Awesome Anakiwa on the Queen Charlotte Track

Anakiwa is ultimate Marlborough Sounds. A coastal village set at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound, or Tōtaranui, Anakiwa is 23 kilometres from Picton, the main township in the area, and the place the Interislander Ferry stops.

The place is small (it’s permanent population is only about 170), but it’s location means there’s no shortage of people to talk to – anyone walking or biking the Queen Charlotte Track will likely pass through Anakiwa.

A short drive from the Picton city center, Anakiwa is a great base for exploring Queen Charlotte Sound

“The Sounds”, as the Marlborough Sounds are often called, are a boatie’s dream – whether your bag is kayaking, sailing, or motoring about. They’re one of the South Island’s most popular attractions.

Coastline? Check! There’s 1500 kilometres of it – 20% of New Zealand’s coastline is in the Marlborough Sounds. Wildlife? Check! The Sound’s marine reserves or island sanctuaries are teeming with rare marine and birdlife. Anchorages? Yep, the place is full of sheltered bays and there are 100 protected moorings throughout Pelorus Sound, Queen Charlotte Sound and D’Urville Island.

Anakiwa itself has five boat ramps and two wharves, and serves as a base for sea kayaking tours as well as a stopping point for the water taxi between Picton and the other end of the Queen Charlotte Track.

Anakiwa is the gateway to (and out of) the Queen Charlotte Track

Speaking of the Queen Charlotte Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, Anakiwa is where it starts (or ends). Lace up your boots for an unforgettable journey through native forests, along rugged coastlines, and up to panoramic viewpoints over the incredible natural landscape of Queen Charlotte Sound. Expect to meet a few flightless Weka birds along the way – don’t feed them, no matter how often they waddle up to you.

If you don’t want to do the whole track, the walk from Anakiwa to Davies Bay Campsite takes about 40 minutes. The bay is picturesque, the beach safe for swimming, and there are public toilets and 25 tent sites if you want to stay for the night.

Or head out in the other direction from Anakiwa to explore the Link Pathway, an old bridal trail that now connects Havelock to Picton, and carries on across Queens Charlotte Sound from Anakiwa to small communities like Ngakuta Bay.

Walking is fun, but riding is faster

As well as being a Great Walk, the Queen Charlotte Track is one of the best multi-day singletrack mountain bike rides in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The track can theoretically be ridden in one day, bit that would be a big day. Take it easy, enjoy the views of the Marlborough Sounds from the tops and aim for three days and two nights on the trail. You can get a water taxi, complete with bike racks, to take you and your steed to the start of the track at Ship Cove (the other end from Anakiwa).

Even better, the boat will transport your gear (food, sleeping bag, cask of wine, we’re not here to judge) from place to place each day.

Here’s the deal – the Queen Charlotte Track is only open to bikes part of the year. The Ship Cover to Camp Bay section can only be cycled from March through November, when things are a bit quieter – the summer months are too busy for bikers and walkers to share the trail.

Anakiwa is the home base for Outward Bound

The setting for what might be the country’s best-known outdoor experience, Anakiwa is the headquarters for the Outward Bound Trust and programme in New Zealand. Based in the Marlborough Sounds and established in 1962, Outward Bound program is about helping people reach their full potential through challenge in the outdoors.

The classic Outward Bound course for 18 to 26-year-olds is a 21-day experience that involves everything from sailing, to kayaking, to tramping, to climbing (including on the “Outward Bound wall”, which was discovered on the OB property in Anakiwa in 1962. But it’s also about building interpersonal skills and working on yourself.

What’s the difference between Marlborough and the Marlborough Sounds?

Anakiwa is in the Marlborough Sounds, which is at the north end of the South Island of New Zealand. Queen Charlotte Sound is the easternmost of the primary sounds in the Marlborough Sounds.

Those sounds are in the New Zealand district of Marlborough, which is (hello!) known as New Zealand’s premier wine growing region. Don’t go past the Sauvignon Blanc.

It’s all named after the 1st Duke of Marlborough, an English general and statesman. He was not the Marlborough Man, in case you were wondering. That was an actor playing a cowboy.