Hiking the Queen Charlotte Track in New Zealand

At the top end of the South Island of New Zealand, there are a series of spectacular sounds known as the Marlborough Sounds. The most beautiful and popular of these is the Queen Charlotte Sound, and running almost the entire length is one of New Zealand’s best walks – The Queen Charlotte Track.

This interesting track runs for 71km through beautiful forest with spectacular views of the Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds. The trail can be walked in four days, or alternatively, you can walk it in sections as day hikes. Since I only had one day spare when I was there, I decided to just hike the first section of the track from Ship Cove to Endeavour Inlet.

Harbour at Picton on Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

The harbour in Picton on Queen Charlotte Sound

The easiest way to access the Queen Charlotte Track is by taking a water taxi to the part of the track that you would like to start at. As I was heading to the very start of the track, there were plenty of other people to share the boat with.

The track starts at Ship Cove, a historical landmark where Captain James Cook landed on his first voyage to this part of the world in 1770, when he first discovered New Zealand and then later, Australia. He then later returned to this same point several times on later voyages, so there is a monument dedicated to him at Ship Cove, which also marks the start of the Queen Charlotte Track.

Captain Cook monument on the Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand

Captain Cook monument at the start of the Queen Charlotte Track

Plaque on the Captain Cook monument on the Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand

The plaque on the monument showing Cook’s visits to the site

The track isn’t very steep, and runs through beautiful forests with an abundance of tree ferns. Through the greenery there are some of the most beautiful views I have seen. The placid blue waters of Queen Charlotte Sound are just beautiful against the green of the steep coastline.

Views of Queen Charlotte Sound on the Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand

View of Queen Charlotte Sound while on the track

With every bend and rise in the track, there seemed to be yet another hidden cove that appeared untouched, some with the occasional boat anchored in them, enjoying their privacy and serenity in this beautiful part of the world.

Cove on the Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand

A secluded cove on the Queen Charlotte Sound

Having a rest on the Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand

A perfect spot for a rest. What a view!

I found that the track wasn’t crowded at all, and it was really quite an easy hike. It took me roughly 3 and half hours to walk from Ship Cove to Endeavour Inlet including rest stops. I have heard that the track gets much harder on days three and four, but overall, it’s not too difficult.

The scenery really was just spectacular on the Queen Charlotte Track, and if I get the chance, I would love to hike the rest of it. This is a very beautiful part of the world!


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16 comments… add one
  • Natalie Sep 30, 2012

    It is times like this when I wish time travel had been invented. I would love to go back to the first time Cook arrived and follow his footsteps with him – Too bad but it looks like a beautiful hike anyway.

    • Dean Wickham Oct 9, 2012

      Hi Natalie. The words “adventure” and “discovery” certainly had a whole different meaning back then. It would have been an exciting time! It is a very beautiful hike.

  • You’re right, this is an AMAZING part of the world!
    Brock – Backpack With Brock recently posted..Machu Picchu, Peru – The Mysterious City in the MountainsMy Profile

  • This was one of the walks I sadley didn’t have an opportunity to do – I think it is one of the more easier walks as well as there are hostels along the way and you can even bike the track as well

    • Dean Wickham Oct 9, 2012

      Hey Jade. It is one of the easier walks in NZ, (and after walking the Milford Track a couple of weeks beforehand this was like a walk in the park), and there are places to stay and you can easily take water taxis to/from different parts of the track if you don’t want to do the whole thing. It’s a very beautiful area to explore, so if you get the chance I highly recommend walking a part of this track.

  • Cam Oct 9, 2012

    We did some hiking close to this area – Abel Tasman National Park. I love the fresh, crisp New Zealand air!
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    • Dean Wickham Oct 10, 2012

      Hey Cam. I never got to do any hiking in Abel Tasman, but I hear it’s got some very beautiful coastal scenery.

  • Leigh Oct 11, 2012

    Sounds like a great hike. I never did do a multi day hike in NZ but I can recommend the Cradle Mountain Walk – about a 5 day hike in Tasmania.
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    • Dean Wickham Oct 20, 2012

      Hi Leigh. Is that the Overland Track in Tasmania? It is a hike that I would really love to do. I’ve heard amazing things about it and Tasmania just looks beautiful πŸ™‚ Cheers

  • This sounds amazing! Which location was your favorite?

    • Dean Wickham Oct 31, 2012

      Hi Megan, this was an amazing walk. The Marlborough Sounds is a very scenic area with a lot of beautiful picture perfect spots.

  • cheryl Nov 5, 2012

    What beautiful views. I’d love to do this hike! πŸ™‚

    • Dean Wickham Nov 6, 2012

      Hi Cheryl. These were some of the most beautiful views I’ve seen. It’s a great hike to do if you’re in this part of the world.

  • wow, amazing shots! Such beautiful colors & details…very nice!

    • Dean Wickham Jul 27, 2013

      Thanks, James. These photos are very old now and taken with an old camera. Still, I like how they turned out as well πŸ™‚ Cheers!

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