Walking the Queen Charlotte Track

At the tip of the South Island, forested hills rise steeply from the sea and long, sheltered inlets glitter under sunny skies.

The Marlborough Sounds is an intricate collection of ancient, sunken river valleys that have been filled with water from the Pacific Ocean over thousands of years. The result is a myriad of long, sheltered inlets, isolated white-sand beaches and towering headlands; paradise for lovers of perfect coastline and emerald forests that ring with birdsong. Unsurprisingly, this coastal sanctuary is best explored on foot, and the 70-kilometre Queen Charlotte Track offers one of the most spectacular and serene walking journeys in the Sounds. 

Walk as little or as much as you want to. The whole track takes between 4 – 5 days to complete, but water taxi services and boutique accommodation make it easy to walk a shorter, easier portion of the track that suits you. No matter the length of your Queen Charlotte walking adventure, you’ll be rewarded with a collection of panoramic views over the sounds as well as pretty beaches and untouched coastal forests.

Birdsong, Beaches and Dolphins

Deep in the heart of the Sounds, the Queen Charlotte Track begins in historical Ship Cove and ends in the quaint coastal village of Anakiwa. Sub-tropical rainforested areas ring with the fluted calls of the tui and the bellbird as well as softly chattering fantails. As you walk, enjoy the attention of the inquisitive native weka, a flightless bird with a famously cheeky, outgoing personality. Perfect, white-sand beaches dot the track – favourites are the sheltered, east facing Resolution Bay as well as secluded, beautiful Mistletoe Bay. Between the months of December and April, the water in the Marlborough Sounds is temperate and beautifully refreshing after long walks. Keep an eye out for the pods of dolphins that frequent these waters – Bottlenose and Common dolphins are seen often here.

History and legends

The Marlborough Sounds is a part of New Zealand steeped in Maori legend and early history. According to Maori mythology, the Sounds were created when Kupe, the legendary Polynesian Explorer who was said to have discovered New Zealand, was chasing an Octopus. He finally caught the creature in the middle of the Cook Strait – the waterway that separates the North and South Island. A huge battle ensued, and lashing tentacles formed the towering headlands and narrow inlets of the Sounds. 

Hundreds of years later, famous British explorer Captain Cook visited the Sounds for the first time in 1770, sailing into beautiful Ship Cove and making it his South Pacific base for the ensuing seven years.The first social interaction between the British and the South Island Maori took place on these shores, shaping New Zealand’s early European history. The significance of Ship Cove is marked with a large monument, and it's also the beginning of the Queen Charlotte Track.  

Food & Wine

A region world-famous for its top notch Sauvignon Blanc production and beautiful seafood, the food and wine of the Marlborough region is deliciously fresh and satisfying. Stopping in one of the cafe’s along the track is a real treat for lunch. Enjoying a glass of intensely flavoured Sav in the sunshine along with a platter of fresh fish and mussels is a special kind of kiwi bliss.

Combining a few days on the Queen Charlotte track with a guided walking tour of the central South Island is the perfect way to experience New Zealand’s beautiful coastline with the spectacular alpine beauty found further south. New Zealand Trails offers 11 or 13 day small group guided hiking tours that incorporate some of the best walks in the country. You’ll experience the Milford, Hollyford and Routeburn tracks as well as hike in the National Parks of Arthur’s Pass and Mount Cook. What’s more, you’ll enjoy 4 to 5 star accommodation, gourmet food & wine experiences and iconic New Zealand activities along the way.

We’d love to help you combine a Queen Charlotte Track experience with one of our South Island World Heritage walking tours – contact us now. For more information about our tours, please visit our website.

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