From Here to the Other Down Under

Aug 10, 2001
Outside Magazine

New zealand may be smaller than Colorado, but it sure crams a lot of outdoor superlatives into a tiny space—mountains rivaling Europe's Alps, fjords to match Norway's, and beaches, forests, and hiking trails as beautiful as any in the world. If you have limited time to see it all, head straight for the more rugged South Island.

Queen Charlotte Walkway
Some of New Zealand's so-called "great walks" are getting a little overcrowded these days. The popular Abel Tasman Coastal Walk is great only if you think staring at a succession of wide-eyed hikers deserves such an appellation. The Milford and Routeburn walks are strangled in their own popularity by bureaucratic measures—numbers are now limited during peak walking season. A new, hassle-free walk is the 36-mile Queen Charlotte Walkway, based on a system of bridle paths in the Marlborough Sounds in the northeast of the South Island.
You'll start from Ship Cove at the north of the sounds (where the explorer Captain Cook stopped four times between 1770 and 1777) and hike through rainforest with intermittent views of the islands of Queen Charlotte Sound. After four hours you'll come to the very English Furneaux Lodge—some people stop here and never leave. The determined hiker will push on, paralleling the water's edge, for another four hours to Punga Cove; here you'll have the choice of camping or resort accommodations. (If you camp, be sure to sneak from your tent site to the resort's fine restaurant to sample scallops, oysters, the delectable green-lipped mussel, and Mac's beer.)

The next day is a bit of a grind, about eight hours, but the views down into the sounds (Kenepuru and Queen Charlotte) compensate for the trudge through regenerating scrub. Drop down from Torea Saddle (across which Maori warriors once dragged their war canoes) and stop overnight at The Portage—the camping here is better than the hotels. The last day you'll pass through magnificent primeval beech forest before reaching Anakiwa.

To get to Ship Cove, take a water taxi (about $20 one-way; Couger Line, 011-64-3-573-7925) from Picton, terminus for the Cook Strait ferry. You'll also need transport from Anakiwa back to Picton (contact Barry's Bus, 3-577-9696). You can arrange to sea kayak a section of the walk; call Marlborough Sounds Adventure Company, 3-573-6078, to arrange rentals. Accommodations en route range from $52 to $85. For more information call The Villa (3-573-6598), a popular backpackers' place in Picton, or the Department of Conservation office (3-573-7582).

Filed To: New Zealand

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web