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Picton waterfront

Picton is a small town at the top of the South Island of New Zealand that has more visitor facilities than might be expected because it's the South Island start of State Highway 1 (SH1) when the Cook Strait inter-island ferries dock. For many, it's the gateway to Marlborough and Nelson Bays.

It also serves as a convenient hub for exploring the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. Nearby activities include sailing, SCUBA diving to the wreck of the Soviet passenger cruise ship Mikhail Lermontov, fishing, biking and hiking.


In 1962, the New Zealand Railways' chose Picton as the South Island terminal for its new Cook Strait road and rail ferry service, now known as the Interislander. Ferry GMV Aramoana provided the first roll-on-roll-off ferry service between two islands, dramatically cutting travel times between the two islands and proving extremely popular. By 1976, Aramoana has been joined on the route by three other ferries and together they had effectively wiped out their inter-island competitiors, including the long-standing 'Steamer Express' overnight ferry between Wellington and Lyttelton.

  • Picton i-SITE (The tourist information centre), The Foreshore (The western end of the foreshore on State Highway 1 opposite the train station, south of the Interlsland terminal),  +64 3 520-3113fax: +64 3 573-5021, e-mail: .

Get in[edit]

Caution NOTE: The Kaikoura earthquake of 14 November 2016 has affected road and rail routes between Picton and Christchurch. State Highway 1 between the Clarence River and Hapuku River north of Kaikoura is closed due to slips and bridge damage. The recommended diversion route is via Lewis Pass and Murchison (State Highways 7, 65, 6 and 63), and will take an extra 2.5 hours from Christchurch. Access to Kaikoura is via the Inland Kaikoura Road, branching off SH 7 just north of Culverden. The Coastal Pacific train will not run until further notice due to track damage. See the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) website for the most up-to-date information.

By plane[edit]

  • Sounds Air operates frequent flights between Wellington and Picton from Picton Airport, 5 minutes south from Picton off SH1. A one-way fare is around $99, making the 25 minute flight a time saving alternative to the ferry. Booking on-line is the cheapest choice. Sounds Air will pick you up from Picton by arrangement. Sounds Air also fly direct to Nelson for not much extra, if you aren't inspired to visit Picton.

By train[edit]

The Coastal Pacific (formerly TranzCoastal), +64 4 495-0775 (email, fax +64 4 472-8903, Freephone 0800 TRAINS (0800 872 467) (NZ only)) service operates daily between October and April from Christchurch via Kaikoura and connects with ferry sailings. This is a spectacular way to experience the Kaikoura coast. Departs Christchurch 07:00, arriving Picton 12:13. Departs Picton 13:00, arriving Christchurch 18:21. See also Train travel in New Zealand.

By bus[edit]

There are bus and shuttle services that connect with the ferry sailings travelling to Christchurch via Kaikoura, Nelson via Havelock and one shuttle to Fox Glacier via Murchison and Greymouth. All services travel via Blenheim.

By car[edit]

State Highway 1 leads to Blenheim (20min), Kaikoura (2h) and Christchurch (4.5h). SH1 begins right from the Interislander ferry terminal but is a relatively narrow road with two-way traffic for most of its length. Travelling to Nelson, drivers have the option of taking the Queen Charlotte Drive which snakes along the Marlborough Sounds to rejoin State Highway 6 at Havelock. Queen Charlotte Drive, despite being far shorter by distance does not save much driving time but does provide magnificent views and the sound of birdsong as you slowly negotiate its myriad hairpin bends. Allow additional time for photography. The main truckers route to Nelson is to take State Highway 1 to Spring Creek (5min before Blenheim and then take Rapaura Rd to join State Highway 6 to Nelson.

Almost all rental car companies will have an office in Picton so you do not need to take rental cars on the ferry. A number of rental car companies are clustered around the Ferry Terminal. Sometimes they will offer deals relocating cars (usually) to Christchurch.

By boat[edit]

The Interislander Ferry

Take a ferry from Wellington. Two main services are available:-

  • Bluebridge Cook Strait ferry (Strait Shipping),  +64 4 471-6188, toll-free: 0800 844 844, e-mail: . Picton Terminal (1 Lagoon Rd): M-F 06.00-20:00, Sa-Su 08:00-20:00; Wellington Terminal (50 Waterloo Quay) M–Th 06:00-21:00 & 22:00-02:30, F 06:00-21:00 & 22:00-23:00, Sa-Su 06:00-21:00 & 22:00-02:30; Call Centre: Daily 08:00-20:00 except 25 Dec. Free Wi-Fi and movies, voyage takes approximately 3.5h.
  • Interislander

Cruise ships smaller than 245m dock at the Waitohi Wharf, about a half mile from the center of Picton. A kiosk of the Picton Information centre is located on the wharf. Taxis are generally available at the pier. A complimentary shuttle from the wharf to the centre of Picton is sometimes provided.

