or Nelson, or by commercial ferry from Wellington.

Track Guide

For walkers
Ship Cove to Resolution Bay, 2 hrs, 4.5km Most walkers start from Ship Cove, which can only be reached by boat. Transport can be arranged through a range of Picton tourist operators, who can also carry your pack to each night's intended destination.
No camping is permitted at Ship Cove.
Resolution Bay to Endeavour Inlet, 3hrs, 10.5km
The track follows an old bridle path over a ridge and into Endeavour Inlet. Cabin and motel accommodation is available along the way.
Endeavour Inlet to Camp Bay, 4hrs, 11.5km
The track stays near the shoreline on the way to Camp Bay, where there is a DOC campsite. Cabin accommodation is also available at near-by Punga Cove.
Camp Bay to Torea Saddle, 8hrs, 20.5km
This is the longest and most arduous section of the walk, as it traverses the main ridge between Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds.
DOC campsites are located above the Bay of Many Coves and Kumutoto Bay. Near Torea Saddle, there is a DOC campsite at Cowshed Bay and accommodation at Portage Hotel.
Torea Saddle to Mistletoe Bay, 4hrs, 7.5km
This part of the track also follows the main ridge, with a significant climb out of Torea Saddle.
A DOC campsite is located at Mistletoe Bay, and there is also accommodation at near-by Te Mahia Bay.
Mistletoe Bay to Anakiwa, 4hrs, 12.5km
This section follows old bridle paths high above the water. There is a DOC campsite en route at Umungata (Davies Bay). At Anakiwa, bus and boat transport is available to Picton and near-by accommodation.

For Bikers
Ship Cove to Camp Bay, 5hrs, 26.5km
Ship Cove can only be reached by boat. Transport can be arranged through a range of Picton tourist operators, who can also arrange to carry your bags to your intended destination.
No camping is permitted at Ship Cove, but there is a DOC campsite at Camp Bay. Accommodation is also available on the way through Endeavour Inlet and at Punga Cove.
This section of track is mostly single-track, and is the most technically demanding part of the ride. This section is closed to mountain biking from 1 December to 28 February each year.
Camp Bay to Torea Saddle, 4hrs, 20.5km
The section of the track leads bikers on a long climb to the main ridge between Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds, but offers spectacular views.
DOC campsites are located above Bay of Many Coves and Kumutoto Bay. Near Torea Saddle, there is a DOC campsite at Cowshed Bay and accommodation at Portage Hotel.
This section is open to mountain biking throughout the year.
It is also possible to cycle from Camp Bay to Torea Saddle via the Kenepuru Road, which offers an easier ride at sea level.
Torea Saddle to Anakiwa, 4hrs, 20km
This makes a good day trip, with bikers able to continue from Anakiwa to Picton along the road.
This section is available to mountain biking throughout the year.
It is also possible to cycle as far as Mistletoe Bay via the Kenepuru Road, which offers an easier ride at sea level from Torea Saddle.

Huts and Campsites

There are a number of accommodation houses along the track route, providing cabin, motel and hotel lodgings and tent sites.
There are also seven DOC campsites, each with toilets and a water supply. Camping fees should be deposited in the self-registration boxes at the campsites, or paid to the DOC office in Picton.

Important Information

All users of the track are reminded that:

  • Fires: No open fires are permitted. The use of gas cookers if preferred.
  • Cooking: There are no cooking facilities at the campsites.
  • Water: It is advisable to carry water between the Kenepuru and Te Mahia Bay saddles. Please use water in the campsites sparingly.
  • Private land: Sections of the track cross private land. Please respect the owners' property, and do not take vehicles, firearms or dogs on the track.
  • Rubbish: There are no rubbish facilities on the track. Please take your rubbish away with you.
  • Wasps: Wasps are common in late summer and autumn. Carry anti-histamines if you are allergic to their stings.
  • Walkers should remember that the track is open to mountain bikers throughout the year.
  • Expect to meet mountain-bikers: Bikers are allowed on the Kenepuru Saddle to Anakiwa section of the track throughout the year. They are also allowed on the Ship Cove to Anakiwa section from March1 to November 30 annually.
  • Respect their right to be there: Bikers have as much right to be on the track as you.
  • Co-operate with their movements: Help bikers to help you. No one wants collisions or close shaves.
  • Mountain bikers are reminded to observe the Mountain Bikers Code at all times. In particular:
  • Give way to walkers: Walkers have the right of way at all times. It's your responsibility to make room for them on the track.
  • Overtake with care: Don't surprise walkers from behind. Carry a bell or give a yell.
  • Control your speed: Don't go so fast that you can't stop within the visible distance ahead of you.
  • Avoid excessive braking: Heavy rear braking can damage the track surface, especially after rain.

