Hiking the Marlborough Sounds

At the end of January I went on a walking holiday through the Marlborough Sounds with a friend. We had heard that the Queen Charlotte Track was one of the most beautiful and unique NZ walks and we were far from disappointed! It was a truly stunning few days under the canopy of native forest, with breathtaking coastal views round every corner.

We set off on the 3-hour Interislander ferry journey from Wellington to Picton and spent the Friday night of our trip in Picton, refreshed for the first day of our hike on the Saturday morning. The crossing through the Sounds was smooth and the weather picture-perfect. There is nothing quite like a summer’s day in New Zealand!

Early on Saturday morning we made our way down to Picton wharf to catch a water taxi to Ship Cove. The Queen Charlotte Track stretches from Ship Cove to Anakiwa. The water taxi took about an hour and a half and dropped us at the furthest point of the track. It turned out to be quite a sightseeing tour of the Sounds, as it dropped off and picked up people along the route and although we thought it initially quite expensive, it was a perfect way to see more of the secluded bays that we couldn’t view from the Interislander. Our bags were transported on to our accommodation  after we disembarked at Ship Cove, so all we had to carry were day packs of food and water. There is nowhere to buy food along the track; it is proper wilderness!

Day 1 of the Track

Day 1 of the track was from Ship Cove to Endeavour Inlet. It was a 15km track and took us 5 hours exactly. My friend and I are not experienced walkers. If we had not been forewarned that the first 50-minutes of the track is almost completely uphill, reaching an altitude of 300m, we might have been tempted to turn back to the water taxi and take the sea route to Endeavour Inlet! However after reaching the summit the track did start to even out and was really enjoyable. Once we caught our breath, every corner we turned seemed to have another panoramic view of a beautiful secluded bay.

As the Queen Charlotte Track website puts it: “The track climbs away from the beach, passing through a largely unmodified forest, where the high canopy is complemented by a diverse understorey of shrubs and small trees. On the ridges higher up, beech trees dominate. After 50 minutes walking, you will reach a lookout point at a saddle, where you will enjoy good views of both the inner and outer Queen Charlotte Sound/Tōtaranui. Beyond the saddle, the track drops into Resolution Bay, where there is a DOC campsite at Schoolhouse Bay and further along, private cabin accommodation.” (Quotation from QCTrack.co.nz)


We arrived at Endeavour Inlet and reached our accommodation at Furneaux Lodge with plenty of time to jump off the pier and cool down in the ocean before grabbing a pre-dinner Sav at the outdoor bar. Furneaux lodge has a fine dining restaurant and bar. They can also can provide lunch for the next day of the hike, should you wish not to carry several days worth of lunches with you, like we did!

Day 2 of the Track

On day 2 we followed the track from Endeavour Inlet to Camp Bay. It was a much flatter walk than the previous day, stretching for 11.5km and taking us 3.5 hours. It was under less tree canopy than the previous day, and with the temperatures hitting the high 20s, it was quite hard work in places. Nonetheless it was absolutely beautiful and we saw lots of brown wekas along the track!

We reached our accommodation at Punga Cove by lunchtime of the second day of the trip and it was paradise! The resort was filled with private cabins, shared dormitories, private houses, a swimming pool and a hot tub. Totally heavenly! There were plenty of beach huts to relax in on the extensive grounds, as well as a bar on the wharf where everyone congregated to use the free wifi. There was a fancy onsite restaurant and you could hire SUP boards and kayaks from the bar on the wharf. Most people who stayed here were hikers also doing the Queen Charlotte Track (as most of them had overtaken us along the track earlier in the day!). We enjoyed relaxing all afternoon and celebrating our endeavors with a sav or two!

The next morning we hopped in a water taxi back to Picton but the Queen Charlotte Track continues for another two to three days. Day 3 looks like the most challenging of all, stretching 23km  from Camp Bay to Torea Saddle up to an altitude of almost 500m, estimated to take 8 hours. This part of the track passes through private land and you are required to purchase an additional QCTLC permit. Day 4  stretches 20.5km from Torea Saddle to Anakiwa with an optional stopover in Mistletoe Bay, 8km in, making it up to a 5-day trip.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable hike, particularly for non-hikers, and if we had more time to do the whole thing, I would absolutely go back to attempt it again!

Our Essential Pack list included:

  • Hat
  • Walking shoes/trainers
  • Insect repellent (for the darned sand flies!)
  • Blister Plasters
  • Sunscreen
  • Swimming togs
  • Camera/phone
  • Snacks
  • Lunches
  • 2 x 500ml water bottles
  • Water purification tablets
  • Torch/head lamp
  • Book
  • Jandals/Flip-flops (to air hot feet in the evenings!)
  • Track map


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About tripleespresso2go

Jeremy, Katie and Sophia are a family of three from the UK who have a passion for travel, good coffee, music and photography. They are currently based in Penang, Malaysia. Follow their adventures as they taste the finest coffee and photograph their way around the Asia.