Introductory to Moderate

Traveller Rating


  • self-guided walk
  • 1 night motel, 5 nights boat
  • 5 Dinners
  • 4 Lunches
  • 5 Breakfasts


7 daysfrom


Trip Code: GCQ

Trip highlights

  • Enjoy the hospitality of local hosts onboard a private, family-operated, purpose-built cruising vessel
  • Hike the full Queen Charlotte Track over four days where Maori and early European settlers have left a rich history to discover
  • Cruise some of the bays and coves along Queen Charlotte Sound
  • Visit Meretoto/Ship Cove, significant as a landing place and safe haven for explorers in both Maori and European history
  • Varied walking along shorelines and up onto ridge tops, through native forest and with panoramic views
  • Visit Motuara Island for a chance to spot some of New Zealand's rare bird and reptile species (weather dependent)

Whether you subscribe to the Maori legends or geological processes that formed the Marlborough Sounds, its network of sunken river valleys, islands and maze of peaks, intricate bays, coves and beaches is truly unique in New Zealand. Learn some of its history while taking in the superb natural beauty of the region with a combined exploration by boat and on foot. Walk the entire length of the meandering, multi-use Queen Charlotte Track in your own time and unaccompanied, meeting your floating home at a designated place each evening. If you prefer to sample only the highlights, the itinerary is flexible so that you can walk as much or as little as you like. This trip is the same as our Queen Charlotte Hike except that you travel and sleep on board a privately owned and operated purpose-built 63 foot (20 metre) cruise vessel. The immense local knowledge of the crew allows flexible options to make the most of your journey according to weather and sea conditions. As well as the joy of walking there are many opportunities to spot marine wildlife such as seals, dolphins, penguins and albatross while cruising the bays and plying the waterways between trailheads. All luggage remains onboard in private cabins so there is no need to carry a big pack. Enjoy lush native forests, coastal scrub, picturesque coves and grand panoramic vistas by day followed by Kiwi hospitality, home-cooked meals and the sound of the sea lulling you to sleep by night.


Make your own way to Picton, the gateway to Marlborough Sounds, and check-in to your tour 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 several galleries plus an aqaurium and floating maritime museum if you prefer something less strenuous. There are many great cafes, restaurants and bars at which to dine this evening, or a well-stocked supermarket should you prefer to eat in.

Meals:  Nil

Enjoy a leisurely morning in and around Picton before meeting the boat and crew at the Picton Ferry Terminal at 2:30pm. Board the boat for a 3:00pm departure then cruise along Queen Charlotte Sound, exploring some of the smaller bays that are not visible from the walking track. After anchoring in a sheltered cove for the night, relax into boat life with some pre-dinner snacks while the evening meal is prepared.

Meals:  D

Depending where the boat anchored last night, there will be a short cruise after breakfast this morning to Meretoto/ Ship Cove, where you disembark. 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 wonderful views, many places to enjoy a picnic lunch and sections of untouched native forest, today is considered the finest section of the whole track. Be sure to stop and admire one of the oldest rimu trees on the South Island, with a girth of more than 6 metres, nearing the end of today's walk at historic Furneaux Lodge. The boat will be waiting here to meet you when you arrive.

Meals:  B,L,D

The walk today is shorter and more leisurely than yesterday, following the coastline all day. Returning to Furneaux Lodge after breakfast onboard, disembark at the jetty and enjoy lovely views of Endeavour Inlet as you trace its shore. Passing through nature reserve, regenerating native forest and farmland there is also some history along the way. Interpretation panels at the head of the inlet describe local antimony mining operations that burgeoned there in the 1880's. Further around the inlet pass beside a small beach at Camp Bay, where the boat will meet you. After lunch onboard, cruise about an hour to Motuara Island Scenic Reserve. You may be lucky enough to see dolphins playing beside the boat along the way. 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. It is a brilliant place for birdwatching and has a walking track leading to a lookout with superb views of Queen Charlotte Sound. After spending some time here, cruise back to Endeavour Inlet to moor in a different sheltered bay for the night.

Meals:  B,L,D

After our usual morning routine onboard, disembark at Camp Bay or Punga Cove jetty. Today is the longest day on the whole track and also the most challenging but it 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, you see both Kenepuru and Queen Charlotte Sounds so be sure to stop for photos and breathe it all in. This is truly a magic section of the track. From Torea Bay Saddle near the end of the day, the track drops down to the coast and Torea Bay. Your floating home waiting in the bay is a welcome sight.

Meals:  B,L,D

Return to Torea Bay this morning after a night on the water not too far away. Ascend from the jetty to the main track on the ridgeline once again. There is a steep climb for a few hours from here but once again the views are rewarding as you look towards Picton. This is the steepest part of the trail today and beyond this the walk follows an old bridle path, mostly descending with a few undulations to sea level. Pass through manuka scrub, open farmland and a final stretch of beautiful beech forest. A picturesque beach in the sheltered Davies Bay provides an opportune place for a last rest before arriving at Anakiwa, the end of the Queen Charlotte Track. Departing from the jetty once back on board the boat, cruise for a short while to find a sheltered bay for the final night on the water. Enjoy something special for dinner while reflecting on your accomplishments over the last four days. Note: it is possible to finish the walk at Mistletoe Bay (about half way) if you don't feel you can manage the full walk. You will need to discuss this with the captain the night before.

Meals:  B,L,D

After a final breakfast onboard the boat, cruise at a leisurely pace back to Picton, savouring the final moments of life in the Marlborough Sounds. Arriving at the wharf around 9:00am, trip arrangements end with farewells to the crew and your fellow travellers.

Meals:  B



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.


  • 1 night motel accommodation in Picton (twinshare) with private bathroom
  • 5 nights comfortable cabin (twinshare) with single sex shared bathroom onboard the "Affinity"
  • 5 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 5 dinners
  • Drinking water and trail snacks
  • Experienced local crew onboard the boat
  • A visit to Motuara Island Scenic Reserve / Bird Sanctuary
  • Queen Charlotte Track Land Cooperative (QCTLC) Track Pass
  • Trail information, map and route notes (one per booking)
  • Use of gumboots onboard the boat and for going ashore

  • Travel to/from Picton before/after the trip
  • Meals not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Alcoholic beverages and soft drinks onboard the boat - available for purchase (CASH only)
  • Optional activities, extras, purchases on shore at any lodges (cash, eftpos, credit card accepted at lodges)
  • Items of a personal nature (eg. laundry, shopping, internet)
  • Daypack and water bottle
  • Car parking in Picton (if required)
  • 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. 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


An extra deposit is applicable for this trip - see trip notes for details

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.

Priceper person from


Options & Supplements*
    *Prices listed are per person and also from

Essential Information

Ready to book? Make sure you download and read the detailed Queen Charlotte Walk and Cruise 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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