“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” – Beverly Sills
The Queen Charlotte Track is a 71 kilometres (44 miles) long hiking track. The track takes you through the beautiful Queen Charlotte Sounds near Picton, in the Marlborough region of New Zealand’s South Island (north). The complete hike takes between 3 to 5 days to complete. However, you could arrange a water taxi and walk a section of the track.
Most people walk the track southbound from Ship Cove to Anakiwa, but the opposite is also possible. Because both ends of the track are quite remote areas, there is no public transport to get there. However, there are a few options to make your trip logistics easier. Find out more about your transport options in the “How to get to the Queen Charlotte Track” section below.
Because there are plenty of water taxi stops, if you are planning to walk the Queen Charlotte Track in sections, your logistics become a bit easier.
Above all, there are many accommodation options along the way. For instance, you could choose to camp or even stay in a five-star resort. It offers something for all walks of life.
1. The Queen Charlotte Track is part of the Te Araroa long distance trail that goes all the way across New Zealand.
2. Part of the track is also accessible to mountain bikers.
Things you need before your hike:
1. Queen Charlotte Track Cooperative Pass (QCLTC).
2. Specific DOC camping tickets if camping at the DOC campgrounds.
The QCLTC pass is required by the DOC and gives you permission to walk across private land along the track. You can purchase them at the Picton i-site or the QCTLC website.
The annual hut pass or regular DOC hut tickets do not cover for accommodation on this track. You will need special Queen Charlotte Track camp tickets or pay cash at the honesty boxes. For more info, check the DOC website. If you are planning to stay in private accommodation, this doesn’t apply to you.
Below are the different sections of the Queen Charlotte Track. It is possible to walk sections of the track and take a water taxi back to Picton.
How to get to the Queen Charlotte Track
The logistics for hiking the Queen Charlotte Track can be a bit of a nightmare. In this paragraph, I will tell you the best options to get there and back. Because there is not really a complete guide online, I had to do a lot of research to find the best options…which turned out to be a locally operating shuttle bus with no real online presence.
Firstly, to get to the Queen Charlotte Track, you need to make your way to Ship Cove or to Anakiwa. There is no public transport to get there. No matter where you start, there are a few options available to lose the logistics headache.
- There is a car park and private campground at the trailhead.
- The Link Bus offers transport to/from Anakiwa to Picton ($20), and even to St Arnaud and Nelson by request.
- You can take a water taxi to or from Anakiwa.
- Private taxi companies offer transport to/from Picton.
To/From Ship Cove
If you are starting in Ship Cove, you need to get the ferry from Picton (approx. 2 hours). There are multiple ferry companies, some also offer bag transfers when you book a return ticket. The return trip will usually be from Anakiwa, but it is best to check in advance because not all operate the same. The most popular one among hikers is E-ko Tours.
Check out this website for your best itinerary to Picton.
Camping & Accommodation
There are many accommodation options on the Queen Charlotte Track, ranging from basic campgrounds to five star resorts and everything in between. Below is a full breakdown of all the options with links to their sites if available.
Camping on the Queen Charlotte Track
There are 6 DOC campgrounds along the Queen Charlotte Track. All of them have toilet facilities and water, but only a few have cooking facilities. Remember to take your rubbish with you, no bins are provided. Below table outlines their location, price and distances.
The DOC campsites are well maintained and operate with an honesty box system. You can purchase specific Queen Charlotte Track camp tickets at the i-site in Picton or you could leave an envelope in the box. I prefer not to carry too many coins, so I purchased mine in advance.
Private Accommodation on the Queen Charlotte Track
Section Ship Cove to Endeavour Inlet:
Section Endeavour Inlet to Camp Bay:
Section Camp Bay to Mistletoe Bay:
- Bay of Many Coves Resort
- Ngahere Hou
- The Portage
- Hopewell Lodge
- Treetops Backpackers
- Mistletoe Bay Eco Village
- Lochmara Lodge
- Te Mahia Bay Resort
Section Mistletoe Bay to Anakiwa:
- Anakiwa Lodge
- Anakiwa 401 Self-catering Guesthouse & Green Caravan Cafe
- The Sounds Retreat
- Smiths Farm Holiday Park
For accommodation in Picton, click here.
For a complete list of the gear that I took with me on the hike, click here. The link will take you to my lighterpack gear list and includes weight and links to more info.
Picton has a few small outdoor shops on the main street if you need to buy some gear.
If you don’t know which hike to choose yet, then The Lonely Planet Hiking & Tramping in NZ is worth checking out! It has itineraries and information of about every hike in NZ, including the Queen Charlotte Track AND the Old Ghost Road Track and more less known tracks!
My Queen Charlotte Track Experience
On the ferry to the start, we saw so many dolphins jumping along the boat! After a 2 hour journey, they finally dropped me off at Ship Cove around 3.30 pm.
Being the only hiker on the ferry, I bravely started my first steps on the hike. It’s always a bit daunting when you know you probably won’t see anyone for the next 3 days.
The rain made it a challenging first 6 kilometres, but lucky for me my new rain jacket was a great buy!!
All DOC campsites exceeded my expectations! Plenty of spaces for all and great (basic) facilities. All campgrounds have toilets and water, with some also providing cooking shelters.
Some campgrounds are close to private accommodation, giving you the chance to go for a meal/beer after a long day’s hike.
Sometimes you can even go for a swim – mind you, the water is icy cold! And remember to always check for eels around you 😀
I quickly noticed too that the Queen Charlotte Track is well maintained, it even has benches along the trail!!
The scenery along the trail is fantastic. Almost after every corner, there is another picture-perfect photo moment.
The track takes you along the ridgelines, although the trees make for a tropical experience. The path is mainly dirt/rocky and there is no bitumen sections.
For the Queen Charlotte Track, I do recommend some good rain gear. Please refer to my gear section if you would like some recommendations and for a full gear list of my walk see above.
On my last day I didn’t have much time to get to Anakiwa. I booked my taxi for 11am and had to walk 12.5km to get there.
I made it in the end!
From the southern terminus, it is about 30min drive back to Picton. Please check above for transport recommendations.
I do recommend booking your transport back to Picton for the afternoon. Alternatively, you can leave your car at the carpark near the trailhead in Anakiwa.
There is also a private campground if you wish to stay the night.