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Introductory to Moderate

Traveller Rating


  • self-guided walking
  • 3 nights motel, 4 nights private lodge
  • 4 Dinners
  • 6 Lunches
  • 4 Breakfasts


8 daysfrom


Trip Code: GBO

Trip highlights

  • Scenic boat trip along Queen Charlotte Sound
  • Visit Meretoto/Ship Cove, significant as a landing place and safe haven for Maori and European explorers in Marlborough Sounds
  • Walk on Queen Charlotte Track through native forest, and along ridge tops with panoramic views
  • Admire golden sand beaches, rocky granite headlands, clear blue water and native forests of the Abel Tasman National Park
  • Boat cruise between Kaiteriteri and Totaranui along the Abel Tasman coast with informative commentary
  • Home comforts of private lodges with charming local heritage and freshly prepared meals (including Mahana Lodge unique dining experience)
  • Visit Nelson, the city at the geographical centre of New Zealand

It is difficult to choose one over the other when it comes to beautiful Marlborough Sounds or picturesque Abel Tasman National Park. Combine the best of both on this journey with highlights of the Abel Tasman and Queen Charlotte walking tracks, accessed by short boat trips from which dolphins, fur seals, little blue penguins and other sea birds may be spotted. Meander around sheltered coves, explore golden sand beaches, swim in clear turquoise ocean, amble along ridge tops with far-reaching vistas and enjoy cool, lush native forest with sparkling streams spilling down mossy valleys. Visit sites significant to both Maori and European settlers and learn something of these histories. Carry only a day pack, walk at your own pace and stay overnight in charming water front lodges, fully serviced and fully catered, each with their own heritage and story. To top it off, explore cosmopolitan Nelson, with its vibrant food and arts scene and stand at the place identified as the geographical centre of New Zealand.


Make your own way to Picton, the gateway to Marlborough Sounds, and check-in to your accommodation any time after 2:00pm. Take some time to stroll along the waterfront of this picturesque seaside town with its sheltered harbour and bustling marina, or take one of several short walks through native bushland for fabulous views over Queen Charlotte Sound. There are many great cafes, restaurants and galleries plus an aquarium and floating maritime museum.

Meals:  Nil

You will be collected this morning from your accommodation and transferred to the Picton waterfront for a trip briefing before departing on your scenic water taxi journey to Ship Cove (approx 1 - 1.5hrs). (During very busy periods, trip briefings will take place the previous evening; exact timing will be advised with your final documents.) Considered one of the most important meeting places between New Zealand Maori and Europeans, the site is a historical reserve. It was a significant place of habitation for local Maori as well as the place where Captain Cook first stepped ashore, and subsequently anchored many times during the 1770's, while exploring the New Zealand coastline. The Queen Charlotte Track commences from here with a gradual steady climb through native bush, including spectacular podocarp and beech forest. With two main ascents and descents today affording wonderful views, plus sections of untouched native forest including a gigantic 1000 year old rimu tree, this day is considered the finest section of the whole track. Concluding today's walk at historic Furneaux Lodge, you will be transferred by water taxi to the southern side of Endeavour Inlet for overnight accommodation at delightful Mahana Lodge. Optional add-ons: 1. To visit Motuara Island Scenic Reserve in the outer Queen Charlotte Sound, on the way to Ship Cove, it is necessary to take an earlier water taxi from Picton (8:00am) to the island. This allows about 1 - 1.5 hours on the island before being collected by the next scheduled water taxi at around 10:30am, which will take you across the bay to Ship Cove to start your walk. The island is predator free and is a sanctuary to many endangered native species such as the South Island Saddleback (Tieke) and the Marlborough green gecko. A track on the island takes you to a lookout with superb views. 2. For full interpretation on the area as an introduction to your hike, a guide can be arranged to join you for today only (additional cost applies). Please ask us for details.

