Overnight Kayak the Queen Charlotte Sound
New Zealand › Waikawa Beach
Added by Alex Tande
The Queen Charlotte Sound has so many phenomenal beaches that can only be accessed by boat. Gorgeous sand, spectacular wildlife, incredible views, and pristine islands that are nature preserves offer everything you could want while kayaking.
For those who do not have their own kayaks, do not fear, there are different companies in the area that will rent kayaks and safety gear to you. They will also help you with route planning and weather conditions to ensure that you have the best trip possible. I used a company called Sea Kayak Adventures, they were fantastic to work with and very accommodating.
I will begin by listing the overall itinerary of the trip, where I went, and which beaches I stayed at. This is only one possible route out of dozens that can you do. The launch point can change, the campsites can vary, and the locations are totally up to you. This is just the route that I did based upon time constraints and weather predictions.
The launch point was just outside of Picton in a little spot called Waikawa, launched at a public beach with a great grassy spot to pack the boat and push off. The first day I paddled across to All Ports Island, and then continued up to Ratimera Beach. Stayed the night at a Ratimera, and then just did a day paddle to Blumine Island and back to Ratimera for a second night. The third day just paddled from Ratimera back into Waikawa beach.
Day 1: Packed the boat in the morning with all of our gear, food, and safety equipment. The process took us a little longer than anticipated, it was a big of a jigsaw puzzle to fit everything into the spots. there was plenty of room, but some of the things such as the tent were somewhat awkwardly shaped so it took some thinking to fit it all in. When all was set to go, the first leg of the paddle was from the beach to the tip of The Snout, the bit of land separating Waikawa and Picton harbors. From the tip of the Snout, it was instructed to keep crossing very short while crossing the open water of the Queen Charlotte Sound. This is where all of the boat traffic is, and it can be tough to see kayakers on the water, so it was strongly cautioned to move across the sound quickly, and at the shortest distance between land. Departing from the Snout to a spot called All Ports Island was the shortest crossing. WARNING: This is cutting across the ferry and shipping lane for Picton Harbor, these massive boats can be incredibly dangerous to small boats, please use lots of caution! From All Ports Island, we turned right (east) and continued along the shoreline. Following the shoreline for the majority of the trip is the best way to do it. Hugging the shoreline offers protection from the wind, boats, and it offers the best ability to see wildlife. As I left All Ports behind me, I skipped over the mouth of Blackwood Bay and found a secluded beach to pull the kayak up to and eat lunch. Following lunch I turned north into Ruakaka Bay, the final destination for the night. Part way up the west coast of Ruakaka bay is Ratimera Bay, where the campsite is. As you turn north into Ruakaka, follow the shoreline and you will come to a beach with the classic green and yellow DOC sign, Ratimera Bay. There is quite a few different spots to set up the tent, some more of a group area, and then some pretty secluded ones on the east side of the bay. Grand total distance for the first day was about 13.5km, the timing of it varies a lot based upon skill and weather, so just know the distance.
