The Queen Charlotte Track


The Queen Charlotte Sound has a rich history beginning with Maori settlement, possibly up to 1000 years ago. Various local tribes (iwi) inhabited parts of the Marlborough Sounds and created their own pathways to source food in neighbouring bays.

Then in the 1770s Captain James Cook visited Ship Cove – now the start of the Queen Charlotte Track – and his encounters with the local Maori at the time are well-documented in his diaries. Even today Ship Cove is still one of the least developed and most pristine monuments to Cook in the world. It is a fitting beginning to your journey.

European settlement began in the Marlborough Sounds in the late 1800s when farmers and miners began settling in the area. At one time over 300 people lived at the head of Endeavour Inlet whilst antimony was mined. Hardy settlers farmed areas of the Sounds and at one stage a large proportion of the Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sound were cleared for farming. However as the tough, steep hillside environment and remote access of the farms continued to make farming difficult, much of the land has now returned back to native bush. However during that early settlement, bridle paths were created between neighbouring bays and coves, to provide social and economic benefit.

In the late 1980s the Department of Conservation, Destination Marlborough and the Marlborough District Council worked together to create one single track out of that network of bridle paths and stock routes.

Today the track travels over a variety of public and private land. It is due to the goodwill of the private landowners that the single track can be created, and we encourage all users to respect the fact that at times they are walking on private land.

DSC02297The Queen Charlotte Track is 70km long. It is normally walked in four or five days starting at Ship Cove and finishing at Anakiwa. There are plenty of options to walk one section of the track in one day. Refer to our maps section for an illustration on each section.





The track surface is predominantly clay-based with tree roots and rocks traversing the surface at times. During wet weather it can be treacherous and we recommend that people walk with walking poles if they have joint weaknesses. During dry weather it is quite possible to walk the track in runners, however we do recommend that you wear (as a minimum) a good walking shoe. The track is benched and all streams have either permanent bridge structures or swing bridges.

Refer to our maps section for a cross section of the Queen Charlotte Track.

The Marlborough Sounds enjoys a temperate climate, and Marlborough consistently has one of the highest sunshine hours in New Zealand. The vegetation is indicative, however, of relatively high rainfall. Temperatures range from 20-30 degrees (Celsius) in the summer to 10-20 degrees (Celsius) in the winter. Check out our daily weather information for the current situation.
The accommodation on the track is one of its unique features. Nowhere else in New Zealand can you walk from resort to resort each day. The location of the accommodation along the track means that each section is broken up into achievable walks each day. There are a variety of accommodation options at each location ranging from resort to bed and breakfast, holiday home or backpacker.
The frequent daily boat services out of Picton mean that track users never have to carry their luggage, and there is lots of flexibility each day for those walking or biking the track. The track can only be accessed by water from Ship Cove to Punga Cove and then by both road or water from Punga Cove to Anakiwa. Access points to the track are from jetties associated either with Department of Conservation reserves, private homes or commercial accommodation houses. The boat services also mean that if there are non-walkers in the party, they can boat each day to the different accommodation houses, whilst the rest of a party walks or bikes on.