Free (and Cheap) Activities in Picton
Sunny Picton nestled in the Marlborough Sounds, awash in land and marine reserves and historical sites, is well worth sticking around in before or after your ferry crossing. While the small town might be well-known for its cruises and multi-day adventures like the Queen Charlotte Track, there are some more affordable ways to experience this picturesque piece of the South Island. Check them out in this list of free and cheap things to do in Picton!
For more free things to do in Picton, as well as cheap activities and budget tips, head to The Guide to Picton on a Budget and the 10 Best Budget Accommodation in Picton.
1. Check Out the Views from the Top of the Tirohanga Track – FREE
A great place to start when visiting any destination on the cheap is getting some exceptional views of the place. The Tirohanga Track provides just that! The 45-minute oneway climb is pretty steep, leading through lush native forest, but is well worth the effort for the commanding vistas at the top. Lap up the views of Picton, Waikawa and the Queen Charlotte Sound. The track continues on a loop, back onto the streets of Picton, taking around two hours. Or just return the way you came. For more walks, check out the 12 Awesome Hikes in Picton.
Location: Start either on Newgate Street or from Garden Terrace, Picton town.
2. See Rare New Zealand Wildlife at the Koru Native Wildlife Centre – CHEAP
Picton has a few incredible wildlife experiences across its island sanctuaries, but one of the cheapest ways to encounter native creatures is at the Koru Native Wildlife Centre. Just a short drive from Picton, enjoy an educational animal encounter with the likes of Giant Weta (the world’s heaviest insect), Yellow-crowned Kakariki (parrots) and Green Gecko. In between conducting breeding programs to release more of New Zealand’s threatened species into the wild, the wildlife centre offers one-hour guided tours with the founder, either at 9.30am or 4pm. It’s a down-to-earth experience and only costs around NZ$15-$20 each. Find out more about Koru Native Wildlife Centre on Viator and Tripadvisor. We also list this in the 10 Things to Do in Picton with Kids.
Location: Smiths Farm Holiday Park, Queen Charlotte Drive, approximately 20km (12 miles) from Picton.
3. Hike in the Victoria Domain – FREE
More free walks can be enjoyed in the Victoria Domain, easily accessible from the town centre by simply crossing the marina bridge. There’s plenty to see here between the 10-minute stroll to Shelly Beach to the 3-4-hour trip to the Snout. Highlights of the domain include excellent views of the Picton Harbour and Queen Charlotte Sound, the swimming beach of Bob’s Bay, and a historic scow (dingy boat) at Shelly Beach. Check out the walk descriptions in the 12 Awesome Hikes in Picton.
Location: Start from the Picton Marina bridge.
4. Stand Inside the World’s Oldest Surviving Merchant Ship – CHEAP
Picton is home to a couple of extremely affordable museums, including the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum. For less than NZ$10 per adult, you can stand behind the hull of the world’s oldest surviving merchant ship at more than 160 years old. Learn about the vessel’s fascinating and controversial history carrying cargo and people at this unique museum.
Location: Dunbar Wharf, Picton town.
5. See a Maori Pa Site and Get Amazing Views from Karaka Point – FREE
A short drive from Picton is the walk to Karaka Point. This thin piece of land that stretched out into the Queen Charlotte Sound has a 10-minute walk passing the earthworks of an early Maori pa site (fortified village) and features commemorative Maori carvings. At the end of the trail is a lookout across the Marlborough Sounds. Again, more details and other walks can be found in the 12 Awesome Hikes in Picton.
Location: Port Underwood Road, approximately 8km (5 miles) from Picton.
6. Visit the Picton Heritage & Whaling Museum – CHEAP
Another affordable museum, and rainy day option, is the Picton Heritage and Whaling Museum. For only around NZ$5 entry, explore historical collections from Picton and the Marlborough Sounds with some artefacts dating back to the 1700s. From early Maori settlement to the area’s whaling history, there’s a lot to unpack at this fascinating museum. Check out more activities like this in the 10 Things to Do in Picton on a Rainy Day.
Location: 9 London Quay, Picton town centre.
7. Hike the Link Pathway – FREE
Although primarily a mountain bike trail, a guaranteed free way to enjoy the amazing views and adventure of this trail is by hiking it! The Link Pathway is a 42km (26-mile) journey on the hillsides between Picton and Havelock, boasting breathtaking views that rival the Queen Charlotte Track but is a hell-of-a-lot easier and cheaper to get to. A good option for hikers for a half-day walk is the 1h30mins oneway trail to the Whenauanui Bay Lookout and returning the same way.
Location: The start of the Link Pathway is about 3km (2 miles) up Queen Charlotte Drive from Picton. Look out for an opening in the trees on your left side, with an offroad parking area 50m (55 yards) further up to your right. The pathway is easy to miss.
8. Try Kiwi Pies, Fish & Chips and More – CHEAP
Enjoy some New Zealand seaside favourites to enjoy along the picturesque foreshore gardens and beach. Try some of New Zealand’s famous savoury pies from the Bakehouse Cafe who sell 20 different varieties. Picton Village Bakkerij also offers good value and plenty of pies. For a larger meal, try fish and chips from Shai Shai’s Takeaways made with fresh ingredients and crispy battered fish. Round off your cheap eats with a tasty ice cream from Indulge Ice Cream Parlour. For more restaurant recommendations, head to The Foodie Guide to Picton.
Location: Bakehouse Cafe – 30 High Street. Picton Village Bakkerij – 46 Auckland Street. Shai Shai’s Takeaways – 83A High Street. Indulge Ice Cream Parlour – 31 High Street.
9. Hit the Mountain Bike Trails – FREE/CHEAP
Home to the renowned Queen Charlotte Track and many other bike trails, Picton is a mecca for mountain biking. While some hostels in town offer free use of bikes, ideal for riding the Picton to Waikawa Track (30-minutes oneway) or having a go at the Victoria Domain MTB Park, it’s worth hiring a bike to tackle the Link Pathway (see point #7). Hire quality mountain bikes from Wilderness Guides for around NZ$40 for a half-day or from the Marlborough Sounds Adventure Company for around NZ$20 per hour.
Location: See bike trail descriptions and locations in the guide to Mountain Biking in Marlborough.
10. Explore Blenheim – FREE
For more free things to do, we recommend a quick drive to some of Picton’s surrounding towns, such as Blenheim. The Wither Hills Farm Park is an excellent place to hike and cycle with views of Marlborough’s vineyards and plenty of sheep to navigate around at this working farm. Blenheim is also home to the picturesque Pollard Park with its pretty displays of roses, rhododendrons and more. And if you find yourself on a wine tour in the area or cycling to the various wineries, do some free handmade chocolate tastings at Makana Confections. Find out more in the 10 Blenheim Must-Dos.
Location: Blenheim, State Highway 1, approximately 29km (32 miles) from Picton.
More Free and Cheap Things to Do in Picton
- 10 Picton Must-Dos
- 10 Romantic Activities in Picton for Couples
- 10 Things to Do in Picton for Foodies
- The Complete Travel Guide to Picton
That’s it for our list of cheap and free things to do in Picton. For more free stuff, check out the 50 Best Free Things to Do in New Zealand.