The Queen Charlotte Track: Day 3

Kenepuru  Sound

Day 3

From Mahana Lodge to Bay of Many Coves Campsite

Day 3 was indeed challenging. All along, I had been worried about this section of the track. Not only was it approximately an eight hour, 24.5 km walk from  Mahana Lodge to Portage Bay,  examination of the elevation map had shown me that I would be walking uphill … a lot. To complicate matters, the weather was even mistier and more overcast than on Day 2.

However, we refused to be daunted. Our gear had dried overnight and it was with a sense of adventure that we set out. The first hurdle, walking a kilometer or so up a steep driveway and road to rejoin the track, was negotiated rather easily.  Then I realised  I had left my phone/camera in the Lodge. I felt a little like Eeyore as I walked back down, retrieved the phone and walked a little more slowly up the road again. Just a couple of extra kms that I didn’t need to walk!  Not that anyone was counting.  My feet were not amused.

But the track soon lifted our spirits. Climbing the Kenepuru Saddle, we circled around a valley lost in time.

looking down into the valley
How green is my valley? Even in the rain!

Then the detour to Eatwell’s Lookout appeared. But the clouds were darkening and the mist seemed thicker so we decided that the lookout would have to wait for another trip.

the clouds get thicker
Stormy skies

But as this photo from shows, on a fine day, it would have definitely been worth walking the extra few kilometers. You can look out over the sounds,  all the way to the North Island!

eatwell's lookout
Eatwell’s Lookout. Oh for a sunny day!

After Eatwell’s Lookout, the track climbs and climbs.  I thought that it would never end. Kenn remarked that it was like completing the climb to the Byron Lighthouse, 20 times. No wonder my thighs were on fire! Well as they say, no pain, no gain!

But all good things come to an end and eventually the  covered rest shelter  at  Bay of Many Coves, that Ann Martin had suggested as our lunch stop, came into view.

lunchtime and what a view

Bay of Many Coves. View from the lunch shelter.

There, surrounded by the happy chatter of junior high boys on a school field trip, Kenn and I enjoyed our magnificent lunch. It gladdened our hearts to see so many young people on the track having such a wonderful time and not an iPhone or earplug in sight.

Bay of Many Coves Campsite to Portage Bay

Leaving Bay of Many Coves, the track meanders through the forest. The uphills seem a little easier and there is definitely a lot more downhill. Yippee!

through tunnels of vegetation
Tunnels of vegetation

Every now and then, we would come to a vantage point that overlooked the sounds. Even under grey skies, it was breathtaking.

the water is still beautiful under grey skies
The water is still beautiful under grey skies

But as the afternoon wore on, the skies lightened a little and the sun tried to sneak through.

The light is trying to break through
The light is trying to break through.

A couple of climbs later, we reached Black Rock campsite. We stopped for afternoon tea and breathed a sigh of relief. Only 7kms to go.  And mainly downhill too. As we gently spiraled down into Portage Bay, it was tree fern heaven and at last we were there and the tranquil waters of the bay lay ahead.

the Portage jetty
The jetty at Portage Bay

I won’t lie. We were knackered. We had been dreaming of a hot shower, soft shoes, a stiff drink (well I had been) and something tasty for dinner for many hours. All this and more was waiting for us, at our home for the night, the Portage Resort Hotel.

I thought back over the day. Would I do it again?  Definitely!  Ann Martin was spot on. Today had been very challenging, but oh so rewarding.



Queen Charlotte Track, Day 2

Even in the misty rain, it’s beautiful.

Walking around Endeavour Inlet.

New Zealand isn’t known as the Land of the Long White Cloud for nothing. We woke on Day 2, to a misty, cloudy day, for our walk around Endeavour Inlet to Mahana Lodge, our destination for the night. This was a relatively easy walk of around 15 kms as our chosen accommodation for Day 1, Cnoc na Lear, was situated on the northern side of the inlet.

Cnoc na Lear to Furneaux Lodge

The mist subtly coloured the landscape, giving it an otherworldly dimension as we walked the 2 or 3 kms to Furneaux Lodge which is located in a wonderful setting at the head of the inlet.