Picton, Shakespeare Bay is on left

Larger cruise ships dock at the Port's Waimahara Wharf on adjacent Shakespeare Bay, a deep water port facility opened in April 2000. The 200 metre long Waimahara Wharf is a multi-purpose berth, predominantly used for log exports, and an service large cruise ships up to 320m. As it is a working port, not a passenger wharf, passenger access is only by transfer shuttles (no foot traffic) from the ship to the i-SITE Visitor Information Centre in Picton.

One reason cruise ships call on Picton is for the sail in/out through the Queen Charlotte Sound. Very picturesque, so make sure you get a good viewing position.

Get around[edit]

Picton has no local bus service. The "one-horse" town centre is easily explored on foot. If you need to get around and don't feel like driving, take a taxi. Queen Charlotte Sound is best explored by boat.


Picton Edwin Fox Maritime Museum
  • 1 The Edwin FoxPicton Foreshore (100 m from the Rail Ferry Terminal),  +64 3 573-6868, e-mail: . Daily 09:00–17:00. Built in 1853, the Edwin Fox is the 9th oldest ship in the world and is in the process of being restored. Adult $8, Child $2.50.


  • Walk to the Snout. Between Picton and Waikawa Bay is a peninsula covered in a mixture of native and exotic bush. Tracks range from a few minutes to 3.5h. Cross the bridge at the eastern end of the Picton foreshore. The tracks begin at the foot of the hill. The Marlborough District Council produces a map available from the tourist information centre Free.
  • Drive to Karaka Point (7km and 15min from town; take first Waikawa Rd and then Beach Rd). 24hrs. Waikawa Bay is a suburb of Picton where the majority of the region's private yachts and power boats are moored. A 10min walk begins at the car park and passes the site of a Maori pa (fortified village) before a lookout and stony beach.
  • Marlborough Sounds Adventure CompanyLondon Quay +64 3 573-6078, toll-free: 0800 283 283, 1800 007 083 (from Australia)fax: +64 3 573 8827, e-mail: . 2007 New Zealand Tourism Award Winner. Mountain biking, kayaking, walking the Queen Charlotte Walkway. Tours or freedom hire. Great team, professional service.
  • Picton Model Engineers (Model Railroad), Foreshore +64 3 573 8122fax: +64 3 573-7660. every Sunday, every day of school holidays & every public holiday, 10:00-15:00 (weather permitting). Elevated track: 21.5, 31.5 and 5 in gauges, boat pond Train Rides 20c, Model Yacht hire 20c.
  • Kiwi Mini GolfForeshore +64 3 573-7136.
  • Twenty-five minutes from Picton is the Marlborough wine region, famous for its sauvignon blanc. The region has over 35 cellar doors offering tastings for visitors to compare wines ranging from boutique family producers to well-recognised names.


Precious minerals may be worth looking into, such as the lustrous greenstone from the wild, boulder-strewn rivers of the area. The area also favors a concentration of craftspeople, especially glass blowers, potters, weavers and wood carvers, who have been attracted by the high quality of raw materials.

  • The Gallery (At Evolve), 20 High St +64 3 573-7908. Daily 09:30–17:30. Boutique Art Gallery dealing in New Zealand Art, Art Jewellery, NZ Art Gifts and Photography from Marlborough and New Zealand.


  • Le Café12-14 London Quay +64 3 573 5588fax: +64 3 573 5588, e-mail: . Great food breakfast, lunch or dinner. Large selection of local wines are beers, often organic food and sometimes a live music scene in the evenings.
  • Gusto33 High Street +64 3 573 7171. Small funky cafe. Good coffee.


  • Seumus's Irish Bar25 Wellington St +64 3 573-8994fax: +64 3 573-8544, e-mail: . Run by a man from Co. Derry in Ireland and has one of the best pints of Guinness in the southern hemisphere.
  • Cafe CortadoCnr of High St & London Quay (From the ferry terminal take the first road on the left and it is opposite the War Memorial),  +64 3 573-5630. 08:00-late. Great place to eat Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner



  • 1 The Jugglers Rest8 Canterbury St +64 3 573 5570. Small hostel, no bunks. Sunny chill-out areas in lush gardens. Soak in the fire bath under stars.
  • 3 YHA Picton34 Auckland Street +64 3 573 6598. converted 110-year old boutique character home. bed from $26.10 - room $76.00.




  • Picton Baptist Church293 Waikawa Road (About 4 km from Picton township),  +64 3 573-6315. Sunday services are at 10:00. This is a great way to meet genuine Kiwis and everyone is welcome.

Go next[edit]

  • Blenheim – the largest town in Marlborough
  • Havelock – also in the Marlborough Sounds, and the green-shell mussel capital of the world
  • Nelson Bays – the sunshine city of Nelson with its art galleries, theatres, fine restaurants, neo-gothic Christ Church cathedral, beaches and popular national parks
Routes through Picton
Wellington ← Ferry ←  N State Highway 1 NZ.svg S  BlenheimChristchurch

This city travel guide to Picton is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.