Why the Queen Charlotte Track Should Never Become a Great Walk

 Punga Cove, Queen Charlotte Track

Punga Cove, Queen Charlotte Track

So, you’re planning a trip to New Zealand and you hear about these “Great Walks” everyone is talking about.  Milford Track, Kepler Track…what’s that hard-to-pronounce one?  Whanga…Whanaanga…Whan-ga-nui!  Why are these trails called “great walks” and what’s so great about them?  Do you crawl through hobbit holes or walk through Eisengard?  Why nine? Which one is the best? Which one should I do?

 Three mates enjoying the view of Marlborough Sounds

Three mates enjoying the view of Marlborough Sounds

First, here are a few quick facts about the Queen Charlotte Track (or QCT):

·      The QCT is nestled in the mountains and coves of Marlborough Sounds, a spectacular region in the northeast corner of New Zealand’s South Island

·      The Marlborough Sounds walk runs 71km long from start to finish – you can start or end in either direction (Anakiwa or Ship Cove)

·      You can walk or mountain bike the whole track or you can do day trips or tours (check out these guys) by boat or by walking in from one end

·      Walking the whole track takes 3-5 days

·      Queen Charlotte Track mountain biking takes 2-3 days

 An adventure in every direction!

An adventure in every direction!

Now, let’s review the Great Walks so we know how to gauge this. 

On the North Island, we have the Tongariro Northern Circuit, Whanganui Journey, and Lake Waikaremoana

The South Island includes the Abel Tasman Coast Track, the Heaphy Track, the Routeburn Track, the Kepler Track, and the Milford Track

Last, but not least, Stewart Island is the humble home of the Rakiura Track

These tracks range from 32 kilometers to 145 kilometers or one to six days depending on your speed and {hopefully} devised plan. 

On some tracks you can bike, kayak or canoe if you’re an ambitious adventurer, while others have one-day trips appealing to the quick visitor.

 Sunsets of the Marlborough Sounds are a thing of beauty.

Sunsets of the Marlborough Sounds are a thing of beauty.

Each Great Walk has been deemed “great” for a reason.  Thousands of locals and foreign travelers flock to the winding paths, suspended bridges, fresh rivers of these nine beautiful tracks scattered across New Zealand’s landscapes.  You can do some of the walks with guided tours, you can self-plan to stay in a hut or campsite, or you can tackle a whole track in a day (mostly just the Routeburn or Rakiura if done right).

The vistas you’ll find on a Great Walk are never short of mesmerizing.  Magnificent waterfalls, vastly open valleys, supple rainforests, beautiful birds in song, stars covering the night sky, clean huts with friendly wardens, crystal clear rivers, and beaches that outdo any screensaver, will leave you in awe of what this earth is capable of creating.  Rain or shine, heat or frost your experience on a Great Walk will never leave you unsatisfied.  The memories will stay with you for life and those sore muscles will last for days!  Every bit of it will be worth it.

 Friends we made along the way

Friends we made along the way

 One of the Queen Charlotte Track coves

One of the Queen Charlotte Track coves

So, “Why,” you say, “should the Queen Charlotte Track never be let into the ‘Great Walk’ category for tracks in New Zealand?”  I’ll tell you, but then I’ll have to…expect you’ll give away the secret! 

It’s okay; it’s totally worth it.

The Queen Charlotte Track, of all the tracks I’ve done, is hands down the most breath-taking, unforgettable 71 kilometers I have ever walked in my life.  I do not want it to be named a Great Walk because its somewhat obscure, remote location preserves its tracks from being overrun and abused. 

Of course, hundreds…if not thousands, of people walk the QCT every year, but it doesn’t compare to the traffic you see on the Abel Tasman or Milford Tracks.

The Marlborough Sounds are something out of a Peter Pan storybook.  If there ever existed a real Neverland, this would be it.  The phosphorescent glowworms and iridescent waters that illuminate when you take a midnight dip would make any mermaid jealous. 

The beaches are somewhere I would happily be stranded.  The rainforest is full of character with its curious wekas and dew dropped moss.  And, the lookouts atop the highest hills are worth every last strenuous step.

 Marlborough Sounds honey

Marlborough Sounds honey

I'll be honest with you all, I have not done every single Great Walk {yet}, but of the five I have done (including the Milford Track), the Queen Charlotte Track blows them all out of the water.  With an option to have your bags transported from stop to stop for each evening retirement and a clandestine café that serves beer and coffee when you really need one (day 3), you cannot beat the all-around package the QCT provides.

 Three avid explorers enjoying the sunshine on the Queen Charlotte Track

Three avid explorers enjoying the sunshine on the Queen Charlotte Track

So, DOC (Department of Conservation), please do NOT name the Queen Charlotte Track a Great Walk.  It’s just too great to share it with every Tom, Dick, and Harry.  Call me greedy, but it’s a slice of heaven I feel only the most boundless adventurers should experience.  Hopefully after reading this, you’ll be one of them.

Share your experience of the QCT below or comment on any articles you’d like to see here.  If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, do not hesitate to reach out and ask me for help!

Happy traveling!

 Queen Charlotte Track sunset

Queen Charlotte Track sunset


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Kelsey PowellComment