Marlborough Walks

Walk the Queen Charlotte Track

By Marlborough Walks, Walking Tours etc

Not all who wander are lost

It’s time to explore and find what a great country we have here in New Zealand.

By Juliet Gibbons

New Zealanders have always been great travellers.

The ‘OE’ has been a rite of passage for many, drawing Kiwis to explore far flung corners of the globe. But these days a new phenomenon, the ‘DE’ seems to have taken on greater appeal.

Otherwise known as the ‘domestic experience’, this emerging tradition is more than likely due in no small part to a global pandemic, conflict in Europe and a climate conversation which has some thinking twice about international travel.

It is also a renaissance to a simpler time and a great chance for people to reconnect with nature, says Juliet Gibbons, the co-owner of Wilderness Guides based in Picton.

“I think a lot of New Zealanders have fallen in love with their own country during what has been a difficult couple of years. That saying has become true – not all who wander are really lost,” she says.

“Kiwis have got out and about, when they could, explored their backyard, done something new and realised what a great country we live in.”

Juliet and her husband Steve have operated Wilderness Guides for 23 years this October and she says prior to Covid, life was going along very well.

“We had just celebrated the 20th anniversary of the business with our staff and life could not have been better.  A few months on and we were wondering where to from here.”

The couple had had tough years before. In their first year of business, there was a severe drought that affected many parts of Marlborough including the Marlborough Sounds.  Parts of the Queen Charlotte Track were forced to close due to fire risk and being their first year, it was a financial disaster and almost forced them out of business.

“Somehow we managed to survive back then and now, with support of family, staff and New Zealanders who have continued to travel and explore their backyard, we have come through,” she said.

“We have welcomed more New Zealanders than ever through our doors to experience the Queen Charlotte Track. It has been humbling to have this support and exciting to be showing fellow Kiwis what a fantastic place the Marlborough Sounds is.”

Juliet is confident Kiwis will continue to travel domestically despite the opening of New Zealand’s borders to the rest of the world and international travel resuming. “It is going to take a while for us all to feel relaxed about travel – and perhaps we won’t ever see that same scale of travel again. Perhaps that’s not a bad thing,” she says.

Ranging from one day to many days in length a trip on the spectacular Queen Charlotte Track with Wilderness Guides is about good times, relaxation, exploration, conservation, and great local food.

Moreover, Juliet says, the setting, in the geologically unique Sounds, a labyrinth of drowned river valleys and sheltered peninsulas, waterways and islands which stretch over 1500km, is unique in the world.

“Meretoto/Ship Cove, where the Queen Charlotte Track begins, is a site of both national and international significance where the first sustained contact between the New Zealand Māori and the European took place,” she says. It was here at this snug cove in the outer Queen Charlotte Sound he replenished water supplies, rested his men, and repaired his ships on five different visits between 1770 and 1777.

Despite the Queen Charlotte Track not being part of the Great Walk network, its popularity has remained strong with New Zealanders.

“We just do what we do here in the Marlborough Sounds.  Great walks really are in the hearts and minds of those who experience them and without a doubt, the Queen Charlotte Track is one of the best,” Juliet says.

The couple have spent more than two decades sharing their backyard with thousands of visitors to the region every year and sending them home with fond memories of the Marlborough Sounds.

“We have made life-long friends with so many customers, staff, and business colleagues along the way. Tourism is a rewarding and positive industry to work in.”

“Our kayak, bike and walk tours totally immerse people in the Marlborough Sounds environment, be it walking or biking along the Queen Charlotte Track or The Link Pathway or kayaking around the beautiful bays and coves of Queen Charlotte Sound. Our staff are our biggest asset – they love their job, and it shows as they share this place with our guests, be they locals or visitors to the region,” said Juliet.

“I guess the unique thing about Wilderness Guides Marlborough Sounds is us and the positive work environment we create for our team to ensure we give the best possible experience to all the holidaymakers that come through our doors.  We have always been completely dedicated to the concept of customer first.”

The couple’s children Ben (15) and Lizzie (12) are now helping in the business as well and Juliet says the couple have a keen sense of responsibility to leave a positive legacy in the Marlborough Sounds for future generations.

“We feel that our industry can be leaders in this, and it is something we are working on to find the right way to do so.  Overseas visitors see in a heartbeat what a special place the Marlborough Sounds is – we as locals have the responsibility to ensure it stays that way and is sensitively managed while constantly balancing the various competing interests including tourism,” she said.

