Ultimate Guide to Queen Charlotte Track

The Queen Charlotte Track – EVERYTHING You Need to Know!

If you’re on this page right now, you’re probably looking for info on the epic Queen Charlotte Track. If so, then you’re in the right place! We’ll go over everything from when to do it and how much it should cost to where to start your hike.

First off, though, the Queen Charlotte Track is a 73.5 km (45.7 mi) multi-day (2 to 5 days) hiking track in the Marlborough Sounds of New Zealand’s South Island. It’s popular amongst walkers and cyclists and is known for its stunning scenery.

So, lace up your boots and join us as we walk you through everything you need to know about this unforgettable place.

The Best Time to Do the Queen Charlotte Track NZ

The best time to do the Queen Charlotte Track depends on your personal preferences and the activities you want to do. 

Here is a brief overview of the weather and conditions in each season:

Spring (September-November): The weather in spring is mild and sunny. Temperatures range from 14 to 20 °C. It’s a good time to see wildflowers in bloom.

Summer (December-February): Summer is the warmest season in the Marlborough Sounds, with average temperatures ranging from 20 to 25 °C. This is the busiest time of year, so expect to share the track with other hikers and bikers.

Autumn (March-May): Autumn is a shoulder season, with cooler temperatures and fewer crowds. The weather is mild, and temperatures range from 10 to 18 degrees °C.

Winter (June-August): Winter is the coldest season in the Marlborough Sounds, with average temperatures ranging from 5 to 15 °C. There’s also more rainfall in winter, so the footing can be more treacherous. However, the days can be sunny and clear, and the track is less crowded.

The Cost of the Queen Charlotte Track

The total cost of doing the Queen Charlotte Track will vary depending on your individual needs and preferences. However, as a general guide, you can expect to pay at least 200-300 NZD daily for a self-guided hike.  

This includes the cost of the pass, accommodation, food, transport, and other costs. Having done this track ourselves many times, we’ve compiled a breakdown of the expenses you can expect to incur. 

Expense 1: QCTLC Pass


A QCTLC Pass is required for all Queen Charlotte Track private land between Kenepuru Saddle, Torea Saddle, Te Mahia Saddle and Anakiwa. A single-day pass costs 12 NZD, a multi-day pass (to be used over 5 consecutive days) is 25 NZD, and a seasonal pass is 35 NZD. 

Expense 2: Accommodation

Several accommodation options are available along the Queen Charlotte Track, ranging from camping to luxury lodges. Camping is the cheapest option, with sites starting at around 20 NZD per night. 

Lodges can be much more expensive, with some charging upwards of NZ$500 per night. 

Expense 3: Food 

You’ll need to bring your own food on the Queen Charlotte Track or purchase it from the lodges or cafes along the way. The cost of your food varies depending on your dietary requirements and how much you eat. 

However, a good rule of thumb is to budget around 25 NZD per day for food when camping. If you stay in lodges, you can expect to pay more for food, typically around 50 NZD per day.

Expense 4: Transport

You’ll need to arrange transportation to and from the start and end of the Queen Charlotte Track. The cost of transport may be more expensive or cheaper depending on the mode of transport you choose and the distance you need to travel.

A round-trip water taxi from Picton to either the track’s start (Waitangi) or end (Anakiwa) costs around 90-110 NZD per person. This is the most common way to get to and from the track, as it’s the most direct and convenient option.

Expense 5: Other costs

There may be other costs associated with doing the Queen Charlotte Track, such as the cost of hiking gear, guided tours, and activities such as kayaking or swimming. We recommend setting aside at least 50 NZD extra, just in case.

Your Options for the Expenses along the Queen Charlotte Track 

Now we’ll go over some of the options you have for certain expenses. Let’s start with one of the most important things: accommodation!

Accommodation along the Queen Charlotte Track 

As mentioned earlier, plenty of different accommodation choices along the track exist. Below, we’ve listed some accommodations you can choose from and their nightly rates. 

Picton Yacht Club Hotel 

Website: Picton Yacht Club Hotel 

Address: 25 Waikawa Road, Picton 7220, New Zealand

Phone: +6435737002

Nightly rate: Starting at 136 NZD 

This hotel is just a short walk from the Picton Marina and ferry terminal, making it easy to get to and from the start of the track. You’ll have your pick of ocean-view rooms, pool-view rooms, and apartments. It also has a restaurant, bar, and spa, so you can relax and refuel after a day of hiking. 

