At the top of New Zealand's South Island are the Marlborough Sounds, an extensive network of sea-drowned valleys. It's a visual feast. The main sounds are Queen Charlotte, Pelorus and Kenepuru. The area is dominated by shorelines covered in bush, deep bays and coves calling to be explored by sea kayak.
Queen Charlotte Sound is the best known of the three, and stretching between it and Keneperu Sound is the Queen Charlotte Track.
The 71km track has superb views of contrasting landscape, historical landmarks and a grand variety of native bush and wildlife. The walk is as much about environment, culture and lifestyle as it is a walking holiday. Most people take four or five days to walk or cycle the 71km, but you can bunny hop along the track by boat if you wish.
You can tackle it by yourself or join a Wilderness Guides tour with one of its experts. The company offers one-, four- and five-day tours, as well as upmarket adventures with gourmet food and wine!
At the start of your journey you will visit Ship Cove. The only way to visit there is just as Captain James Cook did in 1770 by boat and nothing much has changed since then. It was a safe haven then and still is.
The track from Ship Cove continues across the ridge before descending into Endeavour Inlet where it passes through beech forest. It then descends through native bush with the sea and foreshore coming into view.
From Endeavour Inlet you reach the Bay of Many Coves. The majority of the track consists of regenerating native bush. Once farmland, it has been given back to nature and is flourishing. There are groves of tree ferns, including the tall, Black Tree Fern. A wide range of birds are also flourishing there.
Half-way along the walk you will reach The Bay of Many Coves, the perfect place to recharge. While you may be on dirt track by day, Craglee Lodge offers a welcome respite.
The four-star, three-level boutique lodge has only four queen ensuite rooms, each with a balcony. Perched on a hill from the jetty, it resembles a tree-house.
Quality linen, electric blankets and hand-made bathroom products add to the property's famous pampering. Twin outdoor baths are welcome after a long day.
The top level is the heart of the lodge. An open plan room has 180-degree views through wall-to-wall windows. It has a cosy fireplace, musical instruments (that are available to those who can play), a bar and large balconies. By night, the lodge is a romantic candlelit hideaway.
Gourmet meals are prepared by the resident chef using fresh local produce. They may be taken indoors or enjoyed al fresco. The chef will prepare gourmet lunches that you can take as you continue your way along the walk.
As you near the end of the track, there are still delights to enjoy. Mistletoe Bay is one of the best. The 100-hectare reserve was frequented by the early Maori people and is under the control of the Mistletoe Bay Trust. There are also a number of archaeological sites indicating the area was once a major site for building canoes.
For today's visitors, there are four new double cabins, each with a bathroom and sleeping and living areas for up to five. A communal meeting house has refrigerated storage and shared cooking and dining facilities. Camping sites are also available. Every cent of profit goes directly into improving and maintaining the site for future generations.
The Queen Charlotte Track at the top of New Zealand's south Island.
Wilderness Guides' four-day Queen Charlotte Track Walk costs around $1540. It includes accommodation at Craglee Lodge, guiding services, water transport, luggage transfers and all meals. They operate year round.
Mistletoe Bay camping costs around $10 per person and cabins are around $80 a double a night.
Europcar has car hire starting at $35 a day.
Best Western is offering two nights' stay for the price of one at selected properties throughout New Zealand. This is valid for stays until December 21, 2008 and the first 100 callers will receive a bottle of wine and chocolates. Blackout days apply and this offer is subject to availability. Quote "Getaway New Zealand".
Air New Zealand has special fares to Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin or Hamilton. You'll have to be quick they are only available until 11.59pm September 27, 2008 AEST and conditions apply.
One-way fares from:
- Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne $229
- Adelaide $359
- Perth $509
Prices correct at September 25, 2008.
For further information
Wilderness Guides Marlborough Sounds
The Picton Railway Station
3 Auckland Street
Ph: +64 3 520 3095
Fax: +64 3 520 3096
Bay of Many Coves
Ph: +64 3 579 9223
Fax: +64 03 579 9923
Ph: 1300 131 390
Ph: 1300 WESTERN
Tourism New Zealand
Air New Zealand
Check out our celebrity Getaway blog or our photo gallery for more Getaway adventure pics.