Photo copyright: Richard Briggs

Queen Charlotte Track

OverviewTrail Status: Open

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.

Be Prepared

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.

Weather Info

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.

Trail Partner

Inspiration, News and Updates

Majestic rugged mountains, spectacular glaciers, wild coastlines, emerald blue lakes - it’s all here and within reach. New Zealand boasts an amazing variety of landscapes and equally amazing biking. This ultimate 14 day adventure offers the perfect opportunity to ride 3 of the famous cycle trails allowing you to achi...


Fancy riding New Zealand’s longest cycle trail, and have all the hard work done for you? Okay, you will have to do the pedalling but just about everything else is taken care of on Adventure South NZ’s ( six-day tours on the Alps 2 Ocean. There are three guaranteed trips this April, depar...
Jonathan Kennett, Cycling Author
The Queen Charlotte Track is among the best multi-day mountain bike routes in the country. You can amend your itinerary if you need to and do some of the route on sealed roads. JONATHAN KENNETT – Cycling Author