A day walk on the Queen Charlotte Track

I visited Picton for three days in February keen to do a day walk on the Queen Charlotte Track and enjoy some Marlborough seafood and wine. I’d never spent much time in the town before – only playing mini-golf or killing time at the ferry terminal.

Picton is considered the gateway to New Zealand’s South Island. Five ferries across two companies (Bluebridge and The Interislander) each run two crossings per day, connecting the North and South Islands of New Zealand and carrying freight and people.

Picton has a population of around 4,500 which triples during the Summer months. Cruise ships such as the Ovation of the Seas, which was in port during my visit can easily double the population for the day, so depending on the season Picton can either be tranquil or swarming with people.

View of the Picton Waterfront with four large palm trees at the edge of the grass with be benches between, in front of which is the sea. The Interislander ferry is berthed to the right.

The Queen Charlotte Track

The full Queen Charlotte Track runs for 73.5km between Queen Charlotte Sound and Kenepuru Sound in the Marlborough Sounds. It starts in Meretoto / Ship Cove and ends at Anakiwa.

The section of the Queen Charlotte Track which I chose to walk was between Furneaux Lodge and Punga Cove and winds through 1200-1500 year old native bush above the coastline. People walking the whole track would normally complete this section on their second day.

The Queen Charlotte Track path winds through tall New Zealand native trees

I set off from Picton with Beachcomber Cruises on the Matua. Beachcomber Cruises are family owned and really flexible on options so among us on board there were day walkers, people off to spend a day at one of the lodges, people setting off to do the full Queen Charlotte Track from Ship Cove and people who were staying on the boat and just cruising the sounds for the morning.

Medium sized boar parked at the end of a marina. Sign in front of it says “Picton Town Wharf 3, Beachcomber Cruises”

Jason our skipper provided commentary about our surroundings as we went, and our first stop was to pick up some walkers from Motua Island, a predator-free wildlife bird sanctuary. We then stopped at Meretoto/ Ship Cove for 15 minutes, leaving people starting their Queen Charlotte Track walks from there.

Two Māori totem carvings of around 6 feet in height stand with a path which leads to a footbridge running between them, through native New Zealand bush in Ship Cove.

Meretoto/ Ship Cove is a small bay where explorer James Cook anchored his ships, naming it Ship Cove. In 2014 the official name of the bay was altered to acknowledge its original Māori name.

I was then dropped off at Furneaux Lodge where I had a leisurely coffee on the deck before starting my walk on the Queen Charlotte Track at around 11:30am.

The white Furveaux Lodge with a fountain in centre fore-view and grass. Tables with sun umbrellas are set up in front of the lodge and on the balcony which wraps around.

Single lane pedestrian bridge formed of wooden boards, wire netting, cables and wooden posts through native New Zealand bush

A wooden jetty juts out into Endeavour Inlet with a handrail on the right-hand side. The water is blue and clear and there ate two small boats close to the right side of the jetty. Small yachts and bush over the other side of the sound are visible in the background.

I stopped for lunch just over an hour later when I spied a shaded picnic table in an area between two gates you need to open and close. Others were sat down on a jetty just after the first gate. There wasn’t really anywhere to sit earlier but seemed to be plenty with lovely views further on.

View across a bay in the Queen Charlotte Sounds on walking track through New Zealand native bush

The walk wasn’t steep and peering out through the bush across the various bays was lovely. I’m not sure which section of the Queen Charlotte Track is the most scenic but I enjoyed being able to visit the two lodges on this one.

A picnic table is in the foreground, overlooking blue water of the Queen Charlotte Sound on the Queen Charlotte Track between Furneaux Lodge and Punga Cove. The land is covered in green native New Zealand bush.

I arrived at Punga Cove at around 2:45pm allowing me plenty of time for a wine on the jetty before my 4:15pm transfer back to Picton.

Other walks from Picton

If you’re after a shorter walk to stretch your legs there are a number of scenic ones in and around Picton. I followed the Picton to Waikawa Bay Track which runs between the two marinas and takes around an hour each way.

A large number of various watercraft berthed at a marina in Summer

My initial plan was to swim but realising it was another 20 minutes walk to somewhere swimmable, I turned back after walking around the marina and took an upward path to the snout where I was rewarded with amazing views.

View over the Marborough Sounds from The Snout. A small island is in the middle of the fijord , the sea is blue and all the land is covered in green trees.

Where to eat in Picton

  • There’s a Fresh Choice supermarket in Mariners Mall on High Street in Picton which is perfect for stocking up on snacks and packing lunches.
  • I seriously considered doing this seafood cruise which was highly recommended by a friend.
  • Seamus’s bar plate of mussels with garlic bread and a Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc. They had both an entrée (500g) and main (1kg) size and the entrée was enough for me.
  • Toastie Lords – good coffee, doughnuts which looked delicious a crazy lunchtime trade on toasties and fancy smoothies and sodas.

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