A Travel Guide to Picton
Picton might be known as a base for the ferries that link the North Island and South Island, but this picturesque seaside town is much more. Lining a harbour on the edge of Queen Charlotte Sound with breathtaking scenery, wildlife encounters and historical attractions, Picton simply begs to be explored. Kayak, cruise or sail across the Sound’s glistening waters that are frequented by dolphins, seals and whales. You might also want to visit predator-free islands to see the birdlife and flora of what much of New Zealand once was. Cruises and water taxis will also give you access to one of New Zealand’s premium tramping and mountain biking trails, the Queen Charlotte Track.
On land, enjoy Kiwi cuisine on the waterfront and learn about the area’s history of early exploration, whaling and sailing in the two museums. Further inland you have New Zealand’s most iconic wine region, Marlborough, where tours will make sure you get plenty of tipples of the renowned Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
So stick around in Picton at the beginning or end of your South Island road trip and plan a trip to remember with our complete travel guide to Picton.
Fast Facts About Picton
Location: At the top of the South Island in the Marlborough region.
Climate: Daily average temperature – 12.4°C/54.4°F, yearly average rainfall – 1,435mm/56.5″
Find out more in What is the Weather Like in New Zealand?
Time zone: NZST / GMT+12/+13
How to get to Picton: Picton is well connected to the rest of New Zealand by road at the start of State Highway 1 on the South Island. It is the port for the North Island-South Island ferry. The closest international airport is Wellington Airport (4h20min ferry and drive). Picton is also on the main national bus route, which you can find more information about in Bus Networks in New Zealand.
Picton for Budget Travellers
Picton is well worth at least one or two-days stay before you start travelling the South Island. Not only are there some excellent hikes and walking trails to discover with epic views of the Queen Charlotte Sound, but you’ll also find fascinating museums on its waterfront. Combined with a stay in one of the town’s characterful and friendly hostels or perhaps in a holiday park or motel, your stay can be fun and affordable. Get some more tips in The Guide to Picton on a Budget.
Budget Activities in Picton
- Do a short walk in the Victoria Domain or the Tirohanga Track
- Visit the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum
- Check out the Picton Heritage & Whaling Museum
- Hit the Picton mountain bike trails
- Check out the views from Karaka Point
For more activities and information on each, check out the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Picton.
Budget Accommodation in Picton
Picton is home to some of the highest quality backpacker hostels in New Zealand, as well as a wealth of holiday parks and motels. Choose from the best in the 10 Best Budget Accommodation in Picton.
Picton for Luxury Travellers
On the shores between New Zealand’s largest wine region and the stunningly scenic Marlborough Sounds, Picton offers a dynamic coastal experience for discerning travellers. It’s home to one of New Zealand’s most premium multi-day hiking trails, the Queen Charlotte Track, with options to stay in luxury lodges instead of the usual basic huts. The scenery and wine region can also be experienced on scenic flights, cruises and driving tours. After an amazing day out, retreat to one of the town’s cosy B&Bs or a resort out in the Marlborough Sounds. Find out more in The Luxury Guide to Picton.
Premium Activities in Picton
- Hike the Queen Charlotte Track
- Enjoy a private Marlborough region wine tour
- Take to the skies in a scenic flight over Marlborough
- Indulge in a relaxing spa treatment
- Sail the Marlborough Sounds.
For more details on each experience and others, see our 8 Luxury Activities in Picton.
Luxury Accommodation in Picton
From upscale boutique B&Bs with friendly locals to luxury resorts nestled in the bays of the Marlborough Sounds, there are some memorable stays to be had in Picton. Check them out in the 6 Best Luxury Accommodation in Picton.
Picton for Families
Families will find a good balance of educational and outdoor family fun in Picton. With around five different wildlife experiences to be had between the predator-proof wildlife sanctuaries and wildlife centre, kids can enjoy an engaging educational experience with New Zealand’s birds, reptiles and marine life. There’s history to discover in the museums and steam train journey, while the family-friendly walks and bike trails are more great ways to enjoy the outdoors and scenery together. Complete a stay with exciting holiday parks, convenient apartments and motels and more. Check out The Guide to Picton for Families for more travel advice.
Family Activities in Picton
- Take a Cruise to Motuara Island
- Visit the Koru Native Wildlife Centre
- Visit the underwater observatory, kayak, swim and ride the flying fox at Lochmara Lodge
- Ride the Marlborough Flyer steam train
- Do a kayak tour in the harbour or on the Pelorus River.
For more information on each experience and more, head to our 10 Things to Do in Picton with Kids.
Family-friendly Accommodation in Picton
Take your pick from holiday parks with playgrounds and other family-friendly facilities, self-catering motels, hotel rooms and spacious apartments in our 10 Best Family Accommodation in Picton.
Picton for Couples
With glistening sheltered waters between the Queen Charlotte Sound’s labyrinth of coves and inlets, Picton certainly sets the stage for romance. Combined with a stay in the small town’s boutique B&Bs or a resort in the Sound and you have a destination on your honeymoon itinerary or even a romantic weekend away to remember. Picton is definitely a place for couples who prefer to adventure together with scenic double kayak tours, the Queen Charlotte Track and more. But for those who want a little bit of pampering, the day spas and wine tours are here to serve. Start planning your visit with The Honeymoon Guide to Picton.
Romantic Activities in Picton
- Team up in a double kayak to paddle the Marlborough Sounds
- Swim with dolphins
- Do the Queen Charlotte Track together
- Enjoy breakfast in the Sounds
- Indulge in a couples spa retreat.
For more inspiration and information on each experience, as well as a few more, see the 8 Romantic Activities in Picton for Couples.
Romantic Accommodation in Picton
Couples will find just the right tone set in Picton’s boutique hotels, B&Bs and lodges. For a special occasion, retreat to the lavish lodges and resorts of the Queen Charlotte Sound. Find out more in the 5 Best Romantic Accommodation in Picton.
Picton for Foodies
Picton is part of New Zealand’s largest wine region, Marlborough, famous for its Sauvignon Blanc amongst other varietals. Needless to say, a wine tour is a must, whether you prefer a driving tour, hop-on hop-off or a helicopter tour. It’s also worth taking a cruise to Picton’s nearby green-lipped mussel and salmon farms, while the nearby town of Blenheim also hosts a chocolate factory and craft breweries. Learn about them all and more in The Foodie Guide to Picton.
Food Tours and Experiences in Picton
- Tour Marlborough’s wineries
- Go on a seafood cruise
- Experience Marlborough’s craft beer at Dodson Street
- Indulge in high tea at Escape to Picton
- Visit the Makana Confections chocolate factory.
For more information and locations of each experience, see the 7 Things to Do in Picton for Foodies.
Accommodation in Picton for Foodies
Whether you prefer self-catering accommodation to spruce up your own creations from local produce or want to roll out of bed to your accommodation’s on-site restaurant, Picton has both options as listed in the 10 Best Accommodation in Picton for Foodies.