Harbour View Motel 

Website: Harbour View Motel 

Address: 30 Waikawa Road, Picton 7220, New Zealand

Phone: +6435736259

Nightly rate: Starting at 145 NZD 

The Harbour View Motel is in the heart of Picton, not far from the waterfront and the start of the track. The motel has studio units and apartments with stunning views of Picton Harbour and the marina. 

Jasmine Court Motel 

Website: Jasmine Court Motel 

Address: 78 Wellington Street, Picton 7220, New Zealand

Phone: +6435737110

Nightly rate:  Starting at 139 NZD

Jasmine Court Motel is a short walk from the waterfront, where you can catch a water taxi to Ship Cove, where the track begins. They have a variety of rooms to choose from and plenty of amenities. 

The Villa Backpackers 

Website: The Villa Backpackers 

Address: 34 Auckland Street, Picton 7220, New Zealand

Phone: +6435736598

Nightly rate:  Starting at 28 NZD 

The hostel has various accommodation options to suit all budgets, from shared dorm beds to private rooms with ensuites. The Villa Backpackers is also a QCT specialist, which means they can help you with all your travel arrangements, including booking transport and track passes.

Tawa Cove Cabins

Website: Tawa Cove Cabins

Address: Tawa Cove, Endeavour Inlet Queen Charlotte Sound, Marlborough Sounds 7250, New Zealand

Phone: +6435798197

Nightly rate:  Starting at 250 NZD 

Tawa Cove Cabins are self-contained and have a private waterfront, making them the perfect place to relax and unwind after a long day of hiking. The cabins have various amenities, including a fridge, microwave, cooktop, and BBQ. 

Bluewater Lodge 

Website: Bluewater Lodge 

Address: Queen Charlotte Track, The Pines 7282, New Zealand

Phone: +6468800026

Nightly rate:  Starting at 212 NZD

The Bluewater Lodge has suite accommodation with private decks that have sea views. They also have a communal kitchen where you can cook, or you can choose to have breakfast included in your stay.

Punga Cove Resort

Website: Punga Cove Resort

Address: Queen Charlotte Track, Endeavour Inlet 7282, New Zealand

Phone: +6435798561

Nightly rate:  Starting at 82 NZD 

Punga Cove Resort is about halfway along the track. The resort is surrounded by forests and has stunning views of the inlet and the surrounding mountains.

They have chalets, apartments, and suites. Any room you choose will have stunning views, and some have private balconies or decks.

Ngahere Hou 

Website: Ngahere Hou 

Address: 4144 Kenepuru Road, Kenepuru Head 7282, New Zealand

Phone: +642102241915

Nightly rate: Starting at 230 NZD 

Ngahere Hou is a great option for staying at the halfway point of the Queen Charlotte Track. It’s a 40-acre private bush reserve with stunning views of the Kenepuru Sound. 

The accommodation options are a 6-meter yurt or a summerhouse cabin equipped with comfortable beds and more. 

Mistletoe Bay Eco Village 

Website: Mistletoe Bay Eco Village 

Address: 3709743, Onahau Bay 7282, New Zealand

Phone: +6435734048

Nightly rate:  Starting at 18 NZD 

Mistletoe Bay Eco Village is near the end of the track. They have a variety of accommodation options, including cabins, lodges, and campsites. 

The cabins are all solar-powered and have a private bathroom, kitchenette, and deck. The lodges are larger and can accommodate up to 12 people. 

Transport for the Queen Charlotte Track 

Here are three companies you can use for transport to and from the Queen Charlotte Track. 

Cougar Line Picton E-Ko Tours Picton Beachcomber Cruises 
Address: London Quay, Picton 7220, New Zealand
Phone: +6435737925
Prices: Starting at 135 NZD 
Address: 1 Wellington Street, Picton 7220, New Zealand
Phone: +6435738040
Prices: Starting at 70 NZD
Address: London Quay, Picton 7250, New Zealand
Phone: +6435736175
Prices: Starting at 96 NZD

What to Pack for the Queen Charlotte Track 

We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of items you’ll need for your adventure on the Queen Charlotte Track.


