1-3 Days 73.5 km

Highlights

  • Beautiful Marlborough Sounds
  • Marine life and nice scenery
  • Lodges, homestays and camping

Proximity

Grade 3-5

Intermediate - Expert

One of New Zealand’s classic mountain bike adventures, the Queen Charlotte Track Great Ride traces the bays, hills and ridges of the beautiful Marlborough Sounds.

Queen Charlotte Track Mail Boat, New Zealand

The Queen Charlotte Track(opens in new window), which can be walked or cycled, is one of the Ngā Haerenga Great Rides of New Zealand(opens in new window). This wilderness adventure stretches from Meretoto/Ship Cove(opens in new window) in the far reaches of Queen Charlotte Sound, to peaceful Anakiwa village close to Picton – gateway to the top of the South Island. Offering everything from short day rides to multi-day mountain biking trips, this trail takes you deep into the natural worlds and significant heritage of these popular waterways. Stunning views, swimming, boating and off-the-beaten track accommodation make it even more memorable. 

Ride experience

A few big hills and tricky bits make this Great Ride best suited to reasonably fit, experienced mountain bikers. It does, however, have some smooth and gently undulating sections that can readily be enjoyed as easier day rides giving you a memorable experience in the Marlborough Sounds 

A series of lodges and campsites offer unforgettable overnight stops and a few dining options. Picton has several excellent tour companies ready to help with boat transport, luggage transfers and more.  

Most multi-day journeys begin with the scenic boat cruise from Picton to Meretoto/Ship Cove(opens in new window), from where the trail wends all to in the inner sounds. Allow at least 13 hours cycling over 2–3 days.  

Notable bays along the way include Endeavour Inlet(opens in new window), Bay of Many Coves and Punga Cove which are all serviced by scheduled boat services offering hop-on hop-off day rides with resort dining options. Short detours lead to secluded coves, hidden heritage sites and lookouts over countless ridges and hilltops.  

New Zealand Cycle Trail Official Website

A detailed description of this Great Ride, including maps and more information, can be found here.

Queen Charlotte Cycle Track(opens in new window)

Need to know

  • Wide and smooth for much of the way, the Queen Charlotte Track(opens in new window) is grade 3 (intermediate) with some technical sections increasing to a grade 4 (advanced) and grade 5 (expert). A mountain bike is essential, and E-bike charging is available at lodges along the way. 
  • The trail is well signposted but can be remote in some areas; so self-guided cyclists need to carry a map, plenty of water and food, basic tool kit, and a mobile phone (although coverage will be patchy). 
  • Most of the trail can be ridden at any time of year, although the most remote section Meretoto/Ship Cove to Camp Bay is closed to bikers between December and March when the journey is simply started further along. 
  • The trail cuts through bushy terrain which can be muddy during rainy periods. Locals will advise you as to current conditions and the all-important weather forecast. 
  • This is the perfect trail for visitors who want to factor in hiking and kayaking, or touring the Marlborough wineries nearby. Tour companies are expert at tailoring a trip for you. 

Transport & tours

Being close to Picton, the Queen Charlotte Track is particularly well served by boat operators and adventure tour companies. Beachcomber Cruises and Cougar Line, are longstanding operators offering everything from bike transport and luggage transfer, to a range of day tours and all-inclusive multi-day packages. Wilderness Guides and Marlborough Sounds Adventure Company offer self-guided and guided tours including bike hire, transfers and accommodation, as well as additional activities such as kayaking. 

Queen Charlotte Track official partners can be found at Great Rides of New Zealand and Queen Charlotte Track. 

Accommodation

Picton makes a great base for day trips. For overnight trips, a wide range of cycle-friendly accommodation is available, right on the track, including hostels, homestays, upmarket lodges and basic DOC campsites. Accommodation providers partnered with the trail are listed at Great Rides of New Zealand(opens in new window) and Queen Charlotte Track(opens in new window).  

Useful links

Ngā Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trails  

Queen Charlotte Track 

Marlborough NZ 

Department of Conservation 

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