Queen Charlotte Track

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If you’re looking for beautiful golden beaches, luscious green forests, and wonderful hiking trails, New Zealand is the place for you. The Queen Charlotte Track, a multi-day hiking trail starting near the top of New Zealand’s South Island, combines all of this magic into one spectacular hiking trip.

In February 2022, I arrived in Picton, ready to start walking the Queen Charlotte Track.
For me, this trail was one part of the much longer Te Araroa thru-hike, but it’s a part that I’d been looking forward to for months. When I started preparing to hike Te Araroa I was told again and again that the Queen Charlotte Track was one of the highlights. When I set off, I was full of excitement.

Four days later, when I reached the end of the Queen Charlotte Track, it had become, without a doubt, one of my favourite places in New Zealand. This hike had everything for me, providing the perfect combination of outstanding views, quintessential kiwi hospitality, and soul-refreshing time in nature.

Queen Charlotte Track

Tours and Accommodation

Self-Guided Queen Charlotte Track Walk from Picton – walk and roundtrip boat service.
Full-Day Queen Charlotte Kayak and Walking Tour from Picton – all day hiking and sea kayaking self-guided adventure.
Half-Day Cruise in Marlborough Sounds from Picton – cruise Marlborough sounds to Ship Cove.
Furneaux Lodge – treat yourself to luxury accommodation.
Punga Cove Resort

About the Trail

When the 73.5-kilometre (45.6 miles) Queen Charlotte Track first opened in 1983, it was just a rough trail providing public access to some private farmland.

Now, it’s a well-maintained trail that’s popular with hikers and bikers and showcases untouched areas of New Zealand.

Despite its popularity, when you’re on the Queen Charlotte Track, you truly feel like you’re in another world.

The start of the trail is only reachable by boat, so your journey starts in the sleepy town of Picton, where you board a ferry bound for Meretoto (also known as Ship Cove).

When you step off into this tranquil bay, it’s time for the hiking to begin.

For the next four days, you walk along beaches, through dense forests, and on top of high ridgelines while enjoying incredible views out to the Marlborough Sounds.

There are campsites along the way if you plan to immerse yourself in nature and luxury accommodation options such as the Furneaux Lodge if you prefer to travel more comfortably.

Whatever your budget and style, this is not a trail to miss!

Hiking Itinerary

Day 0: Picton

boats at picton marina
Boats moored at Picton marina.

Whether you fly, drive, or catch the ferry to Picton, it’s a wonderful place to start this journey.

If you’ve got time, spending a day or two exploring Picton is a must because there’s so much to see and do here.

You can head out to sea on a dolphin-watching trip or try deep-sea fishing.

If you feel like staying closer to shore, rent kayaks and paddle around the bays or head inland to some of the nearby vineyards for a wine tour, or if you’re short on time, enjoy wandering downtown.

Picton is home to some of New Zealand’s best toasted sandwiches, as well as excellent bakeries and cafes, so grab a coffee and watch the boats coming in and out of the harbour.

Day 1: Meretoto to Endeavour Inlet (17km, 5.5 hours)

queen charlotte track road signpost at Endeavour Inlet
A fantastic view at Endeavour Inlet on the Queen Charlotte Track.

Stepping off the ferry into Meretoto (Ship Cover), it feels like you’re stepping back in time.

This area has been favoured by Maori and European settlers for decades, and it’s where Captain James Cook spent most of his time when voyaging around the South Pacific in the late 1700s.

In place of those early settlements, there now stands a modern visitor centre, bathroom facilities, and monuments commemorating both Captain Cook and the earlier Maori occupants of the land.

Right away, this trail takes you into the dense bush, and up and over a ridgeline.

It’s hard work starting the trail with an uphill climb, but the views are worth it when you get to the top.

Lush green bush stretches all around, and the turquoise blue water sparkles below you.

For approximately the next 5.5 hours, you walk through a mixture of forest and coastlines, past Resolution Bay, and then into Endeavour Inlet.

Private accommodation options are dotted all around the Inlet, including the luxury Furneaux Lodge, although they can be busy in summer, so it’s best to book in advance.

Day 2: Endeavour Inlet to Camp Bay (11.5km, 4 hours)

marlborough sounds from queen charlotte track
Admire stunning views of Marlborough Sounds from the Queen Charlotte Track.

Day two of the Queen Charlotte Track is the shortest one, only 11.5km, and after yesterday your tired legs will thank you!

This section of the trail stays on the coastline and is a nice flat walk with only a few slight undulations.

Put your swimsuit at the top of your pack because there are many swimming opportunities along this part of the track.

When you’re at the head of Endeavour Inlet, look out for the signs explaining the old mining history of this area.

From there, you’ll spend the next few hours walking under shady palm trees and watching kayakers paddle across the calm waters.

It really is bliss!

When you reach the other side of the big bay, you can choose to finish this day at either Camp Bay or Punga Cove, just a 10-minute walk further.

