Ship Cove — Anakiwa (2-3 days, 70km)
Experience the heart of the Marlborough Sounds while biking the spectacular Queen Charlotte Track, a 70km journey with epic scenery.
The track stretches from legendary Ship Cove/Meretoto (well known for sheltering Captain Cook and his crews during their voyages to New Zealand) to Anakiwa, home of Outward Bound.
Ride through lush coastal forest, around bays and along skyline ridges. You will be rewarded with unsurpassed views of both Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds as well as encounters with native birds such as the inquisitive weka.
Along the track enjoy the local hospitality of the cafés and accommodation-providers, ranging from campsites to luxury lodges.
Ride the entire track, or sections of your choice, using the easy road access or boat transport from Picton. If riding the entire track, heading from Ship Cove to Anakiwa is best.
There are regular morning boats to Ship Cove and the water taxi operators can carry your luggage between overnight stops when going in this direction.
All track entrances and junctions have Department of Conservation signs with directions and distances on them.
QUEEN CHARLOTTE SOUND WILDLIFE
Remote and secluded, the Queen Charlotte Sound is a haven for an array of wildlife. As you follow the track you may spot dolphins, stingrays and seals, or catch a glimpse of fantails, tomtits, kereru (native wood pigeon), and ground-dwelling weka. For a close encounter with Marlborough’s wildlife, take a guided eco tour and sail to the outer bays and inlets to see seals, sea birds, orca whales and dolphins, including the world’s smallest species, the endangered Hector’s dolphins. Dolphin swimming trips are also available.
Sitting in a horse-shoe curve along a pretty harbour, Picton is radiant as it watches the regular roll-on and roll-off car ferries from Wellington and farewells smaller craft heading to one of the Sounds.
THE MARLBOROUGH SOUNDS
An unspoilt wilderness, the Marlborough Sounds are made up of four main waterways – Queen Charlotte, Pelorus, Kenepuru and Mahau Sounds.
Totalling one fifth of New Zealand’s coastline and encompassing awe-inspiring stands of magnificent untouched subtropical rainforest, the Marlborough Sounds are among this country’s most prized jewels.
Ancient hills draped in lush subtropical rainforest rise dramatically from clear Pacific waters creating an intricate maze of deep coves, secluded bays and sheltered inlets. This is an awe-inspiring feast for the eyes and soul, remote and untouched, a playground of abundant exquisite wilderness, and home to over 50 nature reserves and several wildlife sanctuaries.
The opportunities for maritime pursuits here are many, from sea kayaking and sailing to fishing, diving and marine life watching. You can opt for a cruise to one of the mussel or salmon farms and see how they’re grown, then dine on fresh seafood straight from the ocean to plate, matched with local wine.
Mountain biking the famous 70km Queen Charlotte Track is one of the best ways to explore this stunning area and learn about its fascinating history.
RIDING THE TRAIL
SHIP COVE TO HEAD OF ENDEAVOUR INLET, (GRADE 3 INTERMEDIATE TO GRADE 4 ADVANCED) 15KM
This section starts with a hill climb out of Ship Cove through beech forest before a challenging descent with rocks and tree roots to negotiate.
Schoolhouse Bay Campsite is a good place to have a rest before heading up a gentle hill to Tawa Saddle.
You’ll get great views on the way down to Endeavour Inlet, then wind your way along the shore to the head of the inlet.
Antimony was once mined here so it’s worth stopping or staying the night.
ENDEAVOUR INLET TO CAMP BAY, (GRADE 3 INTERMEDIATE TO GRADE 4 ADVANCED) 11.5KM
Enjoy the mainly flat, wide track in this section as it winds its way near the shore through regenerating forest rich in small birds (the local residents are doing a great job of trapping pests in this area).
You will pass Big Bay before arriving at Camp Bay Campsite and the private accommodation just past it.
You can bypass Camp Bay by riding the direct track up to Kenepuru Saddle.