Meals:  L,D

Enjoy a leisurely start this morning as today’s walk is shorter and easier than yesterday. Beginning from the lodge, pass Punga Cove Resort and join the track to Camp Bay where you can explore the beach. The track follows the coastline all day, with lovely views of the inlet as you trace its shore. Passing through nature reserve, regenerating native forest and farmland there is also some history along the way. Information panels at the head of Endeavour Inlet describe local antimony mining operations that burgeoned in the 1880's. It is hard to imagine a village of 800 people at that location now. Shortly beyond this point, you will arrive at Furneaux Lodge once again. Relax in the gardens while waiting for your scheduled water taxi to ferry you across the inlet to the peace and tranquility of Mahana Lodge for a second night.

Meals:  B,L,D

Start early today to make the most of every moment as it is the longest day on the whole track. It is also the most challenging but has the most spectacular views which makes the effort worthwhile. Starting near sea level and eventually reaching the highest point on the trail (475m above sea level) there are some steep sections, including the short detour to Eatwell's Lookout, named after a local landowner. The rewards are 360 degree views from the lookout, plus far-reaching panoramas of the Marlborough Sounds at every turn. Following the ridgeline for much of the day, be sure to stop for photos and breathe it all in. This is truly a magic section of the track. From Torea Bay Saddle, the track drops down to Torea Bay where you will be collected at 5:00pm for your return to Picton by water taxi. Overnight in Picton, reminiscing about your Queen Charlotte adventure over dinner at your leisure. Option: If you don't wish to walk today, you can take a morning water taxi transfer from Mahana Lodge to Picton, cruising around the bays on the way with a chance to spot some marine wildlife. The water taxi departs at either 10:15am or 11:30am, arriving back in Picton early in the afternoon. The remainder of the day is then at your leisure to relax, explore the waterfront or enjoy a coffee at one of the many cafes. Note that you may not be able to check into your hotel until 2:00pm. (There is no additional charge for this water taxi transfer if you choose not to walk today)

Meals:  B,L

This morning you will be collected from your hotel and transferred to Nelson (approx 2 hrs), where you can drop your bags at the hotel before exploring the city. (Note that you may not be able to check-in properly at the hotel until 2:00pm so you should pack everything you need for the day in your daypack.) Located at the geographical centre of New Zealand, it is worth spending some time in and around Nelson with its colourful main street, historic cathedral, lovely walking and cycling trails, the Centre of New Zealand Lookout (a 20 minute walk with superb panoramic views), vibrant arts and cultural scene, and the beautiful Tahunanui Beach. Food lovers will be spoilt for choice with a multitude of cafes, restaurants and award-winning breweries showcasing seasonal, regional flavours and artisan produce. Nelson is also home to the world famous Pic's Peanut Butter and the fascinating WOW (World of Wearable Arts) Museum. Enjoy dinner at your leisure this evening.

Meals:  Nil

You will be collected from your accommodation this morning (timing will be advised upon booking) and transferred to Motueka (approx 50 mins) for a short trip briefing. Another short transfer (approx 25 mins) takes you to the seaside settlement of Kaiteriteri with its brilliant golden beach foreshore. Here you will board your scenic boat cruise, travelling northwards along the impressive granite coastline of the Abel Tasman National Park to Totaranui (approx 1 hr 40 mins). Watch out for seals and other marine life along the way as you pass by protected Marine Reserves. Totaranui is so named due to the large Totara trees originally found here by Maori inhabitants who used them to build 'waka' (canoes). Commence walking south from Totaranui, passing through lush forest that has regenerated after farming and sawmilling activities from the late 1800's and early 1900's. Cross Awaroa Inlet, the largest tidal estuary in the National Park, to find Meadowbank Homestead, the private lodge where your friendly hosts will take care of you this evening. NOTE: if today is a Wednesday, you will walk the track in the opposite direction ie. northbound. You will be transferred from Motueka to Marahau, the southern trailhead of the Abel Tasman Track and walk to Torrent Bay, staying overnight at Torrent Bay Lodge (Marahau to Torrent Bay 13 km, 4 hrs; high tide route + 3 km, + 1.5 hrs)

