hiking the the Queen Charlotte track, New Zealand

Hiking the Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand

Last Updated: 23rd July, 2023

Hiking the Queen Charlotte Track in New Zealand is a must-do when exploring the Marlborough region of the South Island! This 70-kilometer trail winds its way through lush native forests, offering stunning coastal vistas, tranquil bays, and historical landmarks, like Captain Cook’s Cove.

Hiking the Queen Charlotte Track, Picton, New Zealand

With a moderate level of difficulty, the track welcomes hikers of varying fitness levels to immerse themselves in the pristine natural landscapes. From the picturesque Ship Cove to the serene Furneaux Lodge and beyond, this multi-day journey promises an unforgettable experience amidst New Zealand’s captivating wilderness.

What is the Queen Charlotte Track?

The Queen Charlotte Track is a renowned multi-day hiking trail that winds it’s way along the Queen Charlotte Sound. It is one of the country’s designated “Great Walks,” which are premier walking tracks that showcase the diverse and stunning landscapes of New Zealand. These Great Walks are carefully maintained, well-marked, and offer a range of facilities for hikers.

Where is the Queen Charlotte Track?

The Queen Charlotte Track is situated in the Marlborough Sounds, a picturesque region at the northern tip of the South Island, near the town of Picton. The track stretches for approximately 70 kilometers (about 43 miles) and takes hikers through some of the most breathtaking coastal scenery, offering sweeping views of the Marlborough Sounds, lush forests, and clear blue waters.

Queen Charlotte Track in Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

How long does it take to hike the Queen Charlotte Track?

The hike is typically completed over several days, with most walkers taking three to five days to cover the entire trail. Along the way, there are various accommodation options available, such as lodges and campsites, allowing hikers to break up the journey and enjoy the stunning surroundings at a more leisurely pace.

Trail Description

Length of Queen Charlotte Track: 73.5 km (45.6 miles)

This is classed as an easy New Zealand Great Walk, and the track is well maintained and a joy to hike! The track stretches from the historic Meretoto/ Ship Cove through to Anakiwa, at the base of Queen Charlotte Sound. There are some steep sections as you walk between the beaches over hilly mountains, and the track can get muddy after a bit of rain. 

What is the best time of year to hike the Queen Charlotte Track?

The best time to do the Queen Charlotte Track is in the months of late Summer to early Autumn (Febuary to March)! The temperatures around this time range from around 14 – 24°C, with it starting to cool off after the hot summer months. This time of year is awesome to plan your hike, as they are the driest months in the Marlborough Sounds, and you are outside of peak tourist season – so you will have the track to yourself!

We did our hike in early March 2021, and it was awesome! Bluebird skies, warm, sunny days, and cool nights cuddled up in the tent, listening to the sounds of the birds. Bliss!

Transport to and from the Queen Charlotte Track

How to get to Ship Cove from Picton

Ship Cove is the official starting point of the Queen Charlotte Track, and is right at the northern point of the sound! The best way to start your trip is to take a water taxi from Picton to Ship Cove. The trip will take around an hour, and sometimes includes stops to other coves along the way. There are numerous options for both scheduled and private water taxis, so you can choose what timing works for you!

Cougar Line Queen CHarlotte Track booking center, picton

How to get between Anakiwa and Picton

There are both road and boat transport services to and from Anakiwa from Picton!

By Water Taxi: There are a number of water taxis that travel between Picton and Anakiwa, with stops along the way. The trip will take around 30 minutes. The Cougar Line offers a scheduled service that collects walkers from Anakiwa at 3:30pm, and arrives back in Picton at around 4pm. However, check these times prior to departure, as they change during the summer and winter months due to demand!

By Road Transport: If you would prefer to travel by road from Anakiwa to Picton, there are a number of shuttle services that will be able to get you home! Check out Marlborough Shuttles or Picton Shuttles to organise your pick up at the end of your hike!