There are a lot of great conservation initiatives already underway in the Sounds such as Kaipupu Point, Sounds Restoration Trust, Picton Dawn Chorus, and the Endeavour Inlet Conservation Group.

“This is a unique opportunity that we all have as New Zealanders to reconnect with nature – and to reshape our visitor industry with protection and enhancement of our unique environment at its core. We are working on some important initiatives with like-minded others to see this happen,” says Juliet.

Stay on Sweet Georgia while walking the track

By Marlborough Walks, Walking Tours etc

Walk the Queen Charlotte track while staying on Sweet Georgia

Take the comfort and luxury of your own home away with you on your week-long charter holiday to the Queen Charlotte track with Sweet Georgia Cruising.
Let our professional, experienced and highly qualified crew do the work for you! We are fully catered with an onboard chef. With 6 double rooms, we have the space for up to 12 people and have an array of activities for everyone to enjoy including diving, kayaking, paddle boarding, clay bird shooting and we even tow an extra boat behind us for shore transfers or some afternoon fishing.
Contact us today to book your next adventure! or 027 309 3413

Queen Charlotte Track

By Marlborough Walks, South Island, Walking Tours etc

Queen Charlotte Track . . . Here we come!

By Juliet Gibbons

We’re all going on a summer holiday
No more working for a week or two.
Fun and laughter on our summer holiday,
No more worries for me or you,
For a week or two.

We’re going where the sun shines brightly
We’re going where the sea is blue.
We’ve all seen it on the movies,
Now let’s see if it’s true.

They say that a change is as good as a holiday and if COVID-19 has taught us anything at all, it’s that change can remind us of what is important in life. Family, friends, good times, fun in the sun and laughter. And, of course, the importance of being kind.
The operators behind the Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough Sounds know something about most of these things, fun in the sun being one of them! Located in one of the sunniest regions in New Zealand, the great summer climate is one of the attractions they are keen to encourage New Zealanders to come and experience for themselves this coming summer.
There’s also history here too. The Queen Charlotte Track offers a spectacular 72km hike from the historic Meretoto/Ship Cove through to picturesque Anakiwa. Ship Cove is a place that features high on the list of most iconic historic places for New Zealanders to visit as it was here the first sustained contact between the New Zealand Maori and the European took place.
This came to national prominence earlier this year as New Zealand commemorated 250 years since the arrival of Captain James Cook in what became the precursor to European settlement in New Zealand.
Meretoto/Ship Cove was the epicentre of English navigator Captain James Cook’s explorations in the South Pacific – a snug cove in the outer Queen Charlotte Sound where he replenished water supplies, rested his men and repaired his ships on five different visits between 1770 and 1777. British sovereignty was first proclaimed by Cook over the South Island when the British flag was formally raised on the summit of Motuara Island, opposite Ship Cove, on 31st January 1770.
As well as its historical connections, the Queen Charlotte Track is a truly unique New Zealand walk due to its variety of landscapes as the well-defined track passes through lush coastal forest, meanders around tranquil bays and traverses skyline ridges affording unsurpassed views of the Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds.
The terrain is regarded as undulating with hills ranging from sea level to just over 400 metres and most of the track is wide and benched which makes for a pleasant stroll. The trail crosses a mixture of public and private land, a unique partnership between the Department of Conservation, QCTLC (Queen Charlotte Track Land Co-operative) and Marlborough District Council, and visitors are required to have purchased the appropriate pass if crossing the private land sections.
You will find real New Zealand here – where friendly locals welcome you to their door, your bags are transferred each day and the access is easy while you adventure. This is a walking track where you can create memories in your own style and at a budget that suits your wallet.
The track can be walked year-round thanks to that great Marlborough Sounds’ climate with the most popular season being from November to May. It is also a popular trail for mountain bikers with some sections open all year to enjoy. The majority of visitors access the track by boat from the port of Picton but day walks are available where the road meets the track such as at Anakiwa, Torea Bay and Te Mahia Saddle.
You can camp at Department of Conservation campsites, private campsites and farm stays, or opt for accommodation in backpackers, home stays, bed and breakfasts, retreats and lodges or hotels along the way all while taking advantage of the water transport services which allow your luggage to be transferred each day.
Cook for yourself or take the night off, if staying at or near accommodation with restaurants. Many of the smaller lodges offer catering options too.
For those with a little more time, or seeking something a little different, there are many other activities that can be enjoyed along the way. These include swimming, fishing, sailing, sea kayaking, bird and dolphin watching, diving and historic side trips. Glow-worm grottos add to the nightlife.
There are guided and unguided packaged walking options available too and both can have their packs carried for them from any of the access points along the track by arrangement with transport operators. The sheer pleasure of arriving or departing the track by sea adds to the experience and with its historic interest and many comfortable accommodation houses along the way serving good food and wine, it could easily be called the ‘gourmet’s trail’.
Come and experience the breathtaking ridge top panoramas of Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds and enjoy the company of friendly hosts and superb food and wine. For more information on how to book your ‘summer holiday’ see the official track website at