  • Hiking Boots: Get yourself a sturdy pair of waterproof hiking boots if you can. These will keep your feet comfortable and dry during long walks. Break them in before your trip to prevent blisters
  • Socks: Wool or synthetic socks are best for hiking. They wick moisture away from your feet and provide cushioning.
  • Layered Clothing: New Zealand weather can be unpredictable, so pack clothing that can be layered. Include lightweight, moisture-wicking garments for warm days and heavier fleece or down jackets for cool evenings.
  • Rain Gear: Rain is a possibility at any time of year. A lightweight, waterproof jacket and trousers will ensure you stay dry. 
  • Hat and Gloves: Even in summer, mornings can be chilly. So, a hat and gloves will keep you warm during early-morning hikes. 
  • Swimwear: There are several places to swim along the track, so don’t forget your swimsuit!


  • Backpack: A comfortable, lightweight backpack is essential. Make sure it has enough space for all your gear, water, and snacks.
  • Walking Poles: These are not essential but can help with balance and reduce strain on your knees during descents.
  • Sleeping Bag: If you’re planning to camp, a lightweight, compact sleeping bag rated for the coldest temperature you expect to encounter is a must.
  • Tent: A lightweight, waterproof tent is necessary for camping. Ensure it’s easy to set up and take down.
  • Cooking Equipment: If you’re camping, bring a small stove, fuel, a pot, utensils, and a lighter or matches.

Health and Safety

  • First Aid Kit: Include band-aids, antiseptic cream, tweezers, painkillers, and any personal medication.
  • Sunscreen and Insect Repellent: The New Zealand sun can be harsh, and sandflies are common, so protect yourself.
  • Water Purification Tablets: While there are many places to refill your water bottle along the track, it’s a good idea to carry purification tablets just in case.
  • Map and Compass: Even though the track is well-marked, it’s wise to carry these as a backup.

Food and Drink

  • Snacks: Pack high-energy snacks like trail mix, dried fruit, and energy bars.
  • Meals: If you’re not staying in an accommodation that provides meals, bring lightweight, easy-to-cook food like instant noodles or freeze-dried meals.
  • Water Bottle: Carry at least a 2-litre water bottle. There are plenty of streams and water stations along the track where you can refill.


  • Camera: If you don’t want to use your phone camera, bring an actual camera to capture the stunning views, wildlife, and memories of your adventure.
  • Binoculars: Great for spotting wildlife from a distance.
  • Swiss Army Knife: Always useful for various tasks if you’re staying at a campsite.
  • Toiletries: Don’t forget your toothbrush, toothpaste, and soap!

Where to Start the Queen Charlotte Track 

The best place to start the Queen Charlotte Track is in Picton. It’s the gateway to the stunning Marlborough Sounds and the beginning of your Queen Charlotte Track adventure.

The track winds through lush native bush, offering stunning sea views. The trail also takes you through historic bays and skyline ridges and provides unsurpassed views of the stunning Marlborough Sounds.

As you walk along the ridge, the views of both the Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds would rival any vista in the world. It’s also not uncommon to spot weka, hear bellbirds, or see a fur seal lounging on the rocks below.

Route Difficulty 

The Queen Charlotte Track is generally considered a challenging route. Most people choose to walk it in four days. However, if you’re up for an extra challenge, completing it in three days or even two is possible. 

Here’s an overview of the track and the distances. 

Meretoto / Ship Cove to Endeavour Inlet – The Beginning 
Distance: 17 kms
Time to Complete: 5.5 hrs
Endeavour Inlet to Camp Bay – Almost Halfway There 
Distance: 11.5 kms
Time to Complete: 4 hrs
Camp Bay to Torea Saddle – Halfway There 
Distance:  24.5 kms
Time to Complete: 8 hrs
Torea Saddle to Mistletoe Bay
Distance: 8 kms
Time to Complete: 4 hrs
Mistletoe Bay to Anakiwa
Distance: 12.5kms
Time to Complete: 4 hrs

Where to Start Biking the Queen Charlotte Track 

The Queen Charlotte Track’s biking route starts at historic Meretoto/Ship Cove and ends at Anakiwa. The track is well-marked and includes both challenging sections for experienced bikers and easier parts for beginners.

The route can be completed in 2-3 days, depending on your pace and the time you wish to spend exploring the surroundings. 

But note there’s a restriction for bikers – the section from Ship Cove to Camp Bay is closed from March 1st to November 30th each year.

Apps to Download for the Queen Charlotte Track 

Great Rides App is the official app of the New Zealand Cycle Trail. It includes detailed information on all 23 Great Rides, including the Queen Charlotte Track. 

The Queen Charlotte Track App is a great app to download for planning and hiking the Queen Charlotte Track in New Zealand. It has a wealth of information about the track, including detailed maps of the track, accommodation information and more.