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This is a multi-day tramping and mountain biking track near the coast, and is South Island’s northernmost section of Te Araroa—the epic trail that spans all of New Zealand.
Though it can be part of a much longer trek, the 3-5 day tramp on Queen Charlotte Track is well-known as an adventure all its own. The track covers an isthmus between two of the large Marlborough Sounds.
On either end, the track follows the coastline through deep forests packed with biodiversity.
The rest undulates along a high ridgeline, still mostly forested but punctuated with clearings and fields that grant huge views over Queen Charlotte Sound and its intricate coves. Most of the trail’s length is completely inaccessible by road, passing through forests that are minimally modified from what the Maori settled centuries ago.
Walkers can admire a diversity of flowering trees, fruits, vines, and wildlife preserved better here than almost anywhere else in New Zealand. Though the track is remote by land travel, parts of it are easy to reach by boat, which gives the option of walking segments rather than the whole thing.
It can be traveled in either direction, but the full walk is usually started from Meretoto/Ship Cove at the eastern terminus.
This historic cove is where James Cook’s crew in 1770 became the first Europeans to set foot on land in the Marlborough Sounds. The journey really begins in Picton Harbor, where you board a boat for Ship Cove, or an alternative destination if you start a different segment.
Trampers must be self-sufficient in camping and cooking on the Queen Charlotte Track; you must carry all your gear or pay to have it delivered to your campsites by boat.
Amenities vary, but the most offered at any campsite are a cooking shelter, toilets, and drinking water. Note that the track crosses a mix of public and private lands, and a Queen Charlotte Track Land Cooperative Pass is required to cross the private lands.
Some campsites have separate self-registration fees.
Privately-run accommodations including campgrounds and hostels are available in some places as well.
The track finishes in the small town of Anakiwa, at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound.
From there you can boat or car shuttle to Picton. Sources: https://www.doc.govt.nz/globalassets/documents/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/nelson-marlborough/queen-charlotte-brochure.pdf https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/marlborough/places/queen-charlotte-sound-totaranui-area/things-to-do/tracks/queen-charlotte-track/ https://www.teararoa.org.nz/nelsonmarlborough/queen-charlotte-track/ http://www.qctrack.co.nz/track-info/frequently-asked-questions/