View from Cnoc na Lear across the Inlet to Furneaux Lodge jetty

 The weather also gave us the opportunity to test some of the gear we had purchased for just such an occasion. I have to say that my Kathmandu merino t-shirt and rain jacket passed the test.  I was super comfortable and dry all day. I will admit though, it’s not a look you will see on a Paris catwalk.

Dressed for the rain in my Kathmandu gear at Furneaux Lodge

Furneaux Lodge to Miners Camp

This part of the walk passes through ferny forest and traverses the head of the Inlet.

If you have time to spare, there’s also a waterfall or two to visit near Furneaux Lodge

And across a suspension bridge over a tumbling creek and on through some open grassland to Miner’s camp.

Feels like a real adventure when you cross a suspension bridge or two!

It was in this open grassland that I made my first mistake. As this part of the walk was relatively flat, I hadn’t carried my walking poles, a decision I was to regret. The grass was thick, high and very, very wet. Within minutes, my tights and socks were soaked and my toes were wallowing around in my boots. Not a peaceful, easy feeling! If only I could have parted the grass with my poles, like Moses parting the Red Sea.  But Punga Cove was still hours away, so undeterred, we squished and squelched our way on to Miners Camp.

Miners Camp to Punga Cove and Mahana Lodge

We leave the grassland and climb up and down along the southern arm of Endeavour Inlet.

We were now on the southern side of the Inlet and this was the most strenuous part of the Day 2 walk.  We seemed to be trudging uphill through forest … a lot. There were tree ferns everywhere sprouting forth.


And little coves with  private jetties.


It wasn’t only a sea of green. There were flowering shrubs. One which caught my eye was this one. Have no idea what it was but it had a lovely scent.

Reminds me of an Australian tea tree

We were rewarded with lovely vistas over secluded coves, perfect for a lunchtime break as we made our way towards Punga Cove and our destination for the night, Mahana Lodge.

Adrift on a sea of aquamarine

It was mid afternoon by the time we reached Punga Cove. We passed the DOC campsite at Camp Bay and then passed the Punga Cove Resort. We were tired and for a moment, I wished I had booked our second night here. But about another kilometer further on, Mahana Lodge awaited us.

Here, hosts John and Ann Martin made us feel at home. As we were getting acquainted and selecting our dinner menu for the evening, we discovered that John and Ann had lived for a number of years in Kenn’s home town of Condobolin in central NSW. John had worked at the Agricultural Research Station undertaking research into rabbit control in the early 1970s. They remembered the town and its people very fondly. It’s truly a small world.

Our ensuite room in the lodge was spacious and luxurious. After a long, hot shower and wrapped in a super soft complimentary dressing gown, I enjoyed a leisurely afternoon tea.  Ann’s wonderful home baking did not last very long I can assure you.

The  sitting room in the Lodge. That sofa was very comfortable, a great place for a cuppa and a good book.
Storm clouds gather over the homestead, as seen from the sitting room in the Lodge

Dinner in the candlelit conservatory at the homestead was very special and memorable. We enjoyed artisan bread baked by Ann and mussels in white wine as our entree. We chose salmon from the sound, smoked by John to his recipe, over wild rice as our main course which was accompanied by  the freshest salad.  All ingredients had been picked that day by John from his extensive garden. Food when it’s local and super fresh always tastes amazing. We finished with profiteroles smothered in chocolate and a home made raspberry sauce. Not my usual camping fare I can tell you!

We would have liked to spend longer at Mahana Lodge:  explore the cove on the free kayaks, complete some shorter walks around the inlet or  watch the glow worms  flicker in the creek behind the Lodge.

But the Queen Charlotte beckoned. Day 3, according to Ann, would be challenging yet deeply rewarding!

Sunset over the cove

While many like us were on a mission to walk the whole track, we met others who only had the time to explore one section of the track before resuming their travels. The walk around Endeavour Inlet was definitely the easiest part of the Queen Charlotte. Walkers would definitely have time to explore as well as walk. So if the thought of  day hikes of 20 plus kms is a little daunting, you can still immerse yourself in the New Zealand wilderness with this part of the walk.