The 71 kilometre Queen Charlotte Walk in the Marlborough Sounds is a versatile walk ideal for those who enjoy the comforts of lodge accommodation at the end of a day’s walk. It also offers options for those who only wish to walk part of the way because a boat will pick up and drop you off at various places along the track. Thankfully the boat also transfers luggage between lodges so that you need only walk with a small backpack for water, suncream, a light parka, snacks and not much else.
Situated at the north of the South Island, the Queen Charlotte Walk officially starts at Ship Cove which is only accessible by boat from Picton.
Day One We walked about 15 kilometres on the first day along a well marked pathway soft under foot. At this point we stopped at the popular Furneaux Lodge, a carefully maintained English manor house with superb food. We had been lucky with the weather – no rain and relatively cool conditions. The first day of walking can be tough even without too many steep parts so a warm shower, fresh clothes and then a drink by the fire were well earned. Swapping stories with other walkers from Tasmania, New Caledonia, Nova Scotia, France and Germany was as interesting as always. We all agreed that New Zealand hospitality was of the highest quality and that the walking track was incredibly beautiful. Some people were concerned about the more challenging parts of the walk on day three so they were planning to take the boat that day. Dinner was of a very high standard and I enjoyed one of the best Angus beef steaks ever.
Day Two The next day after a large and healthy breakfast with excellent coffeee we set off for an easy walk of about 12 kilometres to Mahana Lodge. Blue skies, shimmering water views and more gentle pathways under shady ferns made for a relaxing walk.
Arriving at the spiffy Mahana Lodge we were sufficiently warmed up to enjoy a bracing dip in the water.
Canoes were available as well as a functional setup to see gloworms at night. A great place to relax for the afternoon we had time to do some reading and prepared for dinner at 7. This was in astonishingly beautiful setting with a three course dinner ( orange roughy for main course) cooked by owner/ chef David for the 12 guests.
Day Three The next day was definitely the most challenging day of walking for us. Most who were walking were heading to the resort at Portage, 23 kilometres of uphill and downhill. We planned to go a further 7 kilometres or so because we are crazy walkers and because I wanted to return to LochMara Lodge where I had stayed 11 years before when I had walked the Queen Charlotte the first time. Although a long walk the track was always easy under foot and the water views on each side of the track became increasingly beautiful.
It was a relief to finally arrive at LochMara Lodge and to be rewarded for our long walk with an upgrade to a suite overlooking the bay.
The large property at LochMara Lodge features sculpture trails and a variety of artwork by artists in residence over the years. A newly constructed reef called an underwater observatory can be viewed from the boat. Hammocks, Maori wood carvings, alpacas, goats and a bird aviary are just some of the features of this ecological lodge. Food was again superb with wonderful Marlborough wines as well.
Day Four The final day of our walk would take us about 20 kilometres to the end of the track at Anakiwa where a boat would pick us up at 4pm. This was possibly the most interesting day for spectacular views. A popular lookout about 5 kilometres after LochMara provided circular views of the Marlborough Sounds and was popular with day walkers.
Reaching the final destination of a walk is always a welcome sight so it was with satisfaction that we arrived at Anakiwa an hour or so before the boat would collect us. The weather had been kind to us, the walking a little challenging in parts but an easy track overall and the comfort and wonderful food at the lodges was first class. Now we could swap stories again with other walkers as we waited for the boat and rested our weary legs.