You don't have to tramp from Ship Cove to get to this luxury getaway in the Marlborough Sounds. Just a short walk along the jetty below Mt Furneaux is No Road Inn, on the northern shore of Endeavour Inlet.
Turns out our companions at the lodge have indeed walked the first two stages of the 71-kilometre Queen Charlotte Track, which stretches from Ship Cove right down to Anakiwa.
Like an increasing number of tourists our five Aussies have a pick’n’mix approach to the track, taking advantage of the excellent service provided by Beachcomber water taxis, which will transport packs and people from wharf to wharf, lodging to lodging. These five have already climbed Motuara, the bird sanctuary opposite Ship Cove, when we pick them up on Beachcomber’s Tiri Cat, which transports us from Picton after our Sounds Air flight from Wellington.
At Ship Cove, everyone gets a chance to wander round the well-landscaped historic site, and to read the panels telling the history of this place, which Cook visited three times, before the walkers set off on the track, after half a dozen mountain bikers taking advantage of the last day for riding the section from here to Camp Bay – it’s closed to bikes from December to February.
We have walked and sailed in here a few times, but we had not climbed the Waterfall Track, an hour’s gnarly round trip behind the No Road Inn through virgin native forest ending at a rock face down which water drips, mesmerisingly, rather than cascades.
After our exertions we soak in our ensuite bath, where one-way glass allows us to watch walkers approaching through trees on the nearby track. The lodge’s private hot tub – a century-old wine barrel in the rain forest over a bush stream – is ready for the Aussies when they arrive some time later.
Each room at No Road Inn has a refurbished clawfoot tub in its ensuite, or in one case, on a private verandah with a view of the water. Bliss! Much care has been taken to incorporate recycled elements, from floorboards from a woolshed to telegraph poles supporting the deck – but the finish in all the well-appointed bedrooms is classy. A pair of hammocks on our deck offer the perfect way to take in the view, watched over by a resident kingfisher.
Our evening meal is served al fresco, overlooking the bay. While the idea of a five-course meal sounds like overindulgence, this serving up of treat after local seafood treat prepared on the covered deck by our laidback hosts Garry and Barbara leaves enough room for dessert.
We start with whitebait fritters, served the traditional way with buttered white bread. Then there are huge scallops, served on their shells, quickly seared and anointed with Marlborough sauvignon blanc and a dash of soy.
An enormous crayfish follows, with a choice of dressings. And the lamb main is tender, served with a coleslaw and roasted baby beets before a dessert of fruit sponge and ice cream.
Next morning, after a leisurely breakfast prepared from a basket left in our room the night before, we head out in host Garry’s boat to keep watch while he dives for scallops for us to take home. It’s sunny but windy and the water’s choppy on the far side of the inlet.
Then we’re dropped off at the Miners’ Wharf, where some 400 people used to live in a settlement supporting the antimony mine halfway up the hillside. It’s like stepping back in time – long grass, a pretty seat and a donkey.
The track leading to Port Gore passes tailings from the mines whose tunnels are now home to cave wetas. Only resilient blue hydrangeas give a clue as to past habitations.
There’s plenty to see in this sleepy inlet without even donning a backpack. But we’re headed for the jetty to meet the water taxi taking us to Picton for our Sounds Air shuttle pickup.
The writer was hosted by No Road Inn, Sounds Air and Beachcomber Cruises
The No Road Inn, Endeavour Inlet, Queen Charlotte Sound, has put together a package for readers which includes return flights from Wellington to Picton on Sounds Air; two nights accommodation at the No Road Inn; return water taxis ex-Picton on scheduled services; free luggage transfers if you want to walk some of the Queen Charlotte Track; dinners and breakfasts and lunch on the second day; a bottle of Marlborough bubbly on arrival; and a hot tub for $995pp share twin, minimum 2 people.
Pressed for time? Depart Wellington after work, stay the first night in Picton at McCormick House, then the next day catch a morning water taxi and walk some of the Queen Charlotte Track to the No Road Inn. Or just spend the morning exploring Picton, before catching the afternoon boat direct.
- The Dominion Post