Again, you have plenty of accommodation options, whether you want to stay in the basic campground or the stylish Punga Cove Resort.

Wherever you end up, don’t miss out on a visit to The Boatshed, the quaint cafe and bar right on the Punga Cove jetty makes fantastic coffee!

Day 3: Camp Bay to Torea Saddle (24.5km, 8 hours)

bay of many coves
Bay of Many Coves.

The third section of the Queen Charlotte Track is the most challenging, taking approximately eight hours.

The day starts with a steep climb up onto the top of the ridgeline, where you’re rewarded with outstanding views down to the water below on both sides.

You continue walking along the saddle for the rest of the day, and the magical views continue.

You’ll pass two small campsites, Bay of Many Coves and Blackrock Campsite. Both are very basic, but they have toilet and rainwater facilities, making them good options to stop for a break or the night if you have your tent.

When you reach Torea Saddle, you’ll need to decide where to spend the night.

You have the option of dropping down into Torea Bay for private accommodation or Portage Bay, where there is accommodation, a campsite, a small store and a pub.

I chose to descend into Portage Bay and enjoyed a beer at the pub there. I’m sure beer has never tasted so good!

Day 4: Torea Saddle to Anakiwa (20.5km, 8 hours)

queen charlotte track flora
Escape to nature at Queen Charlotte Track.

The last stage of the Queen Charlotte Track is also a big one, and you’ll need to hike 20.5km to get to the end of the trail.

If you’ve got the time, or you’re feeling tired, then consider breaking this stage up into two parts and spending a night at Mistletoe Bay, the halfway point.

Starting from Torea Saddle again, you’ll continue walking along the ridgeline of this beautiful peninsula, with the Marlborough Sounds on either side of you.

There aren’t any swimming opportunities for the first part of this stage but don’t worry, they do come later.

Make sure you drink in the views from the high vantage point before you drop down lower into the beautiful beech forests.

All along, there are excellent bird-watching opportunities.

The native Weka is one bird you’re likely to come across, and they’re often brave enough to walk right up to you.

Watch out, though, they’re cheeky birds known for trying to steal your possessions!

Before you know it, you round a corner into the serene bay of Anakiwa, and your hike has come to an end and it’s time to celebrate finishing the Queen Charlotte Track.

I chose to celebrate by diving off the jetty for my last swim, followed by soaking in some rays of sun on the sandy beach. Perfect!


queen charlotte track statue

For me, a multi-day hike like the Queen Charlotte Track is about so much more than exploring some untouched areas of New Zealand.

Of course, the scenery is a highlight.

The peaceful coves, palm-lined beaches, curious critters and breathtaking views are all part of the magic.

Hiking under the hot New Zealand sun isn’t always easy, but I made the most of it and regularly stopped for a swim in the glittering clear waters or to relax under a shady palm tree for a nap.

This is the perfect way to spend your vacation days.

More than that, however, hiking the Queen Charlotte Track gave me a chance to step back from the fast-paced life most of us live today and actually breathe.

With limited cell phone reception, hiking a trail like this allows you to unplug, disconnect and spend some time with your thoughts.

That’s such an important part of staying grounded and healthy, and it’s something that too many people go without.

I love to hike solo for exactly this reason.

I get the chance to check in with myself and challenge myself.

I love discovering what I’m capable of and learning that I can depend on myself no matter what situation I’m in.

If you’re not up for solo hiking, it’s great to bring a friend (or several!) on a hike like the Queen Charlotte Track.

Think about what you want to achieve from this hike, and as we like to say: “Hike your own Hike!”.

While I chose to hike this trail alone, I know that there’s a wonderful, different kind of magic in sharing the adventure with someone.

So, the adventure awaits! No matter what kind of hiker you are, this hike has something for everyone to enjoy.

Who knows, you might even see me out there on the trail because the Queen Charlotte Track hasn’t seen the last of me yet!


I hope you’re as excited about setting off on this adventure as I was, but remember that before you can hit the trail, you need to do some planning and think about your equipment.

I’ve spent a lot of time refining my packing list, and I like to travel very minimally, but if you’re having your pack transported between accommodations each day, you don’t have to be so careful.

For the Queen Charlotte Track, here are some essential things to consider.


While a lot of the Great Walks in New Zealand are free to hike, you do need to pay a fee to use part of the Queen Charlotte Track.

Because parts of the track cross privately owned land, you’ll need to purchase the QCTLC Pass (Queen Charlotte Track Land Cooperative Pass) to cross the land between Camp Bay and Anakiwi.

The QCTLC Pass costs $12 per day or $25 for up to five days. You can buy this online, at the Picton Information Center, or from the office when you book your Meretoto Ferry.

Getting to the Track

As I’ve mentioned, the start of this hike is only accessible by boat. When it’s time to set off on your Queen Charlotte Track journey, you’ll need to board one of the ferries leaving from Picton to Meretoto.

