Queen Charlotte Track. Starting northwest of Picton, the Queen Charlotte Track stretches 70 km (44 mi) south to north, playing hide-and-seek with the Marlborough Sounds along the way. Hike through lush native forests, stopping to swim or take photos along the way. Unlike other tracks, there are no Department of Conservation huts to stay in, just a few camping areas. Other accommodations are on the walk, however, including backpackers, lodges, resorts, and homestays. Cruise companies Cougar Line or Beachcomber Cruises can drop you at various places for one- to four-day walks (guided or unguided), or you can kayak alongside sections or mountainbike some or all of the Track. The cruise companies can also arrange for your packs to be carried between overnight stops.Though it's relatively easy to access, the track shouldn't be taken lightly. It has steep inclines and long drop-offs, and the weather can be unpredictable. The Track is part of Te Araroa—The Long Pathway walking trail that runs the length of New Zealand—and includes The New Zealand Cycle Trail rides. www.qctrack.co.nz.
Wilderness Guides. To see the glorious Marlborough Sounds, try a four- or five-day fully catered and guided inn-to-inn walk on the Queen Charlotte Track with Wilderness Guides. Price includes land and water transport and three lodge nights along the track. Bookings essential. Alternatively they'll set you off to walk independently, organizing your accommodation, water taxi transport, a packed lunch, map and directions, starting from $695 (price varies depending on the standard of accommodation you chose). Picton Waterfront, Picton, Marlborough, 7220. 03/573–5432; 0800/266–266 (NZ only). www.wildernessguidesnz.com. From NZ$1,750 with luxury upgrade option available.