A backpacker's guide to hiking the Queen Charlotte Track in New Zealand - PT I
Back in September, I chose to hike the Queen Charlotte Track to challenge myself in doing my first solo multi-day hike. In most websites, you'd find the option of having your backpack carried to your resort-type accommodation. And that's awesome but it's not what you'll find here. I carried my own backpack, hiked the trail in full and camped for 4 nights. If this sounds like something you’d love doing, keep reading the essential information about the track, before we jump into the full itinerary, which includes a hidden gem I wasn’t expecting to find.
(Frigging disclaimer: At this stage, I must be the only blogger who –still—doesn’t get free perks. So, yeap, I paid for all the things I mention in the article. But, that’s about to change. No worries, I’ll let you know!)
Where is the Queen Charlotte Track?
The Queen Charlotte Track is a hiking trail located in the Marlborough Sounds, north-east of the South Island in New Zealand. Essentially, it’s a 72 km coastal walk that goes from Ship Cove Bay to a small village called Anakiwa. Because of this, there are water taxis that can take you here and there, or even carry your backpack to your next overnight stay.
Why did I choose this as my first multi-day solo hike?
Honestly, knowing that I could get my backpack carried was a key factor when I decided to do the hike. All I knew was that I wanted to camp and not rush. This meant I needed to bring all my camping gear and enough food for 5 days. So, I was unsure if I was going to be able to carry my backpack for 72 km, without destroying my neck and back.
The main reason why I chose Queen Charlotte was that it seemed the perfect balance for me. I'm not new to hiking and thanks to countless hours of yoga I'm quite fit at this stage, but this was the first time going on my own.
Weather is quite friendly, the landscapes are jaw-dropping, and com' on…you are still hiking 72 km. Not bad, not bad at all. Some people are pushing to make it one of the Great Walks in New Zealand as it’s an easy/intermediate trail suited for most ages and levels of fitness.
In the end, I focused on planning to perfection what I was going to carry –more on that in Part II —coming out soon!
To my surprise, I didn’t even feel the weight of my backpack and enjoyed every bit of the trail so this goes to all the times I stopped myself from doing something just because I feared I wasn’t strong enough —past Martina is full of self-depricating BS!
Map of Queen Charlotte Track
Download the official track’s brochure. I’ve included a snap of Google Maps to give you an idea of the trail. Most people start from the northernmost point, but I know that you can actually drive from Picton to Anakiwa, it’s a 20 kms drive or about 20 minutes by water taxi or do it the way around.
This is a the altitude gain snap, as you can see the highest you’ll get is about 400 metres, so it’s not a lot. The first hour of the hike, if starting from Ship Cove will test your will as it’s get quite steep as soon as you begin. But, chill, it gets better after!
How to get there
I’ll tell you more about this when we jump into the itinerary but essentially, you’d reach the beginning of the hike by water taxi leaving from Picton.
It’s one hour and they’ll leave you in Ship Cove, where the trail begins. This is the northernmost point of the track. Not too sure why this is and I know you can do it the other way around, but this is the “classic” direction.
To get to Picton, I took the Intercity bus from Christchurch. It was a 5 hours or so ride, and I felt like puking most of the time, BUT going through Kaikoura was worth it.
Weather in Queen Charlotte Track
Like pretty much everywhere in New Zealand, weather can change quite quickly. What’s really cool about this particular multi-day hike, is that it is a year-round destination.
I do believe spring time –I went during last week of September– is perfect because it’s not crowded, and even though it rained almost every night, by morning the sun was shining. It was very sunny but not so hot, so yeap, I recommend to head there over spring.
On a side note, it was quite cold at night, so do bring layers to keep you warm!
Always check the weather before you go so you can make sure you are all geared up for the adventure.
Know before you go
Purchase the Queen Charlotte Track Pass
You will need to purchase a pass as some sections of the track cross private land. I purchased it on the I-site in Picton. They even did the water taxi booking and checked the weather for me. If you don’t manage to buy it before leaving, you can get it at Punga Cove, a resort located 8 hours from the starting point of the hike.
Queen Charlotte trail accommodation for campers
Unlike most hikes in New Zealand, there are no DOC huts in Queen Charlotte. There are campsites though, both from DOC and privately owned. The DOC campsites have sheltered spaces for cooking –no stoves or gas, you need to be self-sufficient. Obviously, they also have toilets.
I’m including the links to the campsites in the next post!
If you need the water taxi to take your backpack
Arrange with the water taxi company how to handle your backpack in case you want it taken to your next destination. In my case, I told them I was planning to carry it myself, but as a backup plan, they said they could pick it up if I phoned them before 8 am —I barely had any phone signal, so that wouldn’t’ve worked lol.
Stay tuned for PT II which includes the full itinerary, budget, all the gear I brought with me and of course, lots and lots of love *oh, stop it gurl*
Do you have any more questions or things you'd like me to add to the article? Leave me a comment below.