Trip Reviews

  •   4.68 out of 5 (from 244 reviews)

    Loved NZ Kea Adventure

    New Zealand is a beautiful country, but the experience would not have been half as memorable if it were not for our AA guides. They were professional, could answer any question about NZ, incredibly competent in all ways and so much fun! But it would be unfair not to mention the preliminary support team leading up to the trip. All requests and needs were handled quickly and efficiently. And last, but not least, the itinerary was so well thought out. I enjoyed every minute of the trip and was sorry to see it end.
    Lori Schimpf Review Image
    – California, United States
    Kea, January 2017
  •   4.48 out of 5 (from 297 reviews)

    Memorable South Island NZ

    This is one active trip with never a dull moment. We experienced real rain forest rain and snow capped mountains from afar and close up and personal. The contagious energy of the guides created a fun and physically challenging adventure.


    Leslie Horwitz-Beare Review Image
    – Ontario, Canada
    Weka 13-day, February 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4983 reviews)

    Exceeded all expectations

    Our Rimu trip truly exceeded all expectations. Our Active guides, Rachael and Gary were wonderful guides with so much knowledge to share with us about the New Zealand culture, wildlife, history, and geography that we encountered along the way. This was truly an adventure of a lifetime that my son and I will always treasure.
    Mia Byrne Review Image
    – Michigan, United States
    Rimu, March 2017
  •   4.70 out of 5 (from 266 reviews)

    Everything we hoped for and MORE.

    This was my first trip to New Zealand, and to the southern hemisphere. We had dreamed of this for many years, and it was so much more than we had even hoped for. So many memories and highlights: Morning alpine glow on Mt. Cook. Any day that it was sunny and you could see those amazing mountains. Turquoise alpine lakes. The day we spontaneously stopped at a deserted beach on the west coast, and saw Hector's dolphins frolicking. The picnic on the hill at Braemar's station. The nights at Braemar, the laughing and wine. Racheal (our guide) encouraging me and talking about growing up on a sheep farm while hiking up Key Pass. The stars at night - the Milky Way and upside down Orion! The mystical drive down to Milford Sound in the fog and light rain, and the clearing while on the boat. Going under a waterfall and just yelling in joy. The amazing, kind, funny and interesting people we met on our tour. If you are even thinking about it - go! You will not be disappointed.
    Jeannie Puglisi Review Image
    – Connecticut, United States
    Kiwi, April 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4983 reviews)

    Rimu - NZ South Island

    Our Rimu trip with Ken and Elder was truly a trip of a lifetime. The two of them were the perfect pair to lead our adventure -kind, warm, funny, and incredibly encouraging (for those of us who weren't quite sure we'd make it up the mountain!) My husband and I were fortunate to have both of our adult boys join us which made for a very memorable experience. New Zealand's South Island offered some of the most breathtaking landscapes we had ever seen. The hiking, kayaking, and biking was challenging and exhilarating. It was hard to say goodbye to the group who became like family. We have stayed in touch with some, and look forward to our next trip with Active.
    Gigi Altaras Review Image
    – Washington, United States
    Rimu, November 2017

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Why travel with Active Adventures?

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

As soon as you get off the plane, we've got all the details of your vacation covered – top notch meals, comfortable transport & accommodation, amazing guides and INCREDIBLE service.

Whether you’re new to adventure travel, or you’ve never travelled in a group before, you’ll find yourself arriving home positively different from when you left.

With our small groups (no more than 14), you'll get to know our team, your fellow travellers, and have the flexibility and freedom to do as much (or as little!) as you like.

It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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