Queen Charlotte Track
The Queen Charlotte Track, located at the top of the South Island in the Marlborough Sounds, is unique for its historical landmarks, spectacular coastal views and a great variety of native bush and wildlife. This walk is as much about a walking holiday as it is an environmental, cultural and lifestyle experience. The Queen Charlotte Track is considered to be a long track rather than a steep track, and requires a reasonable level of fitness.
New Zealand’s iconic Queen Charlotte Track is a popular walking and biking trail with all ages and abilities the trail stretches over a distance of 73km and offers unique hiking adventures, panoramic coastal views and lush forest, fine cuisine and wine as well as comfortable quality accommodation.
You will walk self guided with a light daypack with your luggage being transferred for you all the way through your hiking experience. The trail takes you along stunning natural scenery with some challenging steep sections but many rewarding panoramic views. Most people do the track over four or five days with long distances walked each day.
The Queen Charlotte Track is steeped in both Maori and European history. The terrain is regarded as undulating with hills ranging from sea level to a maximum of 400m. Most parts of the track are wide and all major streams have been bridged. The surface is mainly hard and firm in dry conditions but can often be slippery when wet. Hiking boots with good ankle support are recommended when taking on this trail. We will provide you with some packing suggestions closer to your departure.
This self-guided walking tour requires individuals to use problem-solving skills, be adaptable and have a keen eye. It is recommended that you are comfortable map reading, referring to route notes. If this is your first self-guided trip, after the first couple of days you will get the hang of it as the vast majority of our first-time travellers attest. The freedom of a self-guided trip is something that, once experienced, is sought time and time again.
Get Ready For
- Explore one of New Zealand’s finest walking trails
- Dramatic sweeping views of dense untouched native forest, coves and inlets
- New Zealand dolphins, the Common, Bottlenose, Dusky and Hector’s
- Spot some giants in the New Zealand forest like the rimu and many varieties of native fern
- Birdlife such as the Little Blue Penguin, albatrosses, red and black billed gulls, shearwaters, terns or the the broad-winged Australasian gannet or the inquisitive weka
On the trail
Our New Zealand trip uses private boutique lodges in amazing locations of natural surroundings of forest and beach. In Queen Charlotte Sound the lodges are only accessible by boat or foot, and they offer a true immersion in nature surrounded by 2000 acres of pristine forest. It is the ideal location to relax and enjoy a fresh, local and seasonally inspired menu for dinner. expect more of the natural beauty and the best of the Marlborough cuisine and beverages each evening.
Finding your way
Our unique RAW Travel walking app has been designed to help you navigate easily on the trail, so you never get lost. Simply download your map with the unique link we send you and you’ll be able to follow your route with ease, showing your location in real-time without any internet connection needed. The app has many great features; it shows you weather forecasts localised for each of your overnight stops, information on the location of each night’s accommodation. There are important reminders, safety information, videos and emergency contact information for your route. It also has a unique audio feature that can tell you about places and points of interest as you approach them on the trail. This is in addition to the briefing and notes, information you’ll receive locally.
All daily distances are approximate and this itinerary is subject to change. RAW Travel reserves the right to make necessary itinerary changes based on local conditions, group safety, extreme weather or unforeseen difficulties with local suppliers due to the effects of COVID-19.
Arrive into Blenheim airport in the heart of a region synonymous with quality wine around the world – Marlborough. Surrounded by mountains, which also protect it from the southerly winds, this stunning town is one of New Zealand’s sunniest, and is responsible for around three quarters of the country’s wine production. You will be transferred to your accommodation in Picton, the gateway to the Marlborough Sounds.
Accommodation: Picton Waterfront Apartments (or similar)
After breakfast you will have your briefing before boarding a water taxi to the scenic Ship Cove – one of Captain Cook’s favourites during his explorations in the 1770s – and the beginning of your tramp along Marlborough’s Queen Charlotte track. The area is also of considerable significance to the local Maori culture.
Your walk begins with a climb away from the beach, passing through a large section of beautiful beech forest where the high canopy is complemented by a diversity of shrubs and small trees. After about a good hour of hiking you will come to a lookout point which offers stunning views of both the inner and outer Queen Charlotte Sound (Totaranui). From here the track descends into Resolution Bay and follows a well-graded old bridle path over a ridge, winding downward to the shoreline of Endeavour Inlet.
