Bay of Many Coves

Image: Keith Miller | Creative Commons


Experience the spectacular Marlborough Sounds whilst walking or biking the Queen Charlotte Track. The track stretches 70 km from historic Meretoto/Ship Cove through to Anakiwa in the Grove Arm of Queen Charlotte Sound.

Track overview

71 km one way

Dog access

No dogs

About this track


You can walk or ride the track in either direction, but it's best to start from Meretoto/Ship Cove.

If starting from Meretoto/Ship Cove, boat operators are available to carry your pack between accommodation places.

The track itself is well signposted but some accommodation places may not have signs. The private tracks leading off the track to the accommodation places may not always be of the same standard as the main track, which is maintained by DOC staff.

The Queen Charlotte Track map (PDF, 787K) on this website and in the Queen Charlotte Track brochure is not a route guide and we recommend that walkers and mountain bikers who require more detailed map information purchase a topographic or similar map.

Walking the track

The walking times mentioned below are only a guide and lean more towards a person with a slow walking speed. A day walker with a light day pack will take less time than a tramper with an overnight pack.

Sections of the track are on private land and a Queen Charlotte Track Land Cooperative (Q.C.T.L.C.) Pass is required to walk or ride the track in these sections which are between Kenepuru Saddle and Davies Bay near Anakiwa. Buy your pass here.

Mountain biking the track

Mountain biking is a great alternative to walking the Queen Charlotte track. Biking is permitted on the track all year round except for the section between Meretoto/Ship Cove and Kenepuru Saddle, which is closed to bikes over the busy summer season, from 1 December to 28 February each year.

Allow two to three days to ride the entire track, but sections of the track make good day rides, particularly between Meretoto/Ship Cove and Kenepuru Saddle (27 km) and between Mistletoe Bay and Anakiwa (12.5 km).

Biking the Queen Charlotte Track - Conservation Blog May 9, 2013

Approximate biking times:

  • Meretoto/Ship Cove to Camp Bay: 5 hr, 26.5 km
  • Camp Bay to Torea Saddle: 4 hr, 24.5 km
  • Torea Saddle to Anakiwa: 4 hr, 20 km.

If you are moderately fit and experienced at mountain biking, the track is very rideable, albeit steep and challenging in certain sections, especially when rain has rendered it slippery and muddy. You may prefer to avoid the ridge-top sections of the central part of the track by riding along Kenepuru Road between Kenepuru Saddle and Portage.

There are no facilities along the way for repairing bikes; please make sure you have adequate tools and equipment and are competent to complete your own repairs.

This is a shared-use track. Follow the mountain bikers code: respect others, respect the rules, respect the track.

Meretoto/Ship Cove to Resolution Bay

Walk time: 2 hr
Distance: 4.5 km

There is no road to Meretoto/Ship Cove so you will need to arrange boat transport to start your walk there. Camping is not permitted at Meretoto/Ship Cove but there are toilet facilities. Most visitors to Meretoto/Ship Cove take time to explore the historic site and enjoy reading the interpretation panels around the site.

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. Beyond the saddle, the track drops into Resolution Bay, where there is a DOC campsite at Schoolhouse Bay and further along, private cabin accommodation.

Schoolhouse Bay campsite

Resolution Bay to (the head of) Endeavour Inlet

Walk time: 3 hr
Distance: 10.5 km

From Resolution Bay the track passes over a ridge and into Endeavour Inlet. It winds downward and follows the shoreline to the head of the inlet, where interpretation signs recall the antimony mining era. Hostel and motel accommodation are available on the way.

Endeavour Inlet to Camp Bay

Walk time: 4 hr
Distance: 11.5 km

From Endeavour Inlet the track stays near the shoreline and wanders through regenerating forest rich in small birds. It rounds Big Bay to Camp Bay where there is a DOC campsite and, a little further on, private accommodation. It is possible to bypass Camp Bay by using a direct track to Kenepuru Saddle.

Camp Bay campsite

Camp Bay to Torea Saddle

Walk time: 8 hr (3 hr to Bay of Many Coves campsite, 6 hr to Black Rock campsite)
Distance: 24.5 km

The track passes through private land in this section. Make sure you have your Q.C.L.T.C. Pass, buy your pass here.

This is the longest and most arduous section of the journey; most mountain bikers will need to push their bike in various places here. However, from the top of the ridge you will be well rewarded with magnificent panoramas of the Sounds. Climb out of Camp Bay to Kenepuru Saddle and follow the ridge separating Queen Charlotte Sound from Kenepuru Sound. Above Bay of Many Coves and Kumutoto Bay are two DOC campsites, Bay of Many Coves and Black Rock, each with water, toilets and a cooking shelter.

