Picton is a small but important town in the beautiful Marlborough Sounds at the top of the South Island of New Zealand. The town is a major hub in New Zealand's transport network, linking the South Island road and rail network with ferries that cross Cook Strait to and from Wellington in the North Island. For many travellers, it's the gateway to the Marlborough and Nelson Bays regions. It serves as a base for exploring the Marlborough Sounds, with nearby activities that 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 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 maritime inter-island competitors, including the long-standing 'Steamer Express' overnight ferry between Wellington and Lyttelton. Today, five ferries operated by both Interislander and Bluebridge ply the Wellington to Picton route.
- 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), ☏ , fax: , ✉ picton@i-SITE.org.
- See also: Cook Strait ferries
Passenger and vehicle ferries sail several times daily from Wellington to Picton, taking about 3½ hours.
- Bluebridge (Strait Shipping), ☏ , toll-free: 0800 844 844, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Offers 3-4 sailings per day with two ships: Straitsman and Strait Feronia. Walk-on from $53 one-way; drive-on from $173 one way.
- Interislander, ☏ , toll-free: 0800 802 802, ✉ email@example.com. Offers 5 sailings per day with three ships: Aratere, Kaiarahi and Kaitaki. Walk-on from $56 one-way; drive-on from $177 one-way.
Cruise ships call at Picton during the summer season (October to April), ranging from small boutique ships to mega-ships such as regular visitor Ovation of the Seas (347 m long and 4,500 passengers). Cruise ships up to 245 m long berth at Waitohi Wharf alongside the Cook Strait ferries, while larger cruise ships berth at Waimahara Wharf on adjacent Shakespeare Bay and passengers are shuttled from the wharf to the i-Site Information centre in central Picton. One reason that cruise ships visit Picton is the very picturesque voyage in/out through the Queen Charlotte Sound. Make sure you get a good viewing position.
- 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.
- See also: Rail travel in New Zealand
- Coastal Pacific (formerly TranzCoastal), ☏ , toll-free: 0800-872467 (in country only). The 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 13:15. Departs Picton 14:15, arriving Christchurch 20:30.
- 1 Picton railway station.
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.
- Intercity Coach
- Nelson Lakes Shuttles specialise in providing transport for trampers, hikers, climbers, mountain bikers and skiers. They run on demand and scheduled services to St Arnaud, Nelson Lakes National Park, Kahurangi National Park, the Richmond Ranges as well as other tramping destinations further afield.
State Highway 1 connects Picton with Blenheim (28 km; 23 minutes) and from there the rest of the South Island.
Coming from Nelson there is the option of taking Queen Charlotte Drive, which leaves State Highway 6 at Havelock and snakes along the Marlborough Sounds to Picton. Queen Charlotte Drive, despite being far shorter by distance, does not save any 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.
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.
On-street parking in central Picton is free but limited to 60 minutes. All-day off-street parking is available for $5 in signposted carparks off High St and Wellington St.
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.
- Gateway Taxis, ☏ .
Queen Charlotte Sound is largely inaccessible by road, and many parts rely on boat transport. Water taxis depart from the 2 Picton Town Wharf, on London Quay at the top end of Wellington St.
- Arrow Water Taxis, Town Wharf, London Quay, ☏ , , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Picton Water Taxis, London Quay, ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com.
- 1 EcoWorld Aquarium & Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, Picton Foreshore. Daily from 09:30; last entry 17:30. Fish species from the Marlborough Sounds, little blue penguins, seahorse, tuatara (reptile), giant weta (insect), lizards, turtles and kakariki (parakeet). Adult $24, child 3–14 $12.
- 2 Edwin Fox Maritime Museum, Picton Foreshore (100 m from the rail ferry terminal), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 09:00–17:00. Built in 1853, the Edwin Fox is the 9th oldest ship in the world and is being restored. Adult $8, child $2.50.
- Marlborough Sounds.
- Memorial Park and the waterfront.
- 3 Picton Heritage & Whaling Museum, 9 London Quay (adjacent to Memorial Park), ☏ . Daily 10:00-16:00. Adults $5, children $1.
- Drive to Karaka Point (7 km and 15 min from town; take first Waikawa Rd and then Beach Rd). 24 hr. Waikawa Bay is a suburb of Picton where the majority of the region's private yachts and power boats are moored. A 10-min walk begins at the car park and passes the site of a Maori pa (fortified village) before a lookout and stony beach.
