Magnificent Queen Charlotte Sound and Queen Charlotte Track
Queen Charlotte Sound is a fabulous holiday destination and is the perfect choice for families or friends with different interests and fitness levels. Whether your ideal holiday is walking, fishing, biking, swimming, kayaking, diving, yachting, cruising around the gorgeous bays on a launch trying to catch a glimpse of dolphins, seals and occasionally orca, or simply resting in a hammock with a good book and a glass of wine, this is the place for you.
And with a range of accommodation including luxury water's edge resorts, boutique lodges, baches, holiday houses, B&B's, backpackers and campsites, it's easy to tailor a package to suit all budgets. For the ultimate in privacy and seclusion, some places can only be accessed by boat, helicopter or float plane. Charter boats, yachts and cruises offer packages if you prefer to be water-based. Stay for a few days or a few weeks, there's lots, or nothing to do – the choice is yours.
Water taxis, cruise boats and the Mail Boat make frequent visits to jetties along the length of the Sounds so you can base yourself at one location, then get dropped off at other bays and walk back along sections of the Queen Charlotte track.
If you only have a day, I would suggest the morning boat trip to Ships Cove, then walk the track to Furneaux Lodge (3½ - 4 hours), enjoy lunch and a cool drink on the veranda then catch the mid-afternoon boat back to Picton.
The 70km Queen Charlotte Track stretches all the way along the peninsular from Ships Cove to Anikiwa. Most people start at the outer edge, Ships Cove, the historic landing place of Captain James Cook who anchored here during the 1770's and where a memorial and information panels have been erected.
If walking the full length of the relatively easy track most people take 3 to 5 days, or 2 to 3 days on a mountain bike. (You can bike the entire track from March - end Nov. In Dec, Jan & Feb no cycling is permitted from Ships Cove to Punga Cove - the most popular section for walkers.)
If you don't want to walk the entire track or want to avoid the hilliest sections, a network of water taxis will transfer you to and from the track, or if you want to travel light, will transfer your gear to your accommodation each night. So, it's easy to mix up your stay and complete sections of the track.
Sea Kayaking. With beautiful bays, sheltered inlets and gorgeous beaches this is a fantastic region to explore by sea kayak with DoC Campsites dotted along the length of the Sounds that can only be accessed by water. It is a magical experience, sharing the seas with dolphins and seals; surrounded by weka's and prolific bird song on land; and in February we have often had the camp sites to ourselves.
The campground at Momorangi Bay, about 20 minutes drive around the coast from Picton, is a great place to start, as you can load up your kayak at the water's edge (fully loaded with gear and supplies for a week or more, you certainly don't want to carry them any distance) and you can arrange to leave your car here.
These beautiful waters are generally calm although conditions can change surprisingly quickly. The wind tends to swirl around the hills, and when a front moves through, ferocious winds can funnel up the Sounds forcing you to take refuge wherever you can find shelter. While camped at Ratimera Bay in summer, we were swimming one day and the next day were rugged up the entire day in layers of merino, jackets, hats, gloves and scarfs trying to keep warm. Next day was balmy and warm and we were swimming again. So, be prepared for all water and weather conditions, and be flexible with your plans. It's a good idea to get on the water early as the wind often gets stronger in the afternoon.
In good conditions, you can reach Ships Cove in 4 days, paddling 3 to 4 hours a day. If you don't want to paddle back, water taxi's will transport you and your kayak back to Picton. On one trip, we took a break from camping, staying in a small, basic cabin in Resolution Bay for a couple of days. And to have a rest from paddling, we walked over to Ships Cove and back one day, and the next day took a water taxi to Punga Cove and walked back to Resolution Bay, stopping for lunch at the delightful Furneaux Lodge, one of the few resorts situated on flat land with manicured lawns and gardens. In most places, lush bush clad hills rise steeply from the shoreline, with buildings nestled into the hillsides.
For another nice diversion, paddle into Torea Bay, secure your kayaks and walk over the saddle to The Portage for lunch and a look at Kenepuru Sound. With a myriad of coves and inlets, a Queen Charlotte Topographic map will help you identify the bays and campsite locations.If you need to hire kayaks, several companies in Picton provide a great service and give good advice.
Queen Charlotte Sound is a unique, idyllic, incredibly beautiful environment so whether you want adventure or relaxation you'd be hard pressed to find a better location.
Queen Charlotte Track Details HERE
DoC Campsites, many can only be accessed by water, and do not connect with the Queen Charlotte Walk HERE