Meals:  L,D

After a hearty breakfast, today's walk includes a mixture of undulations and flat sections as you cross headlands and traverse yellow sand beaches. Natural features such as interesting granite formations, native beech and rimu forests, ancient sand spits and lagoons merge with human history. Maori settlement and burial sites, and current day baches (holiday homes), mostly still owned by generations of the same families, represent both Maori and European activity along the coast. Farming, ship-building, tannin extraction and granite quarrying have all taken place since Maori occupation. Torrent Bay, where tonight's lodge is located, is a village of privately owned land with no road access. Areas such as this have historical links prior to 1942, when the Abel Tasman National Park boundaries were first established. Enjoy home comforts once again this evening while your hosts at Torrent Bay Lodge take care of all your needs. NOTE: If walking northbound, today's itinerary happens in reverse, starting at Torrent Bay and finishing at Awaroa Inlet at Meadowbank Homestead where you stay overnight. (Torrent Bay to Awaroa 17 km, 6 hrs; high tide route + 2 km, + 1 hr)

Meals:  B,L,D

Another delicious breakfast at the lodge sets you up for your final day of walking. After crossing or skirting Torrent Bay Inlet, depending on the tides, and traversing the golden curve of Anchorage Bay beach, the track climbs inland for a while. There are many viewpoints across Tasman Bay towards Nelson. Returning to the coast, the track follows ridgelines with tall kanuka forest and drops in and out of small forested gullies of lush beech and tree ferns. There are several optional side tracks today where you can drop down to secluded bays and beaches, time and tides permitting. These make ideal places for swimming or a lunch break. The bays, beaches and headlands are all named after Maori settlements, pioneering European landowners, ships of early explorers or natural features, again showcasing the fusion of natural and cultural history within Abel Tasman National Park. The walk concludes outside the park boundary after crossing the Marahau estuary along a boardwalk. From there you will transfer by bus back to Motueka and onwards to Nelson, where trip arrangements end. Arrival time in Nelson is approximately 5:30pm. Option: If you have onward travel plans from Nelson this evening, it is possible to shorten the walk today. Take the side track to Apple Tree Bay to conclude your Abel Tasman walk on this beautiful arc of beach with a 12:30pm scheduled water taxi transfer to Kaiteriteri. From there you will transfer by bus back to Motueka and onwards to Nelson, where trip arrangements end on arrival at approximately 3:00/3:30pm. Please do not book any onward travel departing before 4:30pm. (8.5 km, 3 hrs; high tide route + 3 km, + 1.5 hrs) Additional cost applies for the earlier transfer from Motueka to Nelson as it is not a scheduled service. NOTE: If walking northbound, today's itinerary starts by crossing Awaroa Inlet either on foot or by barge, depending on the tide, and finishing at Totaranui. (7km, 2 - 2.5hrs) Conclude your Abel Tasman walk on this pristine beach with a scheduled water taxi transfer to Kaiteriteri in the early afternoon. (For an earlier finish, you will need to take the 11:20am scheduled water taxi transfer to Kaiteriteri). From there you will transfer by bus back to Motueka and onwards to Nelson, where trip arrangements end. Arrival time in Nelson is approximately 5:30pm.

Meals:  B,L



The map and elevation chart are for illustrative purposes only and meant to provide general guidelines.
On self guided trips, actual route information provided before departure will be more detailed.


  • 2 nights motel accommodation in Picton (twinshare) with private bathroom
  • 1 night motel accommodation in Nelson (twinshare) with private bathroom
  • 4 nights private lodge (twinshare) with private bathroom
  • 4 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 4 dinners
  • Drinking water
  • Daily luggage transfers while walking - 1 bag/small suitcase per person, must NOT exceed 15kg in weight
  • Information booklets and route maps
  • Scenic water taxi transfers between Picton and Ship Cove, and Torea Bay and Picton on Queen Charlotte Track
  • Scenic boat trip between Kaiteriteri and Totaranui on Abel Tasman Track
  • Transfer from hotel in Picton to marina on first day of walk
  • Private transfer from Picton to Nelson
  • Return transfers from Nelson hotel to Motueka
  • Transfers from Motueka to Kaiteriteri and Marahau to Motueka for Abel Tasman Track
  • Queen Charlotte Track Land Cooperative (QCTLC) Track Pass
  • Access and Concession fees paid to Department of Conservation for Abel Tasman Track
  • Excess luggage storage if required (or your hotels in Picton and Nelson can also arrange this)
  • $20 per person donation to Project Janszoon (see