- Kiwi Mini Golf, Foreshore, ☏ .
- Picton Golf Club, SH1 Koromiko, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- Picton Model Engineers, Foreshore, ☏ , fax: . Every Sunday, every day of school holidays & every public holiday, 10:00-15:00 (weather permitting). Model railroad with elevated track: 21.5, 31.5 and 5 in gauges, boat pond. Train rides 20 cents, model yacht hire 20 cents.
- 1 Snout Walkway. Between Picton and Waikawa Bay is a peninsula covered in a mixture of native and exotic bush. Tracks range from a few minutes to 3½ hr. 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.
There are a variety of cruises, including wildlife tours, scenic cruises, fishing and transport to and from tramping tracks. Most excursions depart from the Picton Town Wharf, on London Quay at the top end of Wellington St.
- Beachcomber Cruises (The mail boat), Town Wharf, London Quay, ☏ , toll-free: 0800 624 526, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Cougar Line, The Waterfront, ☏ , toll-free: 0800 50 40 90, fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- E-Ko Tours, 1 Wellington St, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Runs a variety of tours, including dolphin, whale and bird watching tours.
- Marlborough Sounds Adventure Company, London Quay, ☏ , toll-free: 0800 283 283, 1800 007 083 (from Australia), fax: , ✉ email@example.com. 2007 New Zealand Tourism Award Winner. Mountain biking, kayaking, walking the Queen Charlotte Walkway. Tours or freedom hire.
- Overture Luxury Charters, Waikawa marina, Picton, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
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, ☏ . 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.
- 1 Cafe Cortado, cnr of High St & London Quay (opposite the War Memorial, park and waterfront), ☏ . 08:00-late. Great place to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner. Mains mostly $20–32.
- 2 Gusto, 33 High St, ☏ . Small funky cafe. Good coffee.
- 3 Le Café, 12-14 London Quay, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. 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.
- 4 Picton Village Bakkerij, 46 Auckland St (cnr Dublin St), ☏ . M-F 06:00-16:00, Sa 06:00-15:30, closed Su & hols. Dutch bakery selling European-style sandwiches, breads and cakes.
- 1 Seumus's Irish Bar, 25 Wellington St, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. W-Th 15:00-23:00, F Sa 12:00-01:00, Su 12:00-22:00. Has one of the best pints of Guinness in the southern hemisphere.
- 1 Jugglers Rest, 8 Canterbury St, ☏ . Small hostel, no bunks. Sunny chill-out areas in lush gardens. Soak in the fire bath under stars.
- 2 Sequoia Lodge & Backpackers, 3 Nelson Square, ☏ , toll-free: 0800 22 22 57, fax: , ✉ Stay@sequoialodge.co.nz. $20-32 per person.
- 3 The Villa Backpackers Lodge, 34 Auckland St, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A converted early 20th-century boutique character home. $28-88.
- 4 Jasmine Court - Traveller's Inn, 78 Wellington St, ☏ , toll-free: 0800 421 999, fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Quiet 5-star motel accommodation with king beds, spa baths, SKY TV, wireless internet. $130–195.
- Picton Beachcomber Inn, 27 Waikawa Rd, ☏ , toll-free: 0800 66 22 99, fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- Waikawa Bay Seafront Apartments, Waikawa Bay, ☏ , fax: , ✉ stay@ApartmentsOnTheWaterfront.co.nz. $130-245 for 2 people.
- Apartments on the Waterfront, 45 Beach Rd, ☏ , ✉ relax@ApartmentsOnTheWaterfront.co.nz.
- 5 Yacht Club Hotel, 25 Waikawa Rd, ☏ , toll-free: 0800 99 11 88, fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. From $155.
Picton, like all small towns in New Zealand, has a volunteer fire brigade, with firefighters called out by a siren atop the station in High Street. The siren is tested every Monday night (excluding public holidays) at 19:00.
- Picton Baptist Church, 293 Waikawa Road (About 4 km from Picton township), ☏ . Sunday services are at 10:00. This is a great way to meet genuine Kiwis and everyone is welcome.
- Blenheim – the largest town in Marlborough and centre of the Marlborough wine region, famous for its Sauvignon Blanc
- 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 S||→ Blenheim → Christchurch|