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The Ultimate Guide to the Queen Charlotte Track

What you need to know about the Queen Charlotte Track.

Explore lush New Zealand forest, discover historic bays and see spectacular wildlife along the 70km Queen Charlotte Track. This multi-day walking and mountain biking trail in the heart of the Marlborough Sounds incorporates spectacular forest, mountain and coastal scenery in one of the South Island’s sunniest regions, making this a trail to hit year-round. Unlike other multi-day hikes/mountain bike trails in New Zealand, hikers have a range of accommodation options, from humble campsites to luxurious lodges. The trail also requires boat transfers to access this remote trail, adding a scenic cruise through the Queen Charlotte Sound into the mix. Work out the logistics and check out a description of the trail in this guide to the Queen Charlotte Track!

While you’re here, you might also be interested in Picton – Guide for Backpackers and 10 Awesome Walks in Marlborough.

What do you need to do the Queen Charlotte Track

QCTLC Pass

The QCTLC Pass is a pass required for the private land sections of the trail. These sections are outlined in the Track Description below. Passes can be purchased from the local i-SITES and from a dispensing machine at Anakiwa. Passes cost around NZ$10 per day or NZ$15-$20 for five consecutive days.

Transport

There are a number of boat transfer companies taking walking and mountain bikers to and from multiple points along the trail, including the beginning/end of the trail at Ship Cove and Anakiwa. Transport offices are open for bookings at the Picton Marina.

Accommodation

Department of Conservation (DOC) campsites

DOC campsites cost around NZ$6 paid in the honesty boxes (take correct cash) or prepaid at the Picton i-SITE or DOC office. These campsites are available at:

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

Private Accommodation

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Walking the Queen Charlotte Track

Time: 3-5 days
Track Closures: Open year-round for walkers
Grade: Easy hiking track

The Department of Conservation grades the Queen Charlotte Track as an “Easier tramping track” for hikers. This means that limited backcountry experience is required as the trail is well-formed, but is steep and can be rough or muddy in some sections. The trail is well-signed and all streams and river crossing are bridged.

Most hikers prefer to start the trail from the Ship Cove end of the trail and walk either day hikes from Ship Cove (which should be organised with boat transfer operators) or walk the entire trail to Anakiwa.

The trail can be made easier with boat transfer services offering to transfer backpacks to your next accommodation.

MarlboroughNZ.com

Mountain Biking the Queen Charlotte Track

Time: 2-3 days
Track Closures: Open year-round except for the Ship Cove to Kenepuru Saddle section which is closed in summer – December 1-February 28.
Grade: 3-4 (intermediate-advanced)

The Queen Charlotte Track is rideable for experienced mountain bikers, with some steep and challenging sections. For more riders, there will be sections where it will be easier to walk. The track is more challenging after rain where some sections become slippery and muddy. Less experienced riders have the option to avoid the challenging ride-top section of the trail by riding on the Kenepuru Road between Kenepuru Saddle and Portage.

Note that there are no bike-repair stations along the trail so make sure you have a puncture repair kit and other tools to make your own repairs.

More more information about the grade of the trail and other mountain biking trails in the region, see our Mountain Biking in Marlborough.

MarlboroughNZ.com

Track Description

Note that walking and biking times are estimated by the Department of Conservation to take into account all abilities. You may walk the sections faster, but the walking times makes a good time indication for making your plans.

Ship Cove to Endeavour Inlet

Distance: 15km
Walk Time: 5 hours
Mountain Biking Section, Distance & Time: Ship Cove to Camp Bay (see Camp Bay description in next section) – 26.5km, 5 hours

You will need to take boat transportation to start at Ship Cove.

The trail starts from Ship Cove, a historic site with information panels to read before setting off on the trail. The trail starts by climbing away from the beach and into the forest. The track climbs onto a saddle with a lookout to stop by after about 50 minutes walking. You’ll then start dropping into Resolution Bay. Follow a bridle path over a ridge and into the Endeavour Inlet. At Endeavour Inlet, there are information panels about the mining era.

Private accommodation is available at Endeavour Inlet and Schoolhouse Bay. There is a DOC campsite also at Schoolhouse Bay.

Endeavour Inlet to Camp Bay

Distance: 11.5km
Walk Time: 4 hours

The trail follows the shoreline through the forest rounding to Big Bay then to Camp Bay. It is possible to bypass Camp Bay by following the Kenepuru Saddle.

Private accommodation and a DOC campsite are available at Camp Bay.

Camp Bay to Torea Saddle

Distance: 23km
Walk Time: 8 hours
Mountain Bike Time: 4 hours

This is the longest and toughest section of the trail and passes through private land, which is where you will need your QCTLC Pass (see above). Most mountain bikers choose to push their bikes along the steeper parts of this section.

The trail climbs out of Camp Bay to Kenepuru Saddle following a ridge with rewarding views. The track eventually descends to Torea Saddle between Portage and Torea Bay.

DOC campsites are available above Bay of Many Coves, Kumutoto Bay, Black Rock and Cowshed Bay. There is private accommodation at Portage.

Torea Saddle to Mistletoe Bay

Distance: 8km
Walk Time: 4 hours
Mountain Biking Section, Distance & Time: Torea Saddle to Anakiwa (see Anakiwa description in next section) – 20.5km, 4 hours

This section also requires the QCTLC Pass. The trail follows a ridge with an optional side walk to a lookout just before descending to Te Mahia Saddle.

Private campsites and cabins are available at Mistletoe Bay and another private accommodation is at Te Mahia Bay.

Mistletoe Bay to Anakiwa

Distance: 12.5km
Walk Time: 4 hours

This section also requires the QCTLC Pass. The trail continues on the road above Mistletoe Bay then onto a bridle path overlooking the water. After descending to Umungata/Davies Bay, the final hour of walking is on an easy-graded trail through forest to Anakiwa.

A DOC campsite is available at Umungata/Davies Bay.

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