  • Travel to Picton before the trip and from Nelson after the trip
  • Meals not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Drinks other than water and tea/coffee available at the private lodges
  • Optional activities, extras and upgrades (such as additional water taxi and other transfers, Motuara Island visit, guided walking days)
  • Items of a personal nature (eg. laundry, shopping, internet)
  • Daypack
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa (if required)

Trail Surface



Introductory to Moderate  

INTRODUCTORY TO MODERATE - GRADE 4 These trips involve a combination of what is described in our Introductory and Moderate levels. The emphasis is on introductory activity with several moderate stages. These adventures involve walking for up to 6 or 7 hours a day at a steady pace. You will need a good level of fitness and must be in good health. Treks may involve carrying a full pack around 15kg. Be prepared for potential variable weather conditions. Walking each day is over hilly and occasionally steep terrain. Care needs to be taken as there are some steep sections that have a clay surface and are slippery when wet. The trip involves walking along well graded undulating trails, with some sandy beach sections. Care needs to be taken as there are some steep sections that have loose surface and are slippery when wet. There may be some estuary crossings at low tide (depending on the tide times for your trip) which can be muddy, up to knee deep in water and have small pebbles and/or shells underfoot. A very good level of fitness is required and your preparation should include climbing and descending stairs, hills or sand dunes on uneven terrain. We suggest that you undertake regular exercise - swimming, cycling, jogging, stair or hill walking - three to four times a week for three months prior to your journey. During the walking stages you will need to carry your daily requirements such as water, lunch, spare clothing and personal items.

Departure dates

Daily except Thursdays and Saturdays (modified conditions and dates from 1 May to 30 Sep)


High Season
This trip can also operate from 15 May to 25 September for a minimum of 5 people, with a modified itinerary. Cost variance applies
A side trip to Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary on the way to Ship Cove can be added. Please advise at time of booking so that an earlier departure from Picton on the first day of walking can be arranged.
Arrival time in Nelson on the final day of the trip is around 5:00/5:30pm. An earlier arrival time of 3:00/3:30pm can be arranged by private transfer if required. Additional cost applies.
We recommend minimum 2 people for this trip for safety reasons. However, solo travellers with good hiking experience and good route finding skills will find it achievable.

Want to organise a customised tour?

School groups, friends, family trips, corporate events and even making the trail accessible for everyone. Learn how you can organise a Customised Tour with Great Walks of New Zealand.

Total Priceper person from


Options & Supplements*
  • Reduction if self-driving Picton to Nelson (pp for 2 people)NZD$-150
  • High season supplement - single room (Dec - Apr)NZD$160
  • Private transfer Motueka to Nelson for early finish last dayNZD$210
  • Guided walk Ship Cove to Furneaux Lodge onlyNZD$250
  • Single supplementNZD$1550
  • Single Traveller supplementNZD$1740
*Prices listed are per person and also from

Essential Information

Ready to book? Make sure you download and read the detailed Best of Queen Charlotte and Abel Tasman Walk trip notes which contains all the essential information you need to know before booking. Once you’ve booked, we will supply you with a Pre-Departure document which contains a detailed gear list and other important information to help you prepare for your adventure ahead.

Trip reviews

Why walk with us

Self-Guided Experts

Our itineraries have been carefully designed and researched with you in mind.  The logistics are handled for you allowing you the freedom to walk New Zealand at a level of your choosing and in your own stride.


A core Maori value exercising guardianship in relation to nature, flora and fauna and its people, ensuring that sustainability and environment are valued, respected and protected for future generations to enjoy.

Supporting Local

As a small business ourselves, we love supporting and sharing New Zealand with other small and likeminded businesses and communities to showcase for you, what our land and people have to offer.

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