Queen Charlotte Track: Our 2 day walk from Resolution Bay to Punga Cove in the Marlborough Sounds

The Queen Charlotte Track is 71 km from Ship Cove to Anakiwa in the Grove Arm of Queen Charlotte Sound. Unfortunately, we didn’t have that much time, so we picked what we thought would be the best two days of walking on Queen Charlotte Track.

Fantastic ocean views, romantic bays, feed the fish and very friendly Weka (birds) are what you will find on this walk along the stunning Queen Charlotte Track.

Day 1: Resolution Bay to Punga Cove on Queen Charlotte Track

23 km – 5 hrs & 40 mins, medium walk

We left Picton by water taxi at 9 am and started walking at 11 am, and arrived at our accommodation – Mahana Lodge by 6 pm. A 23 km walk on a very hot sunny day.  The walk took us 5 hours and 40 minutes all up. One 30 minute climb out of Resolution Bay, 0 to 230 m, then downhill to Furneaux Lodge. From there on the walk was as flat as a pancake.

Plenty of toilet stops and I mean flushing toilets and two places to buy food if you need it. As for the views of the ocean, great.  FANTASTIC WALK.

Day 2: Punga Cove to Bay of Many Coves on Queen Charlotte Track

12 km – 4 hrs & 15 mins, medium walk

A lot of walking for very little gain. If it was not for the pigs, I would not recommend this section.

By far, yesterday was certainly the best section to walk.  Starting from Ship Cove instead of Resolution Bay is the way to go. And then finish at Punga Cove instead of Bay of Many Coves. But make it a two day journey and take your time.

Keep reading below to get the full details of our walk along Queen Charlotte Track.

Quick Facts about this walk

  • Location: Queen Charlotte Sound, Northern tip of the South Island
  • Distance: 35 km over 2 days
  • Time needed: 10 Hours 30 Minutes over 2 days
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Mountain Bike: Yes
  • Route: One Way
  • Elevation: 400m
  • Wet Feet: No
  • Toilets: Yes
  • Dogs: No
  • Mobile Coverage: No
  • Last Updated: July 2021

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Summary points about this walk

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Points of interest along the walk​

Point 1: Queen Charlotte Track - Start, Day 1

Our water taxi ride to Resolution Bay took us 2 hours. The taxi stopped at three other bays to pick and drop off people.  We were very lucky to stop in Endeavour Inlet and watch a 40 plus pod of dolphins swim past the boat, well worth the delay.

11 am, we stepped onto the wharf at Resolution Bay in time to see the feeding of the local blue cod and one moray eel.  Take a loaf of bread with you and try feeding the fish by hand.  Keep a couple of slices of bread for the Weka.  A hot plunger coffee and a muffin can be brought from the shop just to the left of the house. You might have to ring the bell for service.  You are on country time now, not, hurry up city time.

The track runs around to the right of the house, and uphill, just follow the arrows.  Take the time to use the toilet, the next one is at the saddle.  Not very nice though.

Point 2: Queen Charlotte Track - Old bridle path

Walk up through the paddocks and on to the old bridle path, from here on the track is a breeze to follow, just a 5 minute uphill walk, and then away you go to the saddle an easy walk.

The first half hour into the walk the views of the sounds are quite breathtaking to start with, but as you clock up the hours, there is always a better view around the next corner.

Point 3: Queen Charlotte Track - Meet the Weka

The next amazing thing to see is the little brown Weka running along the track. If you stop and keep still, the Weka will walk right up to you and feed out of your hand.

If you don’t stop after leaving Resolution Bay, you should reach the summit in 45 mins. We arrived at 12.05 pm – lunchtime! The view was fantastic, we could see over to our night accommodation at Punga Cove – Mahana Lodge, 5 hours away. It might be quicker to swim across.

If you are thinking of putting your food down on the seat and getting the camera out to take a photo, don’t. All you will see is a flash of brown Weka running off with your honey and peanut butter sandwich.

Point 4: Queen Charlotte Track - Sweet honeydew

You will see a lot of honeydew in the Queen Charlotte Sounds, the mountain beech trees are covered in a black fungus.

Looking closer you will see small droplets of liquid hanging off a fine thread. This is called honeydew, beekeepers set their beehives in the forest to collect this dew. The bees collect it by the gallons, so do the birds and wasps.  Honeydew is twice the sweetness of clover or manuka honey from a hive.  Try a few drops on your finger.

Point 5: Queen Charlotte Track - Beach stop

What a great beach for a coffee, it turns out to be very interesting.  My little friends the Weka were there looking for food, they did not have to look any further, Garry was here.

When they finished one of my biscuits, we turned over stones for them, but I got the impression, that biscuits were taster than bugs.

Point 6: Queen Charlotte Track - Furneaux Lodge

Back to civilisation, bugger, Furneaux Lodge. Yes, noisy people. Radio and speed boats. How to pollute a beautiful bay.

A quick call in, just to top up with fresh water and get out of there.  The place was too busy with people.  They zip over from Nelson for a quick steak and a bottle of wine then go back again.  If only they knew what they were missing out on with this stunning walk. 

Point 7: Queen Charlotte Track - Swing bridge

From here on, the track widens out to a service road.  You might bump into a 4×4 and people running between the Furneaux Lodge and Endeavour lodges.  Not a lot to see along this road till you cross the swing bridge. You can save some time and walk across the bay if the tide is out. To do so, walk down to the Endeavour lodge and out onto the beach, walk over to the right and make your way to the boat shed on the far side. The main track turns off 50 m before the boat shed.

