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Best Things to See and Do in Picton, Marlborough Sounds

Guide to the Best of Picton, South Island, New Zealand


Picton is a small town at the base of the Queen Charlotte Sound, one of the three major sounds in the Marlborough Sounds at the top of the South Island (the other two are Pelorus Sound and Kenepuru Sound). It is the arrival point for visitors on the ferry from the North Island.

You might be tempted to think there isn't a lot here, and drive on south. But this is a fascinating little place to explore and is a base for discovering the magic of the Marlborough Sounds. Here are some of the best things to see and do when you're in Picton.

1. Cruise the Marlborough Sounds

Mail Delivery, Queen Charlotte
Image Courtesy of Malene Holm
Although you get a great view of the Marlborough Sounds when arriving or leaving on the Cook Strait ferry, nothing beats a boat cruise to gain a true appreciation of the area.
There are many different cruises on offer. One of the best is the Beachcomber Mail Run. This boat trip delivers mail to many of the residents in the remote bays and inlets throughout the Queen Charlotte Sound.

2. Coffee at a Waterfront Cafe

Waterfront, Picton
Image Courtesy of Malene Holm
There are several cafes along the Picton waterfront. Sit outside