10 Amazing Things to Do in Picton

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What to Do in Picton, the Gateway to the South Island

Welcome to the sunny South Island! Picton might be the gateway town to the South Island when taking the Cook Strait Ferry, but this little town on the edge of the Marlborough Sounds offers some of the best coastal activities the South Island has to offer! Marvel at the scenery of the Sounds along the Queen Charlotte Track or on a mailboat cruise. Watch wildlife on a bird sanctuary island or on a dolphin swimming cruise. Taste the indulgent produce of the fresh Marlborough seafood or tour around the vineyards of New Zealand’s largest wine-making region. It’s all possible, as you’ll soon see in this list of things to do in Picton!

While you’re here, you might also be interested in the 10 Awesome Activities in the Marlborough Sounds.

1. Walk the Queen Charlotte Track

Discover stunning forest, coastal and mountain scenery along the breathtaking 70km Queen Charlotte Track. This trail through the Queen Charlotte Sound can either be tackled as a multi-day adventure staying in a wide range of accommodation, from humble campsites to luxurious lodges, or done as a day hike on one of the sections. Plan your trip with our Ultimate Guide to the Queen Charlotte Track.

Location: Between Anakiwa and Ship Cove in the Queen Charlotte Sound. Boat transfers to the track depart from Picton Marina. Check out Cougar Line for day hike transfers.

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2. Cruise Around Queen Charlotte Sound

Sure, you see the Marlborough Sounds while cruising on the Wellington-Picton ferry, but you’ll explore the hidden coves and bays on a scenic cruise of the Queen Charlotte Sound. While there are many amazing ways to explore the sounds on the way to various activities and accommodations, the most comprehensive cruises are on a bespoke boat cruise. E-Ko Tours offer scenic cruises that cover most of the Sound and more. From its historical sites such as Captain Cooks landing to birdwatching at Motuara Island and even winetasting, there is a ton of choice when it comes to exploring Queen Charlotte Sound.

Location: Cruises depart from Picton Marina

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3. Indulge in Marlborough Sounds Seafood

The Marlborough Sounds are famous (in New Zealand) for producing fresh seafood and specialities like the greenshell mussel. Try the seafood for yourself at one of the town’s restaurants or onboard the Greenshell Mussel Cruise with Marlborough Tour Company. This sunset cruise pairs sightseeing with fresh local seafood and Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Location: Picton Town restaurants. Cruises depart from Picton Marina

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4. Hit the Walking Trails

Picton is surrounded by a myriad of walking trails to enjoy the views of Queen Charlotte Sound in an active and inexpensive way. A popular trail is the Tirohanga Track to a magnificent viewpoint over the Sounds and Picton town. Venture into the Victoria Domain for easy walking trails accessible from town or go inland to the Humphries Dam or Barnes Dam for some lake and forest scenery. Get all the details in our 12 Awesome Hikes in Picton.

Location: All around Picton.

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5. Tour the Marlborough Wine Region

As the entry town to New Zealand’s largest wine-making region, Picton is a fantastic base to explore the Marlborough wine region. Jump on a driving tour to go from cellar door to cellar door sampling the local wines and visiting the picturesque vineyards. Join tours with Sounds Connection, Marlborough Wine Tours and Marlborough Tour Company.

Location: Picton accommodation pick-up is included.

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6. Hit the Mountain Biking Trails

Marlborough is mad about mountain biking, so you’ll find plenty of two-wheeled adventures around Picton. Tackle the mountain bike trails at the Victoria Domain MTB Park, get stunning views along the Link Pathway or ride the easy-grade Picton to Waikawa Track. Of course, the Queen Charlotte Track (see above) is a must-do for any serious biking enthusiast. Check out Mountain Biking in Marlborough for more details.

Location: All around Picton.

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7. Swim with Dolphins

The waters of the Queen Charlotte Sound are teeming with life, including marine mammals like bottlenose dolphins. Watch dolphins and even swim with them in their natural environment on an eco-friendly dolphin swimming/watching cruise with E-Ko Tours. Dolphins spotted on this tour sometimes include bottlenose, dusky dolphins and orcas.

Location: Cruise departs from Picton Marina.

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8. Check Out the Local Museums

Culture yourself or to keep dry when the weather isn’t playing ball at one of the many museums in Picton. See the world’s oldest merchant ship at the Edwin Fox Ship & Visitor Centre. Learn about the whaling history of the Marlborough Sounds at the National Whale Centre and Picton Heritage & Whaling Museum.

Location: Edwin Fox Ship & Visitor Centre -Dunbar Wharf, National Whale Centre – London Quay, and Picton Heritage & Whaling Museum – 9 London Quay.

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9. Take a Boat Trip to Ship Cove

Visit one of New Zealand’s most iconic historic sites, Ship Cove. Located at the end of the Queen Charlotte Sound, Ship Cove is a significant Maori and European heritage site where information panels tell about the local Maori people and Captain James Cook’s anchorage at the cove. There are a number of walks to enjoy in the area, photo opportunities, wildlife (like the cheeky weka) and carvings to admire. Catch a cruise to Ship Cove with Beachcomber Cruises.

Location: Cruise depart from Picton Marina.

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10. Visit the Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary

Look out for marine wildlife such as dolphins on a cruise out to the wildlife mecca of Motuara Island. This pest-free island in the Queen Charlotte Sound is a bird haven with a short walk past watering holes (a huge attraction for birds) and to a stunning lookout over the sounds. The island is home to endangered birds like the saddleback, king shag, little blue penguin and kiwi bird. Visit the island with Beachcomber Cruises or E-Ko Tours.

Location: Cruise departs from Picton Marina.

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