The boats leave several times daily, and you can book online or at the ticket office. I recommend using either Beachcomber Cruises or Cougar Line to get to the start of the hike.

If you’re planning only to do several of the stages above, don’t worry, you can easily arrange that with your ferry company.

You can start at Endeavour Inlet, Camp Bay or even Torea Bay.

You can also arrange to get picked up from one of those points if you don’t plan to hike all the way to Anakiwa.


There are many different accommodation options along this trail.

I opted to bring my tent and stayed at the campsites managed by the Department of Conservation (“DOC”).

These campgrounds are basic but well-maintained, with rainwater tanks and toilets and are cheap to stay in.

If you like the sound of a comfortable bed at the end of each day, the Queen Charlotte Walkway caters to all kinds of hikers, and you’ll easily be able to find something to suit your needs.

There are private B&B style accommodations dotted along the track, and there are also bigger, more luxurious options such as Furneaux Lodge and Punga Cove Resort.

What To Pack

Shoes and Clothing

Having the right shoes for this hike is a must. You’ll need hiking boots or trail-running shoes to have a good grip underfoot.

It’s not a technically challenging trail, but there’s a lot of undulation and you want to be comfortable while hiking.

Make sure you’ve broken in your shoes before you start too; there’s nothing worse than getting the “new-shoe blisters” at the start of a multi-day hike.

The clothing you need for this hike will depend on the time of year and the weather.

If you’re hiking in summer, a swimsuit is a must, as there are plenty of spots to stop off for a swim along the way.

Regardless of the season, make sure you have a good rain jacket with you and some warm layers.

The weather in New Zealand can be changeable, and you don’t want to be caught out by a sudden rainstorm.

Food and Water

In summer, the temperatures on the Queen Charlotte Track can reach up to 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit).

You’ll need to carry your water each day, so be prepared with either a water bladder or enough bottles to keep you hydrated.

Water is available at each DOC campsite, but it’s untreated rainwater. I advise using a water filter, purification tablets, or boiling this water before drinking it.

If you’re staying in private accommodation along the way, speak to your hosts when booking.

It’s very common for your booking to include dinner, breakfast and even possibly a packed lunch.

You’ll likely need to arrange this beforehand, so don’t be caught short.

These days, hiking food is far from the boring, bland trail mix it used to be.

To help keep your pack weight down, look at some dehydrated meal options such as “Local Dehy” or “Backcountry Cuisine”.

Otherwise, simple pantry staples like couscous or noodles can make a nutritious and filling meal after a hard day of hiking.

Of course, if you’re camping along the way, don’t forget your cooking equipment.

As well as a bowl, mug, and cutlery, you’ll also need a camping gas cooker, gas to fuel it, and a lighter to light it.

I used an alcohol stove, but the Jetboil system is another fantastic quick and easy cooking option.

Emergency Equipment

Don’t forget to pack emergency equipment in case something goes wrong.

A Personal Locator Beacon (“PLB”) is a key item to ensure you’re safe out on the trail.

Because there’s limited cell phone coverage, a PLB operates on a satellite connection and gives you the ability to call for help if something goes wrong.

If you don’t own one, you can hire one at an outdoor shop in Picton.

A basic first aid kit is also important, including some bandages, painkillers and disinfectant.

Personal Items

In addition to your personal hygiene items, don’t forget sunscreen and insect repellant.

The New Zealand sun is fierce in summer, and even if it looks cloudy out, sunscreen is a must.

Likewise, insect repellant is important too because when the sun sets, mosquitos and sandflies come out for a feast.

The Queen Charlotte Walkway is known for being one of the most beautiful, tranquil areas of New Zealand, so you’ll want to make sure you can take great photos along the way.

Whether that’s a camera or a smartphone and a power bank, make sure you don’t miss out on the chance to try your hand at photography and show your friends at home what they’re missing.

I always travel with a book and a pack of cards.

There’s something very relaxing about sitting down at the end of a long day hiking to immerse yourself in a good book, and if you want to keep your pack light, then bring an e-reader.

A few card games by torchlight are also a great way to pass the evenings, and even if you’re hiking alone, you’re sure to make friends this way.

Nature is calling, so what are you waiting for?

Happy Hiking!

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Born and raised in Auckland, New Zealand, I’m now based in Innsbruck, Austria, and getting out to experience Europe every chance I get. When I was in High School I spent a year living in Toronto, Canada, and I haven’t stopped travelling since. I’ve explored India, Sri Lanka, and Singapore, and I spent several months of 2020 on Covid Lockdown in the village of Sidi Kaouki, Morocco. After hiking Te Araroa, New Zealand in 2022 I developed a love for solo-hiking – I think it's one of the best ways to really get to know a new country! Since then, I’ve gone on to hike Rota Vicentina in Portugal, and Haute Route from Switzerland to France, two incredible adventures. When I’m not travelling, you’ll find me writing or reading. I have a Bachelor of Communication Studies from the University of Waikato in New Zealand, as well as a law degree, and that certainly keeps me busy.