Day 2: Woke up with the sun and enjoyed sitting on the beach feeling the sun warm the sand around you. Pushing off the beach, headed towards the east side of the bay. Following the shoreline, wound up next to a salmon farm, only reason I knew what it was is because I asked a guy who was working it, very friendly and informative! It is a way to cheat and see lots of wildlife as they like to hang out where there are lots of fish. Around this area I saw lots of different kinds of shags and some fur seals!! Moving on, the next choice was to paddle into Bay of Many Coves, or pass over the mouth of it, moving towards Snake Point, as I had already planned on a big day, I avoided going into the bay, and just cut across the mouth of it. Hugging the shoreline offered one of the coolest things I had ever seen, a fur seal was eating an octopus that it had caught. It was unbelievable to watch it grab and the process of eating it. The seal did not care that I was there, just eating and doing barrel rolls in the water. After the seal finished the meal, I could feel the pangs of my own hunger growing. Cruising along the shore line until the closest point to Blumine was great to see what the outer sounds had to offer. Tons of sea stars, sting rays, more seals, shags, and a variety of little fish swimming around. Lunch on Blumine was a fantastic place with some gorgeous waters and a great picnic table underneath a tree, offering some much needed shade. The only proper way to cool down is to go for a swim in the crystal clear water. It felt amazing to wash off that layer of sweat and sunscreen. For those who have the time, there are some battle gun emplacements on the island. It is about an hour walk up to the spots, so be careful of your timing. Blumine does allow camping, so it is an option to paddle here for an overnight. On the way back, I set a pretty quick pace, just retracing my route back to Ratimera Bay. Once back at camp, another swim and a quick nap on the beach was just about the perfect way to end the day. After dinner, watching the skies turn color and watching the stars come out was truly incredible. It can be a slow process, so I suggest bringing a book! The Milky Way rising out of the surrounding hills was just amazing. Some of the best star gazing I have ever seen! The total for day 2 was about 25km, a big day!
Day 3: Essentially the same itinerary as Day 1, just in reverse. Paddled out of Ruakaka bay, with lots of remorse I might add. Followed the shore line back towards Blackwood Bay and across to All Ports Island. From All Ports worked back towards the Snout (WARNING: BIG BOATS AGAIN) and back into Waikawa harbor. Again, about 13.5km. If you have time and energy, there are a tons of little spots to explore that you can only explore by kayak. Paddle up into Blackwood Bay, cruise around for a complete circumnavigation of All Ports Island, there are plenty of ways to add some time and distance if available.
A couple details that need to be addressed. The weather is the most important factor for any kayak trip. Please please please check the weather and keep checking the weather. Plan accordingly, and do not paddle in conditions you are not comfortable with. Stay within you limits to ensure that you have a good time and come home safely. I put down "Beginner" and "Intermediate" as there are lots of different options. Paddling 25km is a big day, and I do recommend a higher level of fitness and kayaking experience. The weather can also change the required level dramatically. On a clam day, anybody can paddle pretty far, but if wind kicks up, it can become very difficult very quickly.
At the campsite, there is water! However, if the area has been going through a drought, that is not a guarantee. It is just spring fed, so called DOC and check to see if the water is still running. They do suggest boiling or filtering the water, never a bad idea. The bathroom situation is just a long drop, portapotty, whatever you my call it. As it is a bit further off the beaten path, I would strongly suggest bringing some toilet paper in case a DOC employee has been been there recently to replace.
There are lots of Weka birds in the sounds. They are harmless birds, but, they will go for food! In addition they will go for just about anything that isn't tied down. They have stolen little cookers, full bags of rice, shoes, and just about anything else you can imagine. Take care of your belongings and leave them inside tents or in the boat to keep them safe. As with all wildlife, please do not feed the Weka community.
I am going to end this by saying that these were a phenomenal three days. In a boat I felt like I was actually part of the world around me. Not just observing it. Paddling with so much wildlife and enjoying the sun soaked beaches and the cool, clear water was just incredible. Exploring by kayak was brilliant for how peaceful and calming it can be. Spectacular way to spend time out in nature and enjoying every minute of it. No itinerary, just enjoying what is around you, couldn't ask for anything more.
- Sleeping bag and pad
- Lots of sun protection
- backpacking stove/fuel
- Dry and warm layers
- Rain jacket
- Dry shoes
- Any other camping comforts you enjoy
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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
Camping, Chillin, Fishing, Kayaking, Photography, Swimming
Spring, Summer, Autumn
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Alex, not prone to hyperbole
I did a variation of this adventure only not overnight. The place is spectacular and the paddling quite easy unless the wind kicks up. Most of the time, you can find shelter (from the wind) by sticking close to shore where the wildlife sightings are best. The entire area (Marlboro Sound) is made up of a series of parallel and intersecting sounds where one could spend multiple days exploring and hardly see a soul.
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