Mainland Island native wildlife sanctuary located in the Marlborough Sounds of New Zealand.
Wilderness hiking, Accommodation, Marine activities. Where humans and nature work in harmony.

Outer Queen Charlotte Track

The Outer Queen Charlotte Track allows the hiker to explore the wilderness lands north of Ship Cove including Queen Charlotte Wilderness Park, our restricted access natural eco-system restoration site.

Because the track extends from the tranquil waters of Ship Cove to the rugged coastal environment of the Cape Jackson lighthouse the track offers a variety of forest, wildlife and scenery of a different dimension to other walks in the area.

The quality of track from Ship Cove to the Park varies from a well marked route to a well trodden path. It is suitable for people with a good level of fitness and experience but because a seaway runs beside the track this section can be bypassed if necessary. The main tracks within the Park are of a very high standard and suitable for almost everybody.

The track can be walked over two nights three days but many people stay for an extra night in order to enjoy the experience of staying in such an isolated, wild and beautiful place or to walk more tracks or enjoy the many  other activities the Park has to offer.

Accommodation and services for each night are provided at the Queen Charlotte Wilderness Park Lodge at Anakakata bay. To protect the wilderness nature of the area and the native wildlife numbers are strictly limited and visitors must book before entering the Park.

Picton to Ship Cove

Most people stay in the pretty seaport town of Picton overnight. The launch that will take you to the start of the walk at Ship Cove leaves Picton (See Prices page for exact times)at 9am. Picton has everything you should need for the night and the accommodation providers are very good at making sure that you will get to the launch on time.

The launch trip, lasting about an hour, can be very interesting in itself as it cruises down virtually the whole of Queen Charlotte Sound. As well as the beautiful scenery you should see many types of sea birds such as the blue penguin and sightings of leaping dolphins are very common.

Ship Cove to Anakakata Bay (Lodge)

This is the most demanding part of the track as it usually takes about 7 hours including rests and you will climb up to nearly 700metres. If you are up to it though, it is very worthwhile, as the untouched forest there is absolutely superb.

The launch will get you to Ship Cove about 10.30am. There, you can either disembark to walk in to the Lodge at Anakakata bay or continue on direct to walk one of the many other tracks that start from there or enjoy some of the many other activities that the park has to offer.

Ship cove itself is very interesting. Discretely positioned within the beautiful surroundings are displays that provide a lot of information about the area including the nature of the original Maori occupation and Captain Cook, whose various expeditions visited here five times.

Twenty minutes in from Ship Cove there is a beautiful waterfall where you can take a break to fill your water bottles before starting the major climb to the ridge separating Queen Charlotte sound from Port Gore. Take your time through this section. This is truly untouched coastal forest and that is now very rare in NZ. Only you and your party will be walking and you might wonder if there is anybody else in the world.

Just as you start to get hungry you will break out on to the ridge and there before you must be one of the most beautiful lunch spots in NZ. Sit down, lie back and reflect on how lucky we are to have such wonderful places left in the world.

After lunch you will have a relatively relaxed stroll to the highest point on the track at 688 metres. Most of this section is an open ridge which will give you massive views from Picton to Wellington to Nelson and even 300k away to Mount Taranaki on a good clear day.

All too soon this part will be over but just a few puffs after you go back into the forest you will break out again and there, before you, will be the long spear of Kupe (Te Taonai o Kupe) or Cape Jackson as many now know it.

The only description for the next section is spooky. Maybe it is the height which causes the mist that often swirls through the trees. Or is it because you are walking alongside an area known as Kaitangata (man eater) and the mists are what’s left of people long gone. Whatever the reason you will be allowed to pass (so far to be reborn again as you descend the slopes into the heart of Queen Charlotte Wilderness Park.

What could be better now to end a hard day than to have a drink and prepared meal while you watch the sun go down and reflect on your awesome experience. But not for too long because you will need a good nights sleep to be fighting fit for tomorrow.

Anakakata Bay Lodge to Cape Jackson Lighthouse and return

The next section is a loop track that takes you from the Lodge to the lighthouse and return. It takes about 6 hrs depending on what you include. While there are plenty of beautiful natural forest areas the emphasis here is on very special coastal scenery. We have yet to meet anyone who has not been inspired by this section of the track. The standard is suitable for almost anyone as the route is in the main based on the original farm roads.

Yesterday you experienced untouched forest aeons old. Today you will experience the thrill of seeing a young forest emerge seemingly unscathed from 150 years of farming. Today is about hope and creation, set against kaleidoscope of blue backed landscapes that will take your breath away.

That starts right after you leave the lodge after a juicy breakfast. There is a climb again to the ridge but a much lower ridge than yesterday and what a view when you get there!

And that is very much what you will experience all day. Just when you think that a scene could not get any more perfect, the track will flip to the other side of the ridge and a completely new perspective of paradise will assail you. The crispy health of the greens, the brilliance of the blues, sometimes the clarity and brilliance of the colours will be close to overwhelming.

Perhaps the obvious signs of new life are the best part. Even though the land has been cleared for the last 150 years, everywhere you will see the green of broadleaves like five finger and mahoe peeping through the tauhinu. And already the food that those plants provide has called much of the wildlife back to where they used to live, before we took away their home. You will see that, miraculously, the essence of life in fact was never totally extinguished, more it has just been waiting patiently for us to end our madness.

Actually not all the old was destroyed. Along the way you will see some rather special stands of kohe kohe. We are told that these stands are among the largest left in New Zealand. Look for the green berries hanging like bunches of grapes. In winter these trees have the most fantastic blossom, unusually issuing from the trunks

A good place to stop for lunch is the end of the peninsula overlooking the lighthouse. This is a major route for passing traffic human and natural. If you were here in February 1986 You might have seen the Russian cruise ship tearing its guts out on the reef as it foolishly tried to pass between the lighthouse and the land. Today you are more likely to see a yacht quietly passing by or a pod of dolphins, or a whale off to its breeding grounds in tropical waters. Always there will be a few seals resting on the rocks or playing in the waters far below.

Time for a swim after lunch ? Well we’ve got just the place. Not far from the lighthouse there is an idyllic golden sand beach, just for you and your friends. There’s also an emergency shelter there where you can brew a cup of tea, go to the toilet or even have a snooze. Help yourself!

This beach is also a great place to snorkel if you’ve remembered to bring some gear from the lodge. The crystal clear waters are full of colour and life.

All too soon it will be time to go back to the lodge. But this will also be a new experience because the track follows quite a different way back for most of the way.

For example, the way back goes over Lucky’s Knob, the highest point today. Naturally the views are fantastic. But look out for our pair of native falcons who have recently returned here to, we hope, to breed. These beautiful birds are quite rare now. We certainly hope to change that!

Back to the lodge for another well earned dinner. Now is the time to reflect over the whole experience or plan some other activities for tomorrow if you are staying on.

Yesterday was an experience of the way the natural world used to be. Today you have seen that it is possible to return to most of that, without forgoing the important benefits of our modern way of life. You will have seen a place where things are getting better not worse. You will have seen that humans and nature can live well in harmony. And that is what this track is all about.


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