Queen Charlotte Track – New Zealand’s next Great Walk?
New Zealand’s Queen Charlotte Sound, located at the Northern end of the South Island, was given its name by a seafarer who will be familiar to most Australian’s Captain James Cook, who stopped in to rest before crossing the Tasman Sea to Australia on all three of his voyages.
He spent 100 days there in total, sheltered in the arms of an intricate network of islands and sounds, and when you look at the place you can understand why.
If I had just crossed to the other side of the planet, which must have been a bit like flying to the moon in the 1700s, I’d chill out in Queen Charlotte Sound too.
And because the coastline is so convoluted, there are any number of quiet bays to throw anchor and rest for a while.
It’s this glorious landscape that the 70 km Queen Charlotte Track now winds its way through.
The track itself was developed in the early 80s, and is built on a network of pioneering day bridle paths, and at the moment – it’s pushing for recognition as one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. We think it’ll get there.
Crawling around the edge of the steep, wooded hills that plunge down to the sea, you’re constantly exposed to a new outlook on the drowned river, or valley below you – also known as a ‘sound’.
Captain Cook wasn’t the first to discover this incredible part of the world, and neither are you, of course, however it might feel like that sometimes as the entire area is so difficult to get to, that it’s sparsely populated and seemingly untouched.
According to Maori legend, the first explorer to arrive at the Sounds was Kupe, about 1,000 years ago, and many of the place names in the area talk to his amazing feats. Like wrestling a giant octopus – Wheke – which actually created the many inlets of the coastline.
The track starts at Ship Cove, which is where Cook first ran into the local Maori for the first time, and all of the historic sites in the area are protected, so there’s a firm respect for history throughout the region.
In fact you need to arrange a boat to transfer you to Ship Cove, but if you like, we can take care of that for you. After soaking up the history you’ll set off and immediately plunge into old growth forest, and there’s a 1,000-year-old Rimu tree to admire, a reminder of how insignificant we really are in the grand scheme of things.
The next day of the walk takes you around Endeavour Inlet, and in between glimpses of the sparkling water, you’ll delve into deep gullies enveloped by Ponga ferns. An immersive and magical experience.
Although the track is generous with its incredible views, the highlight has to be reaching the Eatwell lookout the following day, where you’re rewarded with a 360-degree view over Endeavour Inlet and Bay of Many Coves.
It’s all downhill from here (only literally though!) through forests and ferns, skirting isolated coves where you can imagine great wooden ships of old resting up and repairing, and eventually, you arrive at Anakina Bay – the end of the track.
Don’t get too upset though; now you get to jump on a boat and take in the landscape from a different perspective, as you make your way to Picton, and eventually, home.
If you decide to travel with us, every night you’ll stay at a beautiful guesthouse and be able to enjoy the wines, and natural produce of the Marlborough region – another aspect that adds to the overall experience of Queen Charlotte Sound.
Whatever you decide to do, it will be a week well spent, we can assure you.