The first known European to visit the Marlborough Sounds was the famous English explorer, Captain James Cook, on the HMS Endeavour."Queen Charlotte” was the name he gave the Sound, after the Queen Consort of King George III of England. . The Maori name is “Totaranui”, reflecting the Totara trees growing there.
Cook sailed into Ship Cove, today the start of the Queen Charlotte Track, on January 17, 1770 and made this small cove his South Pacific base for the next seven years. It was here the first social interaction between South Island Maori and Europeans took place. (painting by John Webber 1777, Royal Maritime Museum)
Development of the Queen Charlotte Track.
Pre 1980: A series of Tracks, none connected, existed in the region.e.g. Coastal tracks for the carrying of goods and droving of stock, plus tracks north of the Kenepuru, which were used for coast watch purposes during World War II.
1981 - 1983 : The Kenepuru Walkway. Ian Mitchell, working for the Marlborough Sounds Maritime Park Board, (under the Department of Lands and Survey) proposed the idea of a track along the Kenepuru Ridge to Rod Eatwell, Trevor Lawrence, Colin and Marie Norris and other landowners of the district, who subsequently played a major role in the formation of the Track. In the northern section of the Track, gelignite was used in some places, and with a small bulldozer the track through to Anakiwa was upgraded. A rough walking Track opened in 1983.
1985: Work continued maintaining the track, until government restructuring meant money was not available for maintenance and the Portage to Punga Cove section closed.
Cattle grazed on the track from Kenepuru Saddle to Black Rock Station but Rod Eatwell, friends & family kept on with the hard work of mowing Kenepuru Ridge and keeping possum and pig numbers down.
1987- 1991: The Department of Conservation was formed. Roy Grose and Willie Abel began to administer and maintain the Kenepuru Walkway, as it was then called. Gorse had taken over and DOC asked the New Zealand Air Force to sponsor a clean-up project to realign and restore closed sections of the Track. The Air Force brought out a total of 150 men under the command of Wing Commander Williamson. They camped on Rod Eatwells land at the Kenepuru Head and worked from Punga to Portage, taking three weeks to complete the job. In November 1991 the newly named Queen Charlotte Walkway, linking up all the walkways, was opened at the Torea Saddle by Hon. Denis Marshall, Minister of Conservation. Rod Eatwell cut the cake and the 71km Queen Charlotte Walkway was officially opened.
1991 – today. Hikers and Bikers from all over New Zealand and around the world enjoy the Queen Charlotte Track.
10 private landowners, represented by QCTLC, work with DOC on ongoing maintenance and enhancement projects. The Track has grown in popularity over the years and now has a world wide reputation as a great New Zealand hiking and biking trail.