Eventually the track descends to Torea Saddle between Portage and Torea Bay. There is a DOC campsite at Cowshed Bay and private accommodation in Portage Bay.

Bay of Many Coves campsite

Black Rock campsite

Cowshed Bay campsite

Torea Saddle to Mistletoe Bay

Walk time: 4 hr
Distance: 7.5 km 

The track passes through private land in this section. Make sure you have your Q.C.L.T.C. Pass, buy your pass here.

This part of the journey also follows the ridge line. Here gorse and manuka are prolific, sheltering shrubs and trees that will one day shade the way. A side walk leads to a lookout just before the descent to Te Mahia Saddle begins. At Mistletoe Bay there are cabins and campsites. To book contact Mistletoe Bay Eco Village. There is also private accommodation at Te Mahia Bay.

Mistletoe Bay to Anakiwa

Walk time: 4 hr
Distance: 12.5 km

The track passes through private land in this section. Make sure you have your Q.C.L.T.C. Pass, buy your pass here.

Beginning on the road above Mistletoe Bay, this section follows old bridle paths high above the water. The track rounds an obvious point and descends to the DOC campsite at Umungata (Davies Bay). The final hour’s walking is on an easy path through mature beech forest to Anakiwa. At Anakiwa are a carpark, shelter, toilets and phone near the track end, and a public jetty opposite the Outward Bound school. Here you can catch a bus or a boat to Picton or to nearby accommodation (see transport details under commercial operators on page 24 of the brochure).

Davies Bay campsite

Short walks

With such good access by road and/or sea, most sections of the track can be used for day walks. There are also several short side-trips along the way.

  • At Meretoto/Ship Cove, you can take the Waterfall Track to a small waterfall in the forest (40 minutes return).
  • At the head of Endeavour Inlet the Antimony Track leads up to a saddle and passes through an area that was extensively mined for antimony in the late 1880s (40 minutes return to the mine tailings, 2 hours to the saddle oneway).

In Mistletoe Bay, the James Vogel Nature Track allows you to explore the forest behind the picnic and camping area (45 minutes return). The Peninsula Walk explores the peninsula between Mistletoe and Waterfall bays (30 minutes return).


You can choose to walk or bike the track independently, carrying all of your own clothing and equipment, or you can simply carry a day pack and have your main gear (less than 15kg please) transported by one of the water taxi companies.

The six DOC-managed, ‘self-registration’ campsites on the track, each have toilets and water supply. Some also have cooking shelters and picnic tables. You will need to carry your own cooker and food with you. The campsites at Bay of Many Coves and Black Rock are not at sea level so you will need to carry everything you need to these sites. Remember there are no rubbish facilities: take your rubbish out with you.

You will need to deposit the camp fees for the DOC campsites in the self-registration box at each site or prepay at the Picton i-Site or the DOC Office in Picton. These fees go toward the upkeep of the camp facilities.

A number of private accommodation providers offer hostel, cabin, motel and hotel lodgings, and tent sites alongside or close to the track. The private tracks that leave the main track to private accommodation are not constructed to the same standard as the Queen Charlotte Track and may be narrow, steep, and slippery when wet. Some private accommodation sites may not be signposted, so make sure you get clear directions when you book.

Getting there

Queen Charlotte Track locality map.
Queen Charlotte Track locality map

Private transport

Anakiwa, Mistletoe Saddle, Torea Saddle and Kenepuru Saddle are all accessible by road. Anakiwa, Mistletoe Bay, Torea Bay, Camp Bay, Endeavour Inlet, Resolution Bay and Meretoto/Ship Cove can be accessed by sea. Many of the short walks can be enjoyed from these places.

Transport operators

A number of companies offer boat transport to and from points along the track, including Meretoto/Ship Cove. Regular and on-demand bus services link Anakiwa with Picton.

Further information is available from Picton Information Centre, travel companies and accommodation houses.


Many jetties in the Sounds, such as the Outward Bound New Zealand one at Anakiwa, are privately owned. Boat owners can use them for picking up and dropping off passengers and luggage only. Do not tie up or leave your boat unattended at any jetty in the Sounds. 