Cougar Line water taxi to Queen Charlotte track

Parking for the Queen Charlotte Track

There are a number of long-term carparks in Picton, which are a perfect place to leave your car before getting started on the Queen Charlotte Track! The Coathanger Bridge Carpark is conveniently located right beside the marina, so you won’t have to walk far to catch your water taxi! It costs $6 per day, and is huge, so you should always find a spot.

Transport along the Track!

If you want to hike the Queen Charlotte Track but don’t want to carry a heavy pack, then check out one of these Trip Passes! These are guaranteed to make planning and walking the hike a breeze, and include:

  • Boat Transfers to and from the track from Picton Marina
  • Luggage transfers to your accommodation each day – your only need to carry a day pack with your snacks and water!

Check out options from Beachcomber Cruises and Cougar Line here!

Where to stay along the Queen Charlotte Track

There are a number of accommodation options along the Queen Charlotte Track! These range from luxury resorts and hotels for a comfortable evening after a day’s hike, to rustic and back-to-nature campgrounds nestled in the bush along the track.

Campgrounds on the Queen Charlotte Track

If you are keen for a all-nature experience on a budget, then the best places to stay along the Queen Charlotte Track are in the rustic campgrounds dotted along the path. These campgrounds are set in gorgeous surroundings, nestled in bush at the edge of bays. They are very basic, however, and most only provide toilets and water for your stay. Here is a little list of the DOC managed campgrounds along the Queen Charlotte Track:

Schoolhouse Bay Campground | Resolution Bay

  • Price: $10 per night
  • Water Taxi Stop: Yes
  • On the track: Yes
  • Distance from Ship Cove: 4.4km

This is the first campsite you will come across if you are beginning your Queen Charlotte Track Walk from Ship Cove. It’s beautiful, with a small, sheltered grassy area facing out over the calm waters of Resolution Bay. It is around a 2 hour walk from the wharf at ship Cove, over a windy (and a little steep) hill slog.

Campground along Queen Charlotte Track, picton, New zealand

Camp Bay Campground | Punga Cove

  • Price: $10 per night
  • Water Taxi Stop: Yes
  • On the track: Yes
  • Distance from Resolution Bay: 19km

This campground is located in the stunning Punga Cove, overlooking the Endeavor Inlet. It is a slightly larger campground, and can fit up to 20 tents. This campground is in an awesome location, with a small bat and restaurant nearby serving up delicious pizzas and cold beers. What a treat after a day of hiking!

Bay of Many Coves Campground | Bay of Many Coves

  • Price: $10 per night
  • Water Taxi Stop: No
  • On the track: Yes
  • Distance from Camp Bay: 10 km

This campground is located just over the hill from Punga Cove, and looks out over the stunning Bay of Many Coves! It is a backcountry campsite set up on a hill, so you will have incredible views over the sounds from the comfort of your tent!

Black Rock Campground | Kumutoto Bay

  • Price: $10 per night
  • Water Taxi Stop: No
  • On the track: Yes
  • Distance from Bay of Many Coves: 9.5km

This is a small and very basic back-country campsite overlooking Kumutoto Bay. It is only accessible by the walking track, and so you will only find intrepid hikers here!

Cowshed Bay Campground| Portage

  • Price: $10 per night
  • Water Taxi Stop: No
  • On the track: No – 10 minutes walk from main track down into Portage
  • Distance from Black Rock Campground: 6.1km

This campground is on the other side of the hill, looking over the beautiful Kenepuru Sound! It is a little walk off the track, and will take around 10 minutes to walk down towards the stunning Portage Bay. In Portage there are a few cafes and restaurants that you can stop at for a well-deserved cold drink before settling down for the evening.

The turn-off is at the Torea Bay Saddle, and is well sideposted. You will reach a road heading downhill, follow this and it will take you down to the water, before hugging the coastline until you reach the campground. This campground is a little bigger, and has a cold shower along with toilets and water facilities!