On the descent, you will start to catch glimpses of your lodge accommodation for the evening. Nestled in the heart of the Marlborough sounds and only accessible by boat or foot, our lodge offers a true immersion in nature surrounded by 2000 acres of pristine forest. It is the ideal location to relax and enjoy a fresh, local and seasonally inspired menu for dinner.
Accommodation: Furneaux Lodge (or similar)
Meals: B, L, D
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast overlooking the stunning blue-green waters before heading out the back gate and onto the track once more, starting with a walk to the nearby waterfall.
Your easy walk today mainly takes you along the shoreline, winding through beautiful regenerating indigenous forests rich in native birdlife. The track meanders through lush bushland before crossing over a small swing bridge at the head of Endeavour Inlet. You will then set off following the main track walking your way towards Camp Bay and Punga Cove. As you walk listen out to some of the unique bird calls that you will only hear in this part of the world.
Tonight you’ll stay at the sister property to the previous night’s accommodation, where you can expect more of the natural beauty and the best of the Marlborough cuisine and beverages. You will need to fuel up for tomorrow’s big day.
Accommodation: Punga Cove Resort (or similar)
Meals: B, L, D
Your walking day will start early as you are taking off to the most challenging and rewarding section of the Queen Charlotte Track. Walk along the ridgeline between the Queen Charlotte and the Kenepuru Sound. The track is very undulating and therefore can be challenging for some people. The ridgeline here separates Queen Charlotte Sounds from Kenepuru Sounds offering stunning views across the Sounds.
This is a truly spectacular section of the track as you will see both the sounds at different times. Wonderfully rewarding views around every corner of your track. Enjoy the panoramic views as you walk before descending to Portage Bay where you will enjoy a well deserved rest for the night from your long walk today. The Portage has a range of comfortable ensuite rooms and their restaurant provides excellent food with a selection of local wines to match.
Accommodation: The Portage Hotel (or similar)
Meals: B, L, D
Another early start for your final day on the Queen Charlotte Track as you ascend to continue following the ridge line, enjoying stunning views back towards Picton as well as into the turquoise waters of the Kenepuru Sound. After Mistletoe Bay, where the track follows old bridle paths high above the water, you will descend down into Umungata (Davies Bay). The final half hour’s walking is on an easy path through mature beech forest as you arrive at Anakiwa.
Your water transport collects you and, as you travel back to Picton, you can relax and reminisce on the magic of the last days on the beautiful Queen Charlotte Track. Your walk ends on arrival Picton late in the afternoon.
Meals: B, L
- Pre-trip planning, guidance and support from our experienced team
- RAW Travel’s navigation app including a route map, emergency contacts, weather and other helpful information
- Local walk briefing in Picton
- Water transport to and from Picton and the track
- Daily meals as outlined above
- 4-nights at superior rooms lodge-style accommodation with private ensuite
- Luggage transfer on all trekking days
- Queen Charlotte Track Land Co-op Pass
- Arrival Transfer from Blenheim to Picton on day 1
- Your trip is carbon offset and for every walk, we plant an Indigenous tree on your behalf
- 15% NZ GST
- Flights to and from your destination
- Travel insurance
- Meals not stated in the itinerary
- Drinks other than water at meals
- Items of a personal nature
- Single supplement – single rooms are available for an additional supplement, please enquire
Picton to Nelson
If you want to transfer to the Abel Tasman Track once you have completed your Queen Charlotte Track, you have have two options. A standard direct bus journey from Picton to Nelson takes about 2¼ hours. You will need to make your own way to/from the bus stop at each end. We also offer a unique shuttle service that takes about 6 hours. It is more of a private tour, with flexible lunch and sightseeing opportunities along the way, such as historic Havelock (pictured). It’s operated by experienced trampers and you can ask them pretty much any question about your destination. This service is an additional $175pp (based on 4 people) travelling together but is well worth it.
Hiking really is the best way to see the beautiful landscapes and explore the vast wilderness of New Zealand’s South Island. With exceptionally well-maintained trails, easy access, and the absence of dangerous wildlife it is a hikers’ paradise. Add world-class seafood, top-notch wines and boutique lodges, and it really is the perfect destination. Find out everything you need to know in this comprehensive destination guide.
Excellent hiking and mostly great accommodation.