Private land

Sections of the track cross private land. As of 1 July 2010, the private land owners require walkers to have a Queen Charlotte Track Land Cooperative (Q.C.T.L.C.) Pass for all Q.C.T.L.C. private land between Kenepuru Saddle, Torea Saddle, Te Mahia Saddle and Anakiwa. See the map (link below) for where these sections are. The Pass fee contributes to track maintenance, enhancement and access. 

Please respect the owners’ property and do not take vehicles, firearms or dogs on the track. The sections of track on these properties only exist through the good will and cooperation of the land owners.

Map of Queen Charlotte Track

Know before you go

Plan, prepare and equip yourself well. Have the right gear and skills required for the trip and always check the latest information about facilities you plan to use and local weather conditions. The DOC Nelson/Marlborough track updates have the latest information on the Queen Charlotte Track, updated weekly in summer and monthly in winter.


Private land fees: A Queen Charlotte Track Land Cooperative (Q.C.T.L.C.) Pass is required for access across all Q.C.T.L.C. private land between Kenepuru Saddle, Torea Saddle, Te Mahia Saddle and Anakiwa as marked on the Queen Charlotte Track map (PDF, 787K).

The Pass fee contributes to track maintenance, enhancement and access. The pass only covers access to the private land sections and does not cover camping or other fees on the Queen Charlotte Track. 

  • $12  for a 1 day pass.
  • $25 for up to 5 consecutive days.
  • $35 for an annual pass.
  • Free for school children.

Purchase the pass through the the Q.C.T.L.C. website. For further pass information contact the Q.C.T.L.C. by email or visit the Q.C.T.L.C. website.

Campsite fees: See individual campsite pages for fees. 


  • You can walk your dog between Anakiwa and Davies Bay only. A permit is required - contact the local DOC office.
  • Dogs must be on a leash at all times.
  • Dogs are not permitted elsewhere on the Queen Charlotte Track or on any of the walking and tramping tracks off it.
  • Landowners adjacent to the track and hunters using it for access to hunting areas can apply for a dog permit for limited dog access on other parts of the track.


  • No fires are allowed along the Queen Charlotte Track due to risk of fire spreading and the closeness of private land.
  • Campers need to use portable cookers.
  • During periods of extreme drought and high fire risk, the track may be closed and open fires are prohibited.


  • Some sections have limited water, especially during drought conditions. Always carry enough water for the day with you.
  • Giardia and other waterborne diseases may be present in the water at the campsites or in the streams. All water should be treated, filtered or boiled for 3 minutes to make it safe to drink.
  • Don’t use soap in streams.
  • Water taps are provided at the DOC campsites and washing sinks are provided in the cooking shelters.
  • Water is limited, so use sparingly.


Wasps are common in late summer and autumn, particularly on beech trees. Carry antihistamines if you are allergic to their stings.


While walking or riding, you may notice the ground disturbed in places alongside the track. This may be caused by wild pigs rooting for worms, grubs and plant roots. Pigs are rarely seen by walkers and if you are lucky enough to meet one, the pig will usually take fright and quickly disappear into the bush.

Pest control

The Bottle Rock Peninsula between Meretoto/Ship Cove and Resolution Bay is part of a project to prevent rats and possums reinvading an area without using predator fences. The project uses traps, some of which can be seen from the Queen Charlotte Track and toxins (including diphacinone, pindone and cyanide). 

Private land

Sections of the track cross private land. Private land owners require walkers to have a Queen Charlotte Track Land Cooperative (Q.C.T.L.C.) Pass for all Q.C.T.L.C. private land between Kenepuru Saddle, Torea Saddle, Te Mahia Saddle and Anakiwa. See the map (link below) for where these sections are. The pass fee contributes to track maintenance, enhancement and access. 

Respect the owners’ property and do not take vehicles, firearms or dogs on the track. The sections of track on these properties only exist through the good will and cooperation of the land owners.

Map of Queen Charlotte Track


There are no rubbish facilities along the track: take your rubbish away with you.

Outward Bound New Zealand

The Outward Bound School at Anakiwa has a long history with the Queen Charlotte Track. Students can be seen helping to maintain the track as well as using it as part of their course activities. The school also manages and maintains the toilet block at the Anakiwa end of the track. The Outward Bound School welcomes visitors enquiring about the school and the courses it provides.

Foreshore Reserve

Public access to most bays and beaches in the Marlborough Sounds is guaranteed by the unique Sounds Foreshore Reserve. This is an approximately 20-metre wide strip of publicly owned land above the mean high water mark. If you use this reserve, respect the rights of any nearby residents. Some landowners have riparian (private) rights to the foreshore.


