Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand

Dew still on the grass as we hike out of 
Lochmara Lodge

The main purpose of our trip to New Zealand was to walk the Queen Charlotte Track. It starts near the most northern tip of the South Island in Ship Cove (where Captain Cook landed five times between 1770 and 1777) and ends seventy one kilometers further south in Anakiwa.

Before departing for NZ I had to check with my mum if we'd even had Queen Charlotte. I'm sure you all know, but she was the wife of King George III.

Day 1: Ship Cove to Furneaux Lodge
Furneaux Lodge

The main thing we all feared was five days of rain. Walking the track in a downpour wouldn't be much fun at all. The night before our walk was due to start it hammered down hard enough to wake me during the night. The forecasts didn't bode at all well.

Thankfully as we arrived in Picton the rain cleared and we had a dry boat ride out to Ship Cove. Fearing it could be rough I had taken some sea sickness tablets which made me quite drowsy and I managed to snooze through a dolphin sighting.

The boat dropped five passengers off at Ship Cove and it was incredibly peaceful once the boat had departed. We started by detouring off the track to visit a waterfall near Ship Cove.

Once we joined the track there was a stiff uphill until we reached the ridge that we would follow for the majority of the day. Thankfully the worst weather we had to deal with was a few showers of light drizzle. Most of the day was spent in the trees with the occassional glimpse of the Sound teasing us now and again.

Lochmara Lodge was a very homely place. An old country house - the mind boggles why you'd build one so remote - it had a slightly tired feel. There was only one other group staying and the place had an end of season feel.
 Day 2: Furneaux Lodge to Punga Cove
Rusting tractor in Big Bay

As was due to be our shortest day of walking, Phil and I decided to start the day with a detour to the Furneaux Waterfall.

On the main track it was an easy days walking. After about an hour Phil and I detoured again following some signs to old mine shafts that were supposed to be interesting to check out. Unfortunately the lack of a map, disappearing sign posts and a river crossing got the better of us. We returned to the track and set a brisk pace trying to catch up with Jennie and Suzanne.  We found them after an hour having a quick break and taking in the view.

We saw no one else on the track all day, but it was a social evening (things are relative on the Queen Charlotte Track) where we met an America family and English couple.

Punga Cove

Day 3: Punga Cove to Portage Hotel

Day three was the 'big one' where we had to cover twenty eight kilometers. We started with an hours steep uphill onto a ridge where we had stunning views of Queen Charlotte Sound to the east and Kenepura Sound to the west.

We spent the day walking close to the English couple we'd met the night before and two Kiwi couples. We had a huge morale boost at lunch time when we checked the map. I thought we were half way, but worked out we were actually three quarters of the way along for the day!

When we arrived at Portage Hotel it had the feel of a modern resort compared to the more individual lodges we'd stayed in the previous two days. We relaxed with a hot tub, read and recharged for the following day.

The end of the long day at Portage

Day 4: Portage to Lochmara Lodge

Most people walk the track in four days, but we added in an extra night so that we could stay at Lochmara Lodge. This meant that we had a relatively short day which started with the now inevitable steep uphill for the first hour.

Lochmara is an hours detour off the track  and being closer to Picton the lodge is a popular day trip destination in itself. We arrived just after lunch and decided to take some kayaks out in the afternoon. Unfortunately I picked one with a leak and took on quite a lot of water during our paddle!

Before dinner (the best of the track) we rented the spa. Twin baths filled with essential oils that had awesome views of the Sound. Yes, I'm a new age man.

Sound, Inter-Islander ferry and Picton

Day 5: Lochmara Lodge to Anakiwa

Our final day was relatively short at eighteen kilometers. We had to walk an hour from the lodge to get back to the main track. The lodge was soon to close for the off season and I wondered if we'd be the last people on the track out from the lodge for the year (most people visit by boat).

In all honesty this might have been a day too much for our little group. We were all tired and there was a noticeable lack of conversation during the walk. As we approached Anakiwa the track got busier and it was the first time in five days we saw people walking the in the opposite direction to us.

The boat home from Anakiwa

Sick of the lodge picnics we had opted to do without on our final day, hoping we'd make it to Anakiwa in time for lunch at a café. We arrived in Anakiwa just after midday to find it was a small place without any cafés. Tired, grumpy and hungry.

Thankfully it wasn't too long a wait before the boat came to pick us up for the journey back to Picton.

I haven't done five days of hiking since school. It was an enjoyable five days. The peace and tranquillity of the Sound made it a relaxing experience, despite the physical excursion. The lodges and bag transfers each day mean you certainly aren't roughing it.


  1. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

  2. Love it. I would definetly do that and the St Claire half marathon again. Perhaps next year it should be the Abel Tasmnan track after the obligatory vineyard run and recovery at Nic's Shed?