Karen Barfoot, Richmond (VIC) - May 2023
An excellent, thoroughly enjoyable trip in every way – the walk, the accommodation, the food and the staff who assisted each day and in the lead up to our trip. Communication was prompt and efficient.
Bernadette Young, Dromana (VIC) - March 2023
A wonderful walk and generally excellent arrangements, meals and accommodation. Highlights included the scenery and walking with friends.
Johannes Drielsma, Taroona (TAS) - March 2023
An excellent trip in a beautiful part of New Zealand. Really good accommodation and stunning scenery.
Susan O’Donnell, Griffith (NSW) - March 2023
Need to know?
The terrain on the Queen Charlotte is varied and the itinerary mixes easily manageable sections with more challenging days. While more of a long track rather than a steep one, a moderate level of fitness is recommended to make the most of this exhilarating experience.
The track’s terrain is undulating and mostly on wide clay soil paths. This means in the dry sections it is quite firm underfoot however in wet conditions may prove to be quite slippery.
All major streams have been bridged so there are no water crossings on this itinerary.
We have graded the Queen Charlotte Track as a moderate walk and so a good level of fitness is ideal, preferably with some multi-day trekking experience. There are some ascents and descents over uneven terrain, along with some clay soil paths which can be slippery underfoot after any rain. There are also some sand walking and tide crossings. Training and preparing on hills with your equipment (particularly with the footwear you’ll use on the hike!), and walking several hours over varied terrain (4 to 7 hours a day), will help prepare you. The better prepared you are, the more you will enjoy this beautiful walk.
This region of New Zealand is renowned for its quality food and drink – the consistently sunny region combined with fertile land, produces delicious goods from cheese, conserves/honey, berries and olive oils through to alcoholic beverages (wine, beer and the world class cider). On this trip you will get to experience some gastronomical delights as you walk.
Breakfast is included daily (cooked or continental) and you will get a packed lunch to take with you on each day’s walk, which includes food such as Ploughman’s sandwich (roll, croissant or wrap), fresh fruit, quiche, muffin/banana bread, salad, cheese and crackers, trail mix, energy bars, free range hard boiled eggs and so on.
For your lodge dinners you will experience more high-quality food accompanied by a glass of Marlborough wine. The lodge accommodation has a reputation for serving fresh, local and seasonal cuisine.
Most dietary requirements can be catered for, please ensure you discuss your requirements with your consultant at the time of booking.
The Tasman region of New Zealand is fortunate to be one of the country’s sunniest areas making it a perfect year round destination. Even in winter, though cooler in temperatures, you will often find you are walking under blue skies and sunshine.
If you are particularly keen to do some swimming along the Coastal Track, then the warmer months are best – though trying to avoid the summer school holidays will be more enjoyable along the trail.
It can be quite windy on the coast but rainfall is quite evenly distributed throughout the year and so repeated days of rain are pretty rare. Although Summer time is the most popular season to visit the national park, the locals firmly believe that the shoulder months of Spring and Autumn are the optimum periods in which to visit. During these months the crisp, cool mornings along with calm ocean waters and quiet beaches will equate to a wonderfully peaceful and serene experience.
RAW Travel supports and welcomes solo travellers. We understand travelling alone can sometimes be a daunting prospect however New Zealand is regarded as a very safe destination and the trails are well signed, though it is good to keep in mind that at certain times of year there will be few people on the trail and there may be little or no mobile coverage. Our self-guided walking holidays are for experienced walkers who prefer to be independent. Walking self-guided requires you to use your problem-solving skills, be comfortable with reading maps and have a good sense of direction. You will be fully briefed by our local guide on arrival and the staff at the accommodation along the way are extremely helpful and friendly also. Prices are based on 2 people sharing twin share, so a solo price is available on request. Please enquire with your consultant at the time of booking for further details.
Social and environmental
All our adventures are fully carbon offset so that you know your travel has minimal impacts. Hiking itself is a low impact activity but we offset the cost of all our office operations and food production as well, so you can be satisfied that you have chosen a form of travel that is both good for you and good for the planet. Each year we also plant trees on behalf of every customer who has travelled with us, aiming to build towards a carbon positive effect with our operations.
TRIP date selection
when would you like to travel?
Please select your preferred dates for on-demand trips or select a scheduled date for group departures. If you have booked a self-guided trip please understand that because your trip date is on demand and we must check availability of all properties on your chosen dates before it can be fully confirmed