Many jetties in the Sounds, such as the Outward Bound New Zealand one at Anakiwa, are privately owned. Boat owners can use them for picking up and dropping off passengers and luggage only. Do not tie up or leave your boat unattended at any jetty in the Sounds.


Toilet facilities are provided and maintained by DOC with help from private landowners and commercial operators. Toilets are provided on the track and at the track entrances, see Queen Charlotte Track map (PDF, 787K). Most of these toilets are long drops, however some campsites have flush toilets.

To ensure the toilet systems run efficiently and don’t smell, close the toilet lid after use, and close the toilet door. Do not put rubbish or food scraps in the toilets. Closing the door will improve the vent efficiency and help to remove smells. For personal hygiene walkers should carry hand sanitising lotion.

Use the toilets where they have been provided and avoid polluting bush margins and waterways. If you do need to go to the toilet away from a toilet facility, go at least five metres off the track and bury your toilet waste in the shallow organic layers of the topsoil, well away from any flowing water. It is important not to defecate on the track.

What to take

While Queen Charlotte Sound is generally warm and dry in summer, remember it is a coastal environment, which can change quickly, so be prepared for rain, cold and windy conditions and muddy track.

Day visitors should take:

  • Q.C.T.L.C. Pass if crossing private land between Kenepuru Saddle, Torea Saddle, Te Mahia Saddle and Anikiwa
  • food and water (some nearby lodges do meals and snacks; check opening hours)
  • Queen Charlotte Track booklet
  • sunhat, sunglasses and sunscreen
  • stout footwear
  • warm layer of clothes and hat
  • windproof rain jacket
  • first aid kit: insect repellent, personal medication (e.g. antihistamine for allergy to wasp stings)
  • camera (optional)

Summer campers should take everything suggested for day visitors plus the list below:

  • Sounds Camp Passes for DOC campsites (available from DOC or Picton i-SITE)
  • at least one set of clothes to walk in and another dry set to change into at night
  • pack with large waterproof/plastic liner
  • sleeping bag
  • tent and sleeping mat
  • torch and spare batteries
  • cooking stove, lighter and spare fuel
  • cooking utensils: pot/pan/billy, pot scrubber
  • eating utensils: knife, fork, spoon, plate, cup
  • toilet gear: toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper, small towel, soap, hand-sanitising lotion
  • earplugs (optional—you may be sharing campsites with a large number of other people)
  • food (should be lightweight, fast to cook and high in energy value, e.g.
  • breakfast: cereal, firm bread, spreads
  • lunch: cracker biscuits, cheese, salami
  • dinner: instant soup, pasta/rice, dried vegetables/fruit, cheese or dehydrated meals).

Winter campers should also take warm, quick-drying clothing. Wool and modern synthetics are better than cotton as they dry quickly and give more warmth.

If staying overnight in accommodation houses and having your luggage transported, take everything suggested for day visitors plus the list below:

  • daypack
  • separate bag for transporting gear with a water-proof liner as bags are not left under cover on jetties
  • at least one set of clothes to walk in and another dry set
  • toilet gear: toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, hand-sanitising lotion
  • torch and spare batteries.

Before your trip, confirm with each accommodation house what will be provided, including meals, packed lunches, bedding and towels.

Nature and heritage

Learn more through the Queen Charlotte Track stories.


There is a variety of vegetation types, ranging from undisturbed native forests to gorse-covered hills where forest is regenerating and grassy farm land – all of which are typical of the New Zealand landscape. Both ends of the track begin in forested reserves. At sea level the forests are particularly lush: ferns, tree ferns, nikau palms, climbing kiekie and perching plants flourish, making up a spectacular coastal forest that has been lost in so many other places.

Throughout the year colours change as trees bear flowers and fruit. In spring puawananga, the native clematis, wears a gown of creamy white flowers; in autumn bunches of red supplejack berries catch the eye, as do the orange skins of kohia, New Zealand passionfruit, discarded by birds. You may spot bright rows of tiny fungi adorning rotting wood and shiny-leaved karaka standing in groves along the shore, their large berries ripening to a rich yellow.

Bird watching

Listen and watch for forest birds as you walk along the track. Mimic the bellbird or tui and you may well be rewarded with an answering call. Stir up the leaf litter and you may attract a darting piwakawaka or fantail or a South Island robin, looking to feast on insects of the forest floor. In summer, you may occasionally hear the calls of the long-tailed and shining cuckoo, while twilight stimulates the rasping calls of weka and the haunting cry of ruru, the morepork.

