Added by Alex Tande
Many people like to walk the Queen Charlotte Track, but don't have four days to spare. Mountain biking offers a much faster way to see the track and the surrounding views of the sounds. Plenty of spots to stop, eat snacks, and see the Queen Charlotte Sound far below offers a great track to enjoy. At times the track is smooth and flowing, and other times it will offer a challenge to those who aren't as skilled on the bike, enough of everything to keep the riders entertained!
The easiest way to get to Punga Cove to start this ride is parking in Picton and getting a water taxi for you and your bike out to Punga Cove. From there you will be able to pick up the track and start riding. At the end of the trip, after you reach Anakiwa, there is a water taxi there that can get you and your bike back to Picton to pick up your car! It is actually an awesome system that works very well for these types of travel days on the Track/Sound.
A disclaimer at the start. The elevation gain is only the highest point along the track, There are a lot of ups and downs along the track, so the 450 meters is NET GAIN. Not total amount of climbing.
The Queen Charlotte Track is one of the gems of the area, and is very easily accessible. There are tons of great features about the track that make it an awesome place to check out. Since it is very popular, be aware that there are lots of people on the track. As cyclists, be very courteous of the walkers on the track.
Day 1: We took the water taxi from Picton to Punga Cove. The boat ride alone is awesome! As we were cruising into Punga, we saw a pod of dolphins cruising around the boat and playing the wake. Jumping out of the water and having a good time. After reaching Punga, we took a few minutes at the resort to change and get ready for the day ahead. Leaving the jetty behind, we followed signs pointing us to the Queen Charlotte Track. Our initial reaction was "we are doomed" it is a nasty steep climb out of Punga to reach the Queen Charlotte Track. We were quite nervous about the rest of the track and our fitness level after that initial climb. We ended up walking the bikes a chunk of it to try and conserve some energy and morale. After the initial climb it became much more manageable! Once we actually reached the track, at the top of the climb, it was a nice ride. Overall we were still climbing, but there were some flat sections and some downhill sections to give us a reprieve from the climb. We got a decent downhill section, but then started to climb again, climbing all the way to the highest point of the track, 450 meters above sea level. Once you reach this peak, you are over the hardest part of the ride, but just a little less than halfway to Portage Bay. It was right about here, about 2 hours into the ride, that we stopped and took lunch. There was a perfect little spot with a big grassy spot to leave our bikes and picnic tables to sit and enjoy the view. Almost 180 degree of the Queen Charlotte Sound below us. We were quickly aware we were not alone, the bird, the weka was stalking any food that we were holding. With all wildlife, please don't feed the wildlife. Leave the weka alone as you are enjoying your snacks at these lookouts. From the top, there are of course ups and downs, but the remainder of the track is generally downhill towards Portage Bay. A rather fast section of the track, we didn't stop too much, we were having too much fun cruising around on bikes to stop for very long and take in all the views. When we started feeling a bit fatigued, a quick stop, snack, and gorgeous view was enough to make us forget about our legs and continue riding. Once you hit Black Rock campsite, you will have one last good climb before the end. Not as steep as the start, but there are a couple sections that earned walking up the climb. Once you reach this final peak, you are treated to a well deserved, long, awesome, incredibly fun downhill section down into Portage Bay. Leaving the track, when you hit a paved road, turn right, and head down the hill to Portage Hotel. In this area there are a few spots to stay the night, but we picked the Portage Hotel. After a shower and putting the feet up on the balcony for a long time, the beer and burger combination tasted absolutely incredible. Watching sunset from the restaurant at the hotel was phenomenal. It is nestled in an incredible little bay that offers some incredible views. At night, we had heard rumors of the glow worms, we mustered what energy we had left to venture onto the trail. It was so worth it!! Very cool little creatures clinging to the sides of the rock. It was also incredibly cool to be in such a quiet place at night. Complete solitary.
Day 1 was a long day, about 4 hours on the bike, covering 24.5km, plus some extra time for lunch and taking in the views. This was the toughest part of the trip though, the second day was much smoother.
Day 2: We woke up a bit sore, and did some stretching before climbing back on to the bike. Very little time for warm-up, the hill that leads down to the hotel, you need to climb to get back to the track. Climbing that hill and then jumping onto the track was a rude awakening to the day, but still worth it. Long climb to start the day, but then rewarded with a long downhill. The peak of the climb has some awesome exposed ridge line riding, offering lots of views of the Keneperu sound. After one more good climb, there is a downhill all the way down to the road again. The track will kick you out onto a gravel road for a short way. Just follow the signs down the hill and you will find the track again in just a minute or two. Heading all the way down to Mistletoe Bay leads for a mighty long climb back up to the track. We opted to avoid heading down. We had enough food and drink to bypass it. There is a little shop at the bottom that sells coffee and snack foods. Could be the important revitalizing coffee that allows you to finish it out. We skipped Mistletoe and continued on the track. Immediately after the road, there is a steady climb. This is a hot section of the track if the sun is beating down. Hardly any canopy to provide shade. It is hard packed dirt studded with rocks and roots to slow down progress just a bit. There are places to hide from the sun and catch a breather under a tree or at a picnic table if needed. As you cross along the top of a farm pasture, beware of the cow pies, most are old and dried but there might be some fresh ones around. This is the oldest operating farm in all of the Marlborough sounds, pretty cool view from the top as well. This farm signals the end of climbing. From here on out, the best part of the track is ahead of you. After two days of riding, You get to go downhill the rest of the way. Take a moment to stop at the final lookout. There are two benches and a great spot to rest before the long descent into Davies bay. From the lookout down to Davies, it is all downhill, it is entirely feasible that you won't actually have to peddle. Once you reach Davies, it is almost a sin to not go for a swim. After working for the past couple hours, the cool water is incredible. Feels amazing to float and then lie on the sand and soak it up. From Davies Bay, you have a mere 2.5km left back to Anakiwa. This is rolling hills, go up and then down and then up. You never climb for more than about 30 seconds. The track will end at an open grassy spot overlooking the jetty in Anakiwa. This day is 20km day, but only takes about 3 hours. Leave more time if you are not as confident of a rider, or want to take more time to enjoy the lookouts. Ride down the little gravel hill to the bottom and the car park. There you can lean the bikes against a tree and celebrate an epic two days on the track. There is a little caravan at the bottom that sells little snacks, would highly recommend treating yourself to something. The jetty there is where the water taxi will pick you and the bike up and take you back to Picton.
Just a few logistics. The first is water. Bring water with you of course. There are a few spots along the way that have rain collection barrels. DOC suggests filtering or boiling water prior to drinking it. It is nice that there are spots to refill water along the way. Bring plenty of snacks and a lunch. There are so many places to stop and enjoy, an of course it is important to keep your energy up. The water taxi needs to be booked in advance. During the busy season it can be tough to get a spot for you and your bike if you just show up. Book ahead of time, and most importantly book your boat from Anakiwa back to Picton ahead of time, as you cannot book when the boat gets there. Also not a bad idea to book accommodation ahead of time. Again, during busy season it is a popular track, accommodation can fill up quickly. Finally, you will need a Queen Charlotte Track pass. Parts of the track go across private land, and the track pass is to help subsidize the cost of maintaining the track on the private lands as DOC can't do much work there. $10 for a day, $18 for 5 days, $25 for a season pass.
- Biking clothes
- Helmet (NZ law, must wear it)
- Change of clothes
- Plenty of food and snacks
- Money for restaurant at Portage or snacks at Mistletoe or Anakiwa
- Filter/cooker to treat water
- Track pass: http://www.qctrack.co.nz/track-info/qctlc-pass/
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