The Queen Charlotte Sound is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of life and the home to the charming Queen Charlotte Track. Water taxi access allows walkers to enjoy sections of the track without having to walk the entire 71 kilometres. This popular 3-4 day trek stretches from Ship Cove to Anakiwa and offers several day walking opportunities.
Ship Cove to Furneaux Lodge is one of the most popular day trips, which I will share with you. This is a fabulous day walk, offering great scenery and majestic views. The Queen Charlotte Track is well-defined and very easy to walk on.
The journey to Ship Cove is by water taxi from Picton. It’s the perfect introduction to the Marlborough Sounds; relaxing and scenic. The boat ride takes about an hour to reach Ship Cove.
From the jetty, at Ship Cove, the Queen Charlotte Track ascends Ship Cove Saddle; offering majestic views of Motuara Island, Resolution Bay and the Queen Charlotte Sound. The track then descends to Resolution Bay and climbs gently to Tawa Saddle. A great spot for a bite to eat; enjoy the view before descending through beautiful forest to the Endeavour Inlet and Furneaux Lodge.
This is an easy/medium walk and suited to walkers of most abilities. Depending on fitness levels this will take 4-6 hours and is 13.5 kilometres in distance.
Ship Cove to Resolution Bay: 1.25-2 hours, 3.5 kilometres
From the water taxi drop off, the track starts at the end of the jetty.
Before setting off, check out the monument in Ship Cove. The cove has special historical significance for New Zealand. Named by Captain James Cooks who used Ship Cove as a safe haven to stay for long periods of time during his three voyages to New Zealand. This became his home away from home, which provided food, fresh water and timber for repairs to his ships.
The track starts out steep and uneven, then becomes easier as it meanders its way to Ship Cove Saddle. On the ascent, there are views through the forest to Ship Cove and beyond, allow 30-60 minutes for the climb. There’s a viewing platform at the saddle that offers fabulous views of Motuara Island, Resolution Bay and Queen Charlotte Sound.
From the saddle the descent into Resolution Bay is steep, the track is mostly clay and wide enough for a quad bike. It offers nice views and pleasant walking, allow 20-40 minutes for the descent to the turnoff to School House Bay Campsite. For those wanting a shorter walk, the water taxi can pick up from the campsite.
Continue walking for a further 5 minutes will bring you to the next junction. This is the turnoff for Resolution Bay Cabins. For those that don’t know, Cook named Resolution Bay after one of his ships.
Resolution Bay to Furneaux Lodge: 2.5 – 3 hours, 10 kilometres
From the junction take the track to right which indicates Tawa Saddle. The track climbs gently to the saddle with great views the entire way up. There are toilets and tables at Tawa Saddle, making it the perfect spot for lunch or bite to eat. Enjoy the views as this is the first glimpse of Endeavour Inlet, also named after another of Cooks ships. Allow between 60 minutes and 1 hour 45 minutes for this section.
From here the track descents through beautiful beech forest, offering magnificent views of the Endeavour Inlet. Enjoy the scenery as the trail makes its way to the Furneaux Lodge. There are no major track junctions on this section. There are a number of other accommodation types and private baches before reaching Furneaux Lodge. Allow 75 minutes to 2 hours for the walk from Tawa Saddle to Furneaux Lodge.
Furneaux Lodge is well signposted and set in one of the most picturesque locations in the Marlborough Sounds. Enjoy a drink or bite to eat in their cafe or bar before catching the water taxi back to Picton.
Getting to this walk starts and finishes in Picton, the gateway to the South Island.
Picton’s located at the top of the South Island and links the South Island to the North Island by ferry. The ferry trip from Picton to Wellington takes about 3 hours. Picton has a small airport which is a 20-minute flight from Wellington. By road, it’s 30 minutes from Blenheim, 2 hours from Nelson and a 4-hour drive from Christchurch.
I used the Cougar Line water taxi service. Located on the Picton town wharf, in front of the shops. For more information check out their website.
There’s a good range of accommodation options in Picton or you could choose one of the resorts in the Queen Charlotte Sound. The Cougar Line picks walkers up from most resorts or locations so check with them.
For more information or travel tips on getting to New Zealand’s day walks. Check out my blog on how to travel cheaper.
What to Take
Using a daypack with a 20-30 litre capacity is what I recommend. Pack it with the gear listed below. Take plenty of water, apart from a couple of small streams, there is nowhere to refill drink bottles.
- Daypack (20-30L)
- A waterproof jacket or raincoat
- Comfortable footwear
- Thermal and fleece clothing for warmth
- Sunglasses and sunscreen
- An Emergency First Aid Kit
- A map
Find out more today
For more information on what to bring on the Queen Charlotte Track and other great day walks in New Zealand. Check my blog on what to take hiking.
To print the above map, click on mapometer.com at the top of the map. The printing and PDF option at the bottom of this page will print or download the post except for the map. Once you’ve clicked on mapometer, the link will take you to the printing or export option. If mapometer asks for your location decline, otherwise it will take you to your location and not the above map. This map gives great information for getting to the start of the track, however, it’s only a guide of the route, for more detail on the track click on the topomap below, and this can also be printed.
Run your cursor over the elevation graph at the bottom of the mapometer map. This will display on the map where the ascents and descents are. It will also give you the distance and height at any point on the map. It’s a useful tool for planning your walk. The topomap below gives similar information, especially the ascents and descents. However, you need to know how to read those maps to get that information. The mapometer map gives you that information and more by simply moving the cursor over the graph.
Expect some variation in times depending on conditions and personal fitness levels. I’ve graded this an easy/medium walk, there’s a good mixture of climbing and descending with some undulations and flat walking. It’s not too difficult, DOC (The Department of Conservation) has done a great job building and maintaining this track. In hiking terms, the Queen Charlotte Track is a well-benched track, which means it is like a footpath that is easy to follow and walk on. For most walks, I recommend tramping boots and if you have them I suggest wearing them, otherwise walking or running shoes is all you need. The Queen Charlotte Track is like the walking track on the Routeburn and other great walking tracks of New Zealand. In comparison, the tracks in National Parks and Forest Parks are tramping tracks, which are often muddy and rooty in places and a little more challenging.
The streams have bridges and the total walking time is between 4 and 6 hours. Walks that I regard as hard are generally over 6 hours, have long steep climbs, have river crossings and requires good navigational skills.
Enjoy your walk and feel free to leave any suggestions or comments?
Learn more about NZ’s amazing walks!
Interested in discovering more of New Zealand’s incredible walks? Take a look at our Wellington Day Walks. 20 of the best walks from the Wellington region. It’s a great way to see Wellington.