CAMP BAY TO TOREA SADDLE, (GRADE 3 INTERMEDIATE TO GRADE 4 ADVANCED) 24.5KM
The QCTLC Pass is required for this section as it passes through private land.
Enjoy the magnificent panoramas of the Sounds from the top of the ridge, and take in the stunning panoramas at Eatwell’s Lookout.
This is the most arduous section of the track and you may need to push your bike in some sections.
The alternative option is to ride on the road instead, although the views aren’t as good.
Follow the ridge separating Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru sounds and pass two DOC campsites at Bay of Many Coves and Black Rock. Each has a toilet, water (not guaranteed in dry weather) and a shelter.
The track crosses the road between Torea and Portage bays. Take the track to Cowshed Bay Campsite or the road to private accommodation at Portage if you are staying the night here.
TOREA TO TE MAHIA SADDLE, (GRADE 3 INTERMEDIATE TO GRADE 4 ADVANCED) 8KM
The QCTLC Pass is required for this section.
You will again be rewarded with stunning views as you follow the ridgeline. Manuka, shrubs and some trees, as well as gorse, shade parts of the track.
There is a short side track to a lookout over Onahau Bay just before the descent to Te Mahia Saddle.
Mistletoe Bay is a great place for a picnic or to stay the night; private accommodation is also available at Te Mahia Bay.
TE MAHIA SADDLE TO ANAKIWA, (GRADE 3 INTERMEDIATE TO GRADE 4 ADVANCED) 12.5KM
The QCTLC Pass is required for this section.
Follow the road downhill from Te Mahia Saddle to where the track branches off and follows an old bridle path. Pass through bush and farmland before enjoying the downhill ride to Davies/Umungata Bay where there is a DOC campsite, toilets and water.
Then enjoy the final 3km to Anakiwa as you cycle through mature beech forest with glimpses of the water below. Stay here or at Linkwater or a water taxi can return you to Picton. Alternatively ride 23km back to Picton along the picturesque Queen Charlotte Drive.
Getting to the Queen Charlotte Track is easiest from the town of Picton (28km from Blenheim and 105km from Nelson). Take the ferry from Wellington, catch a bus or train or drive yourself there.
You can fly to Blenheim or Koromiko (near Picton with limited flights) airports and then take a shuttle to Picton. The closest international airports are Wellington or Christchurch.
Boats to Ship Cove and other access points for the track regularly leave from Picton year round.
Driving to some of the track sections is possible if you have your own vehicle or transport can be arranged to and from Picton to the Anakiwa end of the track.
For more information about walking or biking the track, accommodation and transport visit:
It doesn’t take long to plan. We’ve developed a guide with the NZ Mountain Safety Council to help you. Read and download the guide FREE and ensure you’re prepared for the following.
Important Note: You can bike the complete track from Ship Cove to Anakiwa between 1 March and 30 November each year. From 1 December to the end of February, the track is open for mountain biking between Punga Cove and Anakiwa. For more information visit Queen Charlotte Track.
As the track is a shared use track and popular with walkers, you will need to ride in control and be prepared for walkers around each corner. Riding in the same direction as most others, from Ship Cove to Anakiwa will help avoid most conflicts.
We recommend that you carry topographical maps BP29, BQ29 and BQ28 or at least a copy of the Marlborough Sounds map whilst on the track.
MOBILE PHONE COVERAGE: Mobile phone coverage is available along parts of the trail (mostly the ridge tops), but not all of it. A personal locator beacon is recommended.
DRINKING WATER: Drinking water is scarce along the Camp Bay to Torea Saddle section. There are water tanks at two DOC shelters along the way but these are not guaranteed to have water in dry weather.
While Marlborough is generally warm and dry in summer, remember it’s a coastal environment where the weather can change quickly, so you’ll need gear for rainy, cold and windy conditions as well as muddy sections of track.