Distance: 70km (42mi)
Start: Ship Cove (Closed Dec 1-Feb 28 to MTB Alt. Start Kenepuru Saddle)
Time: 1-3 Days (Finished in 9 1/2hr Total)
Fees: QCTLC (Queen Charlotte Track Land Cooperative) $10-Single Day $18 Multi Day
Accommodation: Camping, Hostel, Cabin, Motel, and Hotel
Transportation: Ferry from Picton with return option from Anakiwa
-Accessible by car if starting between Anakiwa and Kenepuru Saddle
When To Go: Open Year Round (clay base makes for VERY slippery trails/slow going during/after rain fall)
Track: Very well signposted (free track pamphlet for reference is all that’s needed) and open to Walking and Mountain Biking
Supplies: No supplies on trail except water which needs to be boiled/filtered/treated. PACK IT IN PACK IT OUT
Gear: Canfield Yelli with 140mm Pike (100mm would’ve been sufficient)
-2.5” Maxxis Minion DHF
-2.35” Maxxis Minion DHR
-Tent, Sleeping Bag, Down Jacket, Water Filter, Tools, Camera
-Osprey Zealot Backpack w/ 3L water
-Rogue Panda Designs Gear Bags HIGHLY RECOMMENDED -Frame Bag, Down Tube Bag, Top Tube Bag x2, Seat Bag)
Anakiwa to Picton-1hr 15min
Mail Run Ferry to Ship Cove-2hr 30min
Ship Cove to Camp Bay Campsite-3hr (26.5km 16mi)
Having accommodation in Anakiwa, I decided to catch the 1:30pm mail run ferry out of Picton (instead of either the 8am or 9am direct) which would put me into Ship Cove around 4pm. With the bike all loaded up and a 2 1/2 hour cushion before the ferry left, I pedaled out as light rain continued to fall throughout the morning. To my surprise, the daunting hills I had driven the day before were not as bad as expected and provided descents that kept up with the speed of cars. An hour and a half later, I was in Picton and stocked up on a couple subway sandwiches for the journey ahead.
At 1:30 the boat left with free coffee and tea onboard. We were also fortunate enough to see some dolphins on the way! It was cool going on the mail run and seeing how different people living in remote locations stayed connected with society. The boat’s navigator kept us entertained with some good stories and history. Just before arriving to Camp Bay I enjoyed one more cup of coffee.
4pm, it was time to ride and start this journey! Well I thought I was going to ride but 75 yards into it, I was already off my bike and walking the steep and slippery ascent. Luckily it hadn’t rained too much! Half an hour passed and cresting the peak, it was time to hop on and enjoy the rush of cool air as my wheels glided along the path. It was a brilliant 3 hours of riding with some hike a bike, smooth flowing track, and of coarse just pedaling! Exactly at 7pm I rolled into Camp Bay (last campsite before the private land starts as I only had a QCTLC day pass) and found a spot to pitch my tent which was crowded with a lot of school kids enjoying their last class trip before graduation.
Camp Bay to Anakiwa-6hr 30min (43.5km 26mi)
In the morning, I woke up to an amazing sunny day. The track had dried and it was prestine riding conditions. The bike felt light with so little weight, something I hadn’t experienced since beginning my backpacking journey countless months before. So light in fact that I was able to bunny hop and catch air bringing a huge smile to my face while I rode the Queen Charlotte Track. This day just like the day before had hike a bike sections but the views at the top far outweighed the struggle to get there.
About a third of the way through the journey, I came upon another lone cyclist. He was from Switzerland and riding at about the same speed, we enjoyed each others company to Anakiwa. You never know who you might meet on the trails and sharing such an experience with another like minded person just enhances the enjoyment of the entire journey. It doesn’t matter where someone might be from, there is just something about bicycles that brings two completely different people together. Sure I could’ve road faster at times or finished sooner than I did but what is the point, it is not a race but rather a journey to be enjoyed and shared. And to top it all off, no bikepacking or mountain biking excursion is ever complete without a wipeout!
The Queen Charlotte Track is a blast to ride. Yes you have to work for it in parts getting off the bike and pushing away. As long as the track is dry or relatively dry, it is a great overnighter. Don’t rush along this track if you can afford it and take time to stop and enjoy several lovely views overlooking the stunning Marlborough Sounds. They are sights that will never be forgotten and the peacefulness is so easy to get lost in. I loved this journey and would gladly do it again. As I completed it at the end of November, the trail was uncrowded and only ran into a few hikers along the way.