You’ll notice the Marlborough Sounds’ myriad coves and inlets if you arrive in Picton by ferry (or by plane on a clear day); many of which harbour small resorts and backpackers’ hostels.
The best way to explore the Marlborough Sounds is to hike the Queen Charlotte Track, although the less energetic can drive or take a local ferry or water taxi to some of the remote backpackers’ resorts.
Various hostels in Picton can arrange boat transport to Ship Cove with a pick up from Anakiwa for hikers walking the Queen Charlotte Track. Packs can be carried between accommodation spots by boat operators; this means that you only need to walk with a daypack, making the trek a little easier.
Cougar Line (tel (03) 573 7925) and Endeavour Express (tel (03) 573 5456) are two of the main transport operators. They both combine the ferry trip from Picton to Ship Cover with pack transfer to jetties along the track and pick up from Anakiwa. Cougar Line cost $90 and Endeavour Express costs $80 for the return trip including pack transfer.
It is also possible to use the boat connections to complete a chosen section of the track, but this usually costs more than the full return trip.
In addition to several campsites in the region, including seven on the Queen Charlotte Track, there are a number of excellent hostels, many of which are within easy access to the Track. The following hostels are listed geographically from south to north. All of them, with the exception of Hopewell and Te Mahoerangi Eco-lodge, are within walking distance from the Queen Charlotte Track. There are no DOC huts on the Queen Charlotte Track.
401 Anakiwa Road, Anakiwa
Tel (03) 574 1388
Kenepuru Road, Portage Bay, Kenepuru Sound
Tel (03) 573 4309
Portage Bay, Kenepuru Sound
Tel (03) 573 4522
Endeavour Inlet, Marlborough Sounds
Tel (03) 579 8373
Queen Charlotte Track, Mistletoe Bay, Marlborough Sounds
Tel (03) 573 4048
Punga Cove, Queen Charlotte Sound
Tel (03) 579 8561
Portage Bay, Kenepuru Sound
Tel (03) 573 4404
9 Lady Cobham Grove, Anakiwa
Tel (03) 574 2115
Nydia Track, Nydia Bay
Tel (03) 579 8411
Hopewell, Double Bay, Kenepuru Sound
Tel (03) 573 4341
The Nydia Track (27km; 2 days) connects Tennyson Inlet with Kaiuma Bay, near Havelock. It follows the shoreline of Nydia Bay and crosses the Kaiuma and Nydia Saddles.
The Havelock YHA (tel (03) 375 2104) organises transport packages with a bus or ferry drop off at Shag Point near the start of the track and pick up at Duncan Bay. This transport package costs $60. There is a DOC hut on the track; but most backpackers prefer to stay at the Te Mahoerangi Eco-lodge, on Nydia Bay about halfway along the track.
The Queen Charlotte Track (71km; 3-5 days) takes in beautiful scenery on the stretch of land between Kenepuru and Queen Charlotte Sounds. Although the trail can be hiked in either direction, most people start at Ship Cove (where Captain James Cook took shelter between 1770 and 1777) and walk back toward Anakiwa near Picton.
The Queen Charlotte Track is also popular with mountain bikers, except in summer (Dec-Feb) when bikes are not permitted. It takes around 13 hours to ride the length of the track.
The track begins at Ship Cove, a 1hr boat ride from Picton. Captain James Cook took shelter here on five separate occasions between 1770 and 1777. There is an historic reserve here that features Cook’s Monument.
From Ship Cove, the track climbs through native bush to a lookout that offers breathtaking views to Mount Egmont (Taranaki) in the North Island and then descends to Resolution Bay where there are cabins and a campsite.
The track from Resolution Bay follows an old bridle path to Endeavour Inlet where there are a couple of accommodation options, but no campsite.
This is the hardest part of the track, but you are rewarded by breathtaking views of the sounds from the ridge-top walk. Although there are a couple of campsites on this section, most people hike it all in one day and stay at one of the three backpackers’ hostels in Portage, near Torea Saddle.
This section climbs out of Torea Saddle and follows the ridge along the highest points of the track offering more spectacular views. There is a backpackers' hostel and a DOC campsite at Mistletoe Bay.
The final leg of the walk follows old bridle paths descending to a DOC campsite at Davies Bay (Umungata) before the final easy walk into Anakiwa. At Anakiwa there’s a backpackers’ hostel and a shelter with a toilet and payphone where you can wait for your transport back to Picton.