Quality Time with Queen Charlotte

The ferry across the Cook Strait between Wellington and Picton took three and a half hours. We spent less than an hour in Picton before shipping out on a second ferry to take us over to Ship Cove where we'd start walking south along the Queen Charlotte Track. On the way over, we made a quick pit stop at an island wildlife sanctuary where we got to see tiny penguins.

Tiny penguins! (They're wild, but have nested in a box set up by the NZ Department of Conservation that we were allowed to peek into.)  photo/ Molly

Tiny penguins! (They're wild, but have nested in a box set up by the NZ Department of Conservation that we were allowed to peek into.)

photo/ Molly

When we arrived at Ship Cove, we found a beautiful, wide trail with a mellow grade and stunning views out over Queen Charlotte Sound. Though we started after 3pm and intended to do just a couple of miles that first afternoon, we ended up hiking 12 miles out of pure joy. It felt so good to be back on the trail!

Great motivation for every climb  photo/ Jonathan

Great motivation for every climb

photo/ Jonathan

Post-dinner chai latte as it lightly rains outside on our first night back on trail  photo/ Jonathan

Post-dinner chai latte as it lightly rains outside on our first night back on trail

photo/ Jonathan

Waking up to smooth, cruisey trail? Yes, please!  photo/ Jonathan

Waking up to smooth, cruisey trail? Yes, please!

photo/ Jonathan

With easy trail under our feet and gorgeous scenery to take in, this section flew by. The only thing to disturb our peace was the deafening roar of cicadas, which we admittedly drowned out with headphones after a couple of miles. Fun fact: New Zealand has the only high alpine cicadas in the world. That just means there's no escape... it's definitely one unique species that we're not excited to visit here. 

Chilling through some flat forest  photo/ Jonathan

Chilling through some flat forest

photo/ Jonathan

...with the occasional peek-a-boo!  photo/ Molly

...with the occasional peek-a-boo!

photo/ Molly

Queen Charlotte was a surprisingly mellow introduction to the South Island, where we'd otherwise expected to find remote wilderness. Instead, this section was ridiculously well-manicured with private beaches, resorts, and campgrounds lining the trail. We opted to free camp (or "freedom camp," as they say here) as much as possible, though, and enjoyed a couple of days warming up for the Richmond Range. Soon we'll head up, up, up to some of the highest terrain on the trail, so we enjoyed the mellow ocean views while we had them. 

 photo/ Jonathan

 photo/ Jonathan

photo/ Jonathan

photo/ Jonathan

The sun creeps over the hills as we finish up Queen Charlotte Track. It's been a pleasure.    photo/ Jonathan

The sun creeps over the hills as we finish up Queen Charlotte Track. It's been a pleasure.  

photo/ Jonathan