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Backpacker Magazine – March 2012

Died and Gone to New Zealand

Hiker heaven, redefined, is a month-long hike/paddle/camp in Adventureland.

by: Jonathan Dorn and Michael Lanza

Whanganui River, North Island (Michael Lanza)
Whanganui River, North Island (Michael Lanza)
Mountain biking in Whakarewarewa Forest, North Island (Katie Herrell)
Mountain biking in Whakarewarewa Forest, North Island (Katie Herrell)
Narnia Track, South Island (Jonathan Dorn)
Narnia Track, South Island (Jonathan Dorn)
Queen Charlotte Track, South Island (Scott Bischke)
Queen Charlotte Track, South Island (Scott Bischke)
Doubtful Sound, South Island (Michael Lanza)
Doubtful Sound, South Island (Michael Lanza)
Rees-Dart Track, South Island (James Kay)
Rees-Dart Track, South Island (James Kay)
Abel Tasman Coast (David Wall)
Abel Tasman Coast (David Wall)

Online Exclusive
View interactive maps of these routes at backpacker.com/nz12.
QUEEN CHARLOTTE TRACK, SOUTH ISLAND
Go ultralight on the country’s best coastal track.
Backpackers visiting New Zealand must thru-hike one of the great mountain tracks—the Routeburn, Caples-Greenstone, Milford, or our new fave, the Rees- Dart (next page). They deserve their reputation as bucket-list classics. But if you can spare another week, head to the north coast and fill your bucket to the brim. One of the South Island’s best-kept secrets is this lush, 44-mile ramble along the pristine, sparsely populated coast of Marlborough Sounds. You’ll wander through ancient beech forests bursting with exotic flowers and ferns, traipse sheep-worn paths across bucolic farms, awake to exquisite bird symphonies, and score ridgetop views of Keneperu and Queen Charlotte Sounds, the deep, sparkling fjords to either side. Roughly every six to eight miles, you’ll encounter a small settlement—in some places, just a simple lodge, in others, a cluster of quaint homes and hotels. Backcountry campsites dot the QCT , but the perfectly placed lodges are a better choice. Besides carrying a lighter load, you’ll get to dine on the region’s famous Greenstone mussels—likely harvested hours earlier by a local fisherman—or local lamb hot from the grill.

Do it Take three to four days and hike the QCT from north to south, which allows the scenery to build. Book a ride from Picton to the trailhead on the Magic Mail Boat (beachcombercruises.co.nz), one of the most—well, magical—experiences in all of New Zealand. Part tourist attraction and part pony express, the ride features fascinating narration about the area’s cultural and natural history, plus a taste of New Zealand-style wilderness living as you tie up at private docks in far-flung coves to deliver mail. The hike starts at Ship Cove, a boat-access-only trailhead where English explorer James Cook docked five times in the 1770s. From there, a two-hour hike leads to Furneaux Lodge, where you’ll bunk in a dormitorystyle farmhouse or a private cabin, then eat fresh fish-and-chips in a rustic pub. On subsequent nights, we recommend the Punga Cove and Portage Resort trekker hostels (bunkrooms save money, but more upscale rooms are also available). To get back to Picton, arrange a boat pickup from any cove (Cougar Line Water Taxi, cougarline.co.nz); we recommend Mistletoe Bay, which is several miles short of the southern terminus but far enough to cover the QCT’s prettiest miles. Info Get route info and all lodge contacts at qctrack.co.nz. Cost $$




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Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Niky
Mar 23, 2012

oh my god...i must go there..it's fantastic...=O

Sara
Feb 27, 2012

Just got back from the south island, and we brought along this artciel to hike the Narnia Track. Initially, when we stopped by Flock Hill, they told us that only guests staying there were allowed to hike it! After some persuading, they agreed to let us do it (we had to fill out permit-like paperwork and keep it with us). While the scenery was gorgeous and we're glad we did it, we got horrible directions on how to do the hike and didn't receive any map. So, we ended up just kind of wandering around the area and after a few hours of walking came across a sign that said "narnia track", but we still weren't really sure where the actual track was. The area is a working ranch, so we kept wandering off on different vehicle tracks, only to have them peter out to nothing in a grassy field. So, we enjoyed the scenery and everything, but it was kind of a confusing wandering kind of a day rather than an actual route.

Honora
Feb 17, 2012

Does it cost anything to hike on Flock Hill station. I'm sure if it doesn't, they're be so thrilled that you've publicised them to this extent.

SuJi
Feb 16, 2012

Better yet...have spent over 6 months there on 2 diffeerent occasions visiting this paradise for hikers....have purchased older (Mitsubishi)vehicles on both occasions and then sold them for exactly what we had paid for them...costing nothing except the insurance and gas

Tony
Feb 16, 2012

The Queen Charlotte is an excellent track which can be walked or mountain biked at certain times of the year. Highly recomended!

Dingo (New Zealand)
Feb 16, 2012

New Zealand certainly has the wow factor when it comes to hiking regardless if you are visiting the North Island or the South Island. It reallly is the outdoor playground of the world.

jacksukow@hotmail.com
Feb 16, 2012

A much better option than 180 dollars a day to rent a camper van
which you will have to pay another fee to park , is to rent a car from
a local rental agency for only $30 a day, and camp or stay at hostels
for ten to sixty dollars per night.

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