Mistletoe Bay Campground | Mistletoe Bay

  • Price: $18 per night
  • Water Taxi Stop: Yes
  • On the track: No – around 15 minutes walk down to the bay from the track
  • Distance from Cowshed Bay: 10.5 km

This is a privately run campground nestled into the stunning Mistletoe Bay. It was my favourite campground on our hike, and not just because of the hot showers and kitchen facilities (although that made a big difference!). This is a privately run campground that offers a mix of cabins and a big grassy area for campers, as well as a small shop and wharf where you can take out a kayak! The walk down the hill is steep, but definitely worth the effort!

Mistletoe Bay Eco village campground off the Queen Charlotte Track, picton, New zealand

Davies Bay Campsite | Davies Bay

  • Price: $10 per night
  • Water Taxi Stop: No
  • On the track: Yes
  • Distance from Mistletoe Bay: 10km

This is the last campground you will come across on the Queen Charlotte Track, and is a lovely place to spend the night! It is a lovely grassy area in the secluded Davies Bay, with views overlooking the sounds.

Davies Bay campground on the Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand

Lodges on the Queen Charlotte Track

If you are looking for a little more luxury during your time on the Queen Charlotte Track, there are a number of lodges and resorts on the trail that offer a comfortable and relaxing place to stay at the end of the day! Here are some of the main lodges on the Queen Charlotte Track:

Tawa Cove Cabins | Endeavour Inlet

Situated in Endeavour Inlet, Tawa Cove is a little slice of paradise! They offer self-contained solid timber cabins tucked away in native bush, with stunning views over the sea or lush forests. Each cabin has a small kitchenette, as well as BBQ facilities on the deck. You can pre-order a BBQ hamper for a delicious dinner, and indulge in a lovely complementary breakfast before you take off the next day!

They are located just off the main track, around 4-hours walk from Ship Cove, and so are an awesome place to spend your first night on the trail.

Furneaux Lodge | Endeavour Inlet

Nestled in the the bay of Endeavour Inlet, Furneaux Lodge offers a range of luxurious accommodation for hikers on the track! From contemporary suites, and family-friendly cottages to basic hikers cabins, there is an awesome option to suit you. This Lodge is located right on the waterfront, and is surrounded by 2,000 acres of native forest! As well as fabulous accommodation, there is the Furneauz Restaurant, where you can enjoy local specialities and award-wining Marlborough wine.

Furneaux Lodge accommodation along the Queen Charlotte track, New Zealand

Punga Cove Resort| Endeavour Inlet

Set amongst the stunning scenery of the Marlborough Sounds, Punga Cove makes the perfect retreat for your second night on the Queen Charlotte Track! They have a range of accommodation spread across the hillside overlooking the bay, surrounded by native bush. Choose from premium suites, retro chalets that are perfect for couples, family-sized apartments, or basic rooms for those on a budget.

Along with the fabulous accommodation, Punga Cove has an incredible Punga Fern Hilltop Restaurant, where you can sit and enjoy freshly-prepared seafood and local wine while overlooking the stunning view!

Portage Resort Hotel | Portage Bay

Located at the end of the Queen Charlotte Track in Kenepuru Sound, Portage Resort Hotel offers a beautiful setting with stunning views. The lodge has comfortable rooms and suites, some with private balconies. The restaurant at Portage Resort serves delicious meals, and guests can unwind at the bar with a selection of local wines.

Hopewell Lodge | Kenepuru Sound

This award-winning Lodge is set in native bush on the water’s edge of Kenepuru Sound. This Lodge is across the sound from the Queen Charlotte Track, and you can get to it via a private water taxi from Portage Bay.

Hopewell is primarily a self-catering Lodge with excellent kitchen facilities, however Mike and Lynley (the fabulous hosts) are happy to offer walkers gourmet pizzas, breakfast, coffees, and are able to organise groceries to be delivered for your stay! Choose from double, twin, family rooms or a self-contained cottage. All doubles have king beds and all beds are made up with quality linen, duvets and towels are provided. Some have private bathrooms and most have sea views and a deck.