The Queen Charlotte Track – Why Walk When You Can Ride?

The Queen Charlotte Track is one of New Zealand’s best-loved walking trails, but it is also a popular destination for mountain bikers as one of New Zealand’s Great Rides on the Ngā Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trail.
It offers a unique combination of beautiful coastal scenery, native bush, stunning views and New Zealand history. The natural appeals are complimented by easy access, an outstanding choice of hosted accommodation, pack transfers and a wide variety of flexible options for day or multiday trips, including all-inclusive packages from local providers. It offers bikers an exhilarating and challenging experience over 72km and is able to be biked comfortably in three days.
The Queen Charlotte Track has long been regarded as one of the best single tracks in the country. The track is graded as advanced/grade 4 for mountain biking although some sections are easier than others and lend themselves to day rides for those not wanting to attempt the entire track. The demographic of those riding the track is also changing as biking grows in popularity amongst older age groups.
Most riders will find some sections of the track easier to walk and you will likely need to push your bike in certain parts. If you are fit and experienced at mountain biking, most of the track is very rideable, albeit steep and challenging in certain sections, especially when rain has rendered it slippery and muddy. Less experienced riders may prefer to avoid the ridge-top sections of the central part of the track by riding along Kenepuru Road between Kenepuru Saddle and Portage Bay, still enjoying wonderful Sounds views.
The Marlborough Sounds is an iconic New Zealand destination – an intricate land mass, making up one fifth of New Zealand’s coastline, of numerous bays and coves caused by the drowning of river valleys by rising oceans over the past 10,000 years.
It is through this awe-inspiring landscape bikers can test themselves against a trail which takes them from shoreline to skyline, through magnificent virgin native forest at the track’s start at Meretoto/Ship Cove as well as regenerating forest and farmland along the rest of its length. Mountain biking is one of the best ways to explore this stunning area and learn about its fascinating history.
Although challenging in parts, the Queen Charlotte Track experience is made all the easier with the thought of comfortable lodgings awaiting each evening from backpackers through to lodges and even hotels. And the best part is your pack is transferred for you between your night time stays, by one of the water transport operators, so all you have to do is ride.
Important Footnote: You can bike the whole 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 Kenepuru Saddle and Anakiwa. 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 is advised. For more information visit

Walking the Talk
Queen Charlotte Track Inc. has championed the virtues of the Queen Charlotte Track since 1993 and COVID-19 is a challenge the organisation is ready to meet and overcome.
Chairman Rob Burn is set to ‘walk the talk’ of supporting local when he and his wife Carolyn retrace the steps she last walked 25 years ago, completing most of the Queen Charlotte Track this winter.
“I have promised Carolyn a walk on the Queen Charlotte Track the first chance we get, seeing our own backyard, especially with our Autumn weather still good,” he says.
“Most of our operator members have not had an easy time over the last few months and without international flights our tourism businesses will likely just be welcoming our fellow Kiwis who we hope will explore our local offerings to get us through this coming Winter and Summer,” he says.
Rob and his wider committee are motivated to ensure New Zealanders are aware of the wonderful experience the Queen Charlotte Track offers.
“Our other ray of sunshine could be the ‘Trans-Tasman Bubble’ concept being worked on now. We all know our Aussie cousins and expat Kiwis love to walk, cycle, eat and drink and that is what the Queen Charlotte Track can offer in abundance,” he says.
So fellow New Zealanders, there has never been a better time to follow in Rob’s footsteps, to support local New Zealand walking trails like the Queen Charlotte Track and venture out into your big backyard.

What are you waiting for New Zealand?