Where the track follows the shoreline, take time fossicking in the rocky strip between land and sea, especially at low tide. Enriched by twice-daily tides, the mud and silt of Endeavour Inlet and Big Bay estuaries are rich feeding grounds for white-faced herons, oystercatchers and kingfishers. Sitting patiently near the shore proves a worthwhile experience for watching wildlife. You may see various species of shag searching for food or sitting, statue-like, on a rock, drying their feathers before flying off or diving for more food.

Occasionally, gannets are seen hurtling into the water to catch unsuspecting fish. Where fish are particularly plentiful, flocks of swooping terns and shearwaters may join in the fishing. Bottlenose dolphins are regular visitors to the Sound and you may be lucky enough to see them from the track frolicking and cruising out from the shoreline.

Sounds Restoration Trust

The Sounds Restoration Trust seeks to restore the native ecosystems and iconic landscapes of the sounds by tackling threats such as plant and animal pests. It was set up in 2007 by concerned local residents and holiday home owners. Their initial project has been wilding pine control in inner Queen Charlotte Sound. The results of their efforts can be seen from the Queen Charlotte Track in the dead and dying pine trees on many hillsides.

The Trust is supported by DOC, the Marlborough District Council, local landowners, national funding agencies and local businesses.

Track re-route and upgrade

The Queen Charlotte Track has a programme of regular upgrades and re‑routes to improve the track gradient, surface, and drainage. They also make the most of the stunning views.

DOC uses diggers but also do a considersable amount of work with hand tools. A concerted effort has been made to keep costs to a minimum by making good use of natural materials such as local rock, and using culverts and dry stone walling to negate bridges being built. This adds character to the track and enhances the walking/biking experience.


Māori tradition offers several stories explaining the origin of the Marlborough Sounds, called “Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka a Maui”, or “The Prow of the Canoe of Maui”. One legend tells how Maui, the Polynesian hero and explorer was paddling his waka with his brothers when, with a magical hook, he pulled up an enormous fish, which formed the North Island. Jealous, his brothers capsized the waka, which became the South Island, its intricately carved prow forming the Marlborough Sounds.

The outer sounds are also associated with the renowned Polynesian explorer Kupe. Many Māori place names in this area commemorate his exploits. The carved bollards at the bridge at Meretoto/Ship Cove signify the iwi of the area.

For at least 800 years Māori have occupied the Sounds, where abundant kai moana or seafood from the sheltered inlets, together with birds, has sustained their developing culture. Evidence of their seasonal camps, permanently occupied villages and fortified pa can still be seen throughout the area. Queen Charlotte Sound was an important trade route long before the inter-island ferries plied its waters.

Taking advantage of low saddles occurring between Sounds, Māori carried their canoes over land to avoid long sea journeys. Today, the saddle at Torea is still used to link Picton with Kenepuru Sound. The European name Portage, in the mid-section of the track, bears testament to this practice, meaning “hauling, or “carrying”. All historic sites in the area are protected, both Māori and European. Dutchman Abel Janszoon Tasman was the first European to sight the Sounds on his visit to New Zealand in 1642. He and his men spent Christmas of that year sheltering their ships — the Heemskerck and Zeehaen — from a storm near D’Urville Island but they never set foot ashore.

That honour went to Captain James Cook. Cook took advantage of the shelter and food available in the Sounds and made Meretoto, which he renamed “Ship Cove”, his New Zealand base. Between 1770 and 1777, Cook and his crews spent 170 days sheltering there. It was at Meretoto/Ship Cove, that the first sustained contacts between Maori and  Europeans took place. “Queen Charlotte” was the name he gave the Sound.

The Māori name is “Tōtaranui”, reflecting the totara trees growing there, a valued resource. While at Meretoto/Ship Cove he discovered a plant now called “Cook’s scurvy grass”, which yielded valuable vitamin C to cure scurvy among his crew. (On your boat trip to or from Meretoto/Ship Cove it is well worth taking time out to explore Motuara Island, rich in bird life and its association with Cook’s visits.)

In Endeavour Inlet during the 1880s, a small town grew around a series of antimony mines. Narrow, horizontal tunnels or “adits” were dug, from which vertical shafts descended deep into the hills. Early miners took the antimony ore on a tramway down the valley to a wharf, from where it was shipped to England to be processed and used for hardening lead and pewter.


Whakatū / Nelson Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 546 9339
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   Millers Acre/Taha o te Awa
79 Trafalgar Street
Nelson 7010
Postal Address:   Private Bag 5
Nelson 7042
Back to top