Queen Charlotte track, New Zealand

Lochmara Lodge | Lochmara Bay

Lochamara Lodge is a unique and secluded accommodation experience in the Queen Charlotte Sounds. It is a locally owned and operated waterfront resort that has no road access! Arrive at the Lodge via a well-maintained side track from the Queen Charlotte Track, or by water taxi. They offer a wide range of luxury accommodation, from elegant studio rooms to spacious family rooms, as well as simple rooms for backpackers who are looking for a comfortable bed off the beaten track.

Additional tips: A Packing List

Packing the right gear and supplies is essential for a successful hike! Here is a checklist i’ve made for things to pack for your adventure on the Queen Charlotte Track:

  • A sturdy hiking backpack! (40-60 Litres recommended!)
  • Quick drying hiking pants or shorts
  • T-shirts and long-sleeves for sun protection
  • Lightweight fleece or jacket for the chilly evenings
  • Waterproof rain jacket
  • Hiking Socks (and a few extra pairs!)
  • Sturdy, comfortable hiking boots or shoes
  • Sandals or water shoes for river crossings and beach walks
  • Hat and Sunglasses
  • Sleeping bag suitable for the season
  • Lightweight sleeping pad for added comfort
  • Earplugs (in case of noisy hut mates)
  • Lightweight tent (if camping)
  • Lightweight stove and fuel
  • Cooking utensils, including a pot, pan, and utensils
  • Lightweight, packable bowl, and mug
  • Water bottles or hydration bladder
  • Water purification system (water filter or water purification tablets)
  • Lightweight food and snacks – enough for the the number of days you’ll be out, + a little extra!
  • Personal toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, biodegradable soap, etc.)
  • Microfiber towel
  • Sunscreen (high SPF)
  • Insect repellent
  • Personal medications and first aid kit
  • Headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries
  • Map, compass, or navigation device
  • Whistle for emergency signaling
  • Camera or smartphone for capturing memories
  • Portable power bank for charging electronic devices
  • Cash or credit card for emergencies and park fees

Queen Charlotte Track – Track Pass

Whether you are planning to do the full multi-day Queen Charlotte Track or explore this region in sections, it’s important to make sure you have your Queen Charlotte Track Land Cooperative (QCTLC) Pass. This pass allows you to pass over the private land on the Queen Charlotte Track, and contributes to the maintenance and upkeep of this fabulous walking trail!

You can but either a multi-day pass or a single-day pass, depending on your plans! You can buy your pass at the Picton, Nelson or Blenheim i-site, or online here!

Our experience hiking the Queen Charlotte Track!

Timo and I hiked the Queen Charlotte Track in March 2021! We spent 6 days on the trail, as we wanted to take our time and spend a few days enjoying a few of the stunning beaches along the way. We completed the Queen Charlotte Track northbound, starting in the small coastal town of Anakiwa and ending in Ship Cove. We did this as the track is apart of the incredible Te Araroa Hike, of which Timo was half-way through completing! We had an amazing time, and this is one of my favourite multi-day hikes in New Zealand!

hiking the Queen Charlotte track, New Zealand

FAQs – walking the Queen Charlotte Track

How long does the Queen Charlotte walk take?

Is Queen Charlotte Track easy?

Can you do a day walk of the Queen Charlotte Track?

What level of fitness is needed for the Queen Charlotte Track?

Can you walk the Queen Charlotte Track in 3 days?

What is the best time of year to do the Queen Charlotte Track?

What is the best way to do the Queen Charlotte?

Where is the best part of the Queen Charlotte Track to walk?

Hellooooo, you made it! All the way down here! Incredible. Well, I hope this helps you plan your own awesome adventure onto the Queen Charlotte Track!

If you’re eager to continue your exploration and discover more incredible destinations nearby, I invite you to read my ‘Best Things to Do in Picton‘ post! Alternatively, if you find yourself craving another unforgettable hiking experience, check out my ‘Hiking the Abel Tasman Track‘ post. This is another NZ Great Walk that is located nearby along the stunning coastline of the Abel Tasman National Park. Happy Tramping!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *