Family Activities in Picton
Wildlife encounters, amazing coastal scenery and historical attractions await families who make the smart decision to stick around in Picton before or after exploring the South Island. More than just a place to take the ferry, Picton is an exciting destination in itself with plenty of family-friendly walks, bike trails and museums. It’s also the gateaway to the Marlborough Sounds where you’ll find wildlife sanctuaries, dolphins and picturesque bays and inlets.
Plan your visit to Picton with the family using this list of things to do in Picton with kids! You might also want to check out The Guide to Picton for Families and the 10 Best Family Accommodation in Picton.
1. Take a Cruise to Motuara Island
Let’s be honest, you can’t visit Picton without getting out on the water and experiencing the Marlborough Sounds! Some of the best family-friendly cruises are with Beachcomber Cruises (on Viator and Tripadvisor) or E-Ko Tours (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor). Both offer trips looking out for dolphins on the way to Motutara Island, a native bird sanctuary that’s free from predators. At the island, you’ll do a short walk to a watering hole where birds can be seen taking a bath, as well as making your way lookout at the top. The walk is a steep 800m (875-yard) climb, however, so if you don’t think the little ones will make it, you can always stay by the watering hole and watch the birds.
Location: Beachcomber Cruises – 1 London Quay. E-Ko Tours – 1 Wellington Street, Picton town centre.
2. Do Some Family-friendly Walks
Picton’s short walks are an excellent way to see some spectacular scenery while sticking to your budget. Walk over the marina bridge to find a network of walking trails, like the Habour View Track where you can get a stunning family photo in front of the Picton Harbour. Push on and you’ll also walk to Bob’s Bay or even as far as the Snout Track. Some of the best views in town can be found on the Tirohanga Track – that’s if your kids can manage a 45-minute climb through the bush to the lookout. Check out more walks, their descriptions and locations in the 12 Awesome Hikes in Picton.
Location: Harbour View Track – Picton Marina Bridge off Wellington Street. Tirohanga Track – 26 Newgate Street, Picton town centre.
3. Visit the Koru Native Wildlife Centre
On the edge of the Marlborough Sounds, enjoy an educational experience at the Koru Native Wildlife Centre. This wildlife centre houses New Zealand’s lesser-seen animals like 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 back into the wild, the centre offers one-hour guided tours with the founder, either at 9.30am or 4pm. It’s a down-to-earth experience where the kids will get to see some amazing creatures up-close. Find out more about Koru Native Wildlife Centre on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Smiths Farm Holiday Park, Queen Charlotte Drive, approximately 20km (12 miles) from Picton.
4. Hit the Family-friendly Bike Trails
If you have older active kids or teens, be sure to head on one of Picton’s exciting bike trails. One option is the Link Pathway, which is a 42km (26-mile) trail between Picton and Havelock but can be easily enjoyed for as long or as little as your family wants with amazing views to be had almost the whole way. Alternatively, do something easier like the trails of the Victoria Domain Mountain Bike Park or ride part of the Queen Charlotte Track between Anakiwa to Mistletoe Bay. Kids’ mountain bike hire and transport can be organised with Wilderness Guides.
5. Visit the Underwater Observatory, Kayak, Swim and Ride the Flying Fox at Lochmara Lodge
Stay overnight or visit for just the day at Lochmara Lodge located in Lochmara Bay of the Queen Charlotte Sound. On the Lochmara Day Trip, take a boat ride out to the lodge where you can enjoy a wealth of activities at leisure. Use the free kayaks and SUP boards to explore the bay and perhaps see its frequent dolphin residents, play at the safe-swimming beach, see the lodge’s pigs, chickens and kakariki (small native parrots) being fed, take a ride on the giant flying fox/zipline and much more! A highlight is the underwater observatory, where your family can partake in a guided tour to see the thriving underwater life of the Marlborough Sounds, have a go at feeding stingray and pick up critters in the touch tank. Find out more about Lochmara Lodge on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: 1 London Quay, Picton town centre.
6. Take a Trip to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre
Caught in Picton on a rainy day? No worries, as Picton has a couple of excellent museum, which we’ll get to. One of the nearby all-weather highlights, however, is the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre in the neighbouring city of Blenheim. The museum showcases World War One and Two aircraft displayed in vivid scenes created by the famous Weta Workshop. It’s sure to get the imaginations of the little ones running! Find out more about the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: 79 Aerodrome Road, Omaka, Blenheim, approximately 34km (21 miles) from Picton.
7. Explore the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum
A fascinating display of history, the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum houses a 160-year-old merchant ship – the oldest surviving merchant ship in the world. In the museum, your family are encouraged to step aboard and enter the hull to get a real feel of the scale of the ship and see what it would have been like to live on such a vessel. Learn its interesting history as a convict ship taking convicts to Australia, as well as how the ship was bought for a shilling to be preserved for the future. Admission fees are under NZ$10.
Location: Dunbar Wharf, Picton town.
8. Ride the Marlborough Flyer Steam Train
Visit the neighbouring city of Blenheim in a transport that kids can’t seem to get enough of – a steam train! The Marlborough Flyer takes you back to a bygone era in their 1915 locomotive which departs from the Picton Railway Station. Enjoy a one-hour scenic journey through wetlands, across the Wairau River, through a valley of vineyards on the way to Blenheim. You’ll have time to explore the town before the journey back to Picton. Check out some activities there in the 10 Amazing Things to Do in Blenheim.
Location: Picton Railway Station, 3A-B Auckland Street, Picton town.
9. Walk the Short Walk in the Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary
Yet another wildlife sanctuary in Picton, the Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary is the closest to the town and the cheapest to visit. Once a Maori food gathering site, Kaipupu is now a protected predator-free mainland island with recovering native forest and a thriving bird population. Look out for tui, korimako (bellbird), piwakawaka (fantail), kereru (wood pigeon), korora (little blue penguin), tree weta, raukawa gecko and waiharakeke grass skink on an easy 2.7km (1.7-mile) loop walk around the island. While the sanctuary itself is free to visit, you will need to either kayak or get boat transport to the island, which is available with Arrow Taxis, Beachcomber Cruises, E-Ko Tours, Cougar Line, Wilderness Guides and the Marlborough Sounds Adventure Company.
Location: Boats depart from London Quay, Picton town centre.
10. Paddle in a Kayak in the Picton Harbour or on the Pelorus River
Kayaking is a glorious way to experience the Marlborough Sounds, as well as some nearby rivers. Families can hire double sea kayaks in Picton to enjoy paddling for a few hours in the harbour where it’s common to see seals, penguins and dolphins. Kayak hire is available with the Marlborough Sounds Adventure Company. Alternatively, head to the neighbouring town of Havelock to join Pelorus Eco Adventures for an exciting guided experience on the river. This tour takes you in comfortable blow-up kayaks on the gentle flow of the Pelorus River where you’ll see stunning scenery that featured in The Hobbit movies. Learn more about Pelorus Eco Adventures on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Marlborough Sounds Adventure Company – London Quay, Picton town centre. Pelorus Eco Adventures – 48 Main Road, Havelock, approximately 35km (22 miles) from Picton.