Point 8: Queen Charlotte Track - Walking across farmland

Once across the bridge, you step out onto farmland. Or more like old McDonald’s farm. We saw a wild pig, a lama plus the common sheep and cows.

There is a board there for you to read on the history of the Endeavour Inlet and how they mined antimony.  We were amazed to see a track side store with an honesty box, it was selling trinkets and a small variety of toiletries.

Point 9: Queen Charlotte Track - Easy walking

30 min minutes from Furneaux Lodge is the next turn off to the right.  Easy flat walking from here on.  There are small farm blocks you walk through. So shut the gates and don’t take the sheep home for a pet.

Point 10: Queen Charlotte Track - Half way point

1 hour 15 minutes from the turn off, out on a point there is a marker saying “Halfway between Furneaux Lodge and Camp Bay“.

You only have to look across the bay to see Punga Cove, and your nights’ accommodation, along with a long hot shower and a three course meal.

The bush on this side of the point is very cool and a refreshing change from scrub and more scrub. Big River bridge, now only 1 hour to go.  Might as well make use of the tables and take a 5 min coffee break. The water in the creek looked fresh enough to fill up the water bottles as well. It’s been a very hot walk so far.

Point 11: Queen Charlotte Track - Turn off

Here is our turn off to the left, hot food and a shower only 30 minutes away. To the right will take you up to the main road and back on to the track, that’s tomorrow’s walk.

Point 12: Queen Charlotte Track - Punga Cove

The track to Punga Cove was the roughest section on the whole walk.  For the number of people who walk to the cove, what a disgrace.  Camp Bay, not too bad. It’s tucked up in the trees, with private tent sites, water and toilets, but to many people there. One good point about the camp site is just around the corner is a 4 star lodge with a bar and restaurant.

Point 13: Queen Charlotte Track - End of day 1

Another 15 minutes to our accommodation at Mahana Lodge. At 6 pm we arrived with just enough time for a hot relaxing shower before dinner. Good timing.

After a splendid meal of fresh fish, caught out in front of the homestead that afternoon, and not forgetting the desert, we sat out on the front lawn and watched the sunset over the hills.

There are two main places to stay at Punga Cove. The more expensive Punga Cove Resort and where we stayed at Mahana Lodge. We really enjoyed Mahana, it was low key, very relaxing and not too expensive. Plus it was located right on the water’s edge.

Point 14: Queen Charlotte Track - Start of Day 2

A 12 km walk, mostly uphill. We started the walk at sea level and climbed to 446m, then walked back down to sea level again. 9 am.

The weather is a little on the grey side today, it was so disappointing to see the top of the range is covered in cloud.  So there go the views.  To get back on to the track, head for the road.  If you are in Camp Bay, walk up and through to the Punga Cove Resort to the top of the road.  The start is to the right, up the dirt track, just follow the signs.

Point 15: Queen Charlotte Track - Farmland

An entertaining walk, you can watch and listen to the farmers down in the valley talking (yelling) at their stock. Follow the trail of dust billowing out from behind the holden as it rattles up the road.  If only the sun would pop out from behind the clouds and brighten the day.

Point 16: Queen Charlotte Track - Views out to sea

There are too many places to stop for a coffee.

Some nice chap, cut down a handful of old trees so we could sit on the stumps and look out to sea. He also installed a toilet for the girls to use. Great people the South Islanders.

How would you like to live in this isolated little bay? No annoying salesmen would come knocking on your door out here.

The walk up is a little boring, with nothing to see but trees and more trees.  When you think that was the last hill to climb, look again, yes one more.

When you reach the top, start to walk downhill, there is a track to a lookout on the left. Sorry, but it was covered in cloud so we gave it a miss. Not to say there were no other views to be had.  There must have been at least four good views of The Bay of Many Coves. Where the power lines cross over the ridge, there is a great spot to sit on the grass for another coffee.

Point 17: Queen Charlotte Track - The shelter

2 hours and 40 minutes of walking time to reach the shelter. Time for lunch – we packed our own.

The shelter was very dirty, not the kind of place where I would stop for the night, better to sleep in the bush.

The water has to be boiled before drinking. And the long drop will drop you to your knees when you open the door, bad news. Hope it’s got better since then.

Point 18: Queen Charlotte Track - Thick bush

The only thing that kept me from falling asleep along this section of track, was all the pig rooting off to the side.

The bush here is extremely thick. Not the best to be walking through. But just what the pigs love. Too thick for us to walk through. The noise we would make trying to get through the stuff would be heard in the next valley.

Point 19: Queen Charlotte Track - Bay of Many Coves

Minutes after leaving the shelter, we turned left on to the main track leading to Bay of Many Coves Resort. The first 15 mins, was easy going. When the track drops down to the left, that is another story.

This section is a little rough with very steep descents. The not so experienced walkers will find this section a challenge. When you get back on the main ridge the walking is back to normal. Now, this is where the fun started. Wild pigs were along the last half of this track.  We walked onto a sucker (baby pig) or was it the other way around. Anyway, we both got a fright, he grunted, turned around and ran for cover. I almost dropped my camera. By the time I turned around he was long gone.

The last 20 mins of the walk is downhill all the way to the Bay of Many Coves Resort, and I mean, downhill. If it is raining, you will spend most of your time sliding down not walking.

Point 20: Queen Charlotte Track - The end of our walk

We arrived at the Bay of Many Coves Resort at 2.30 pm. Time for a quick snack at the restaurant before the water taxi arrives at 3.30 pm.

Wow, what a great walk, if only we could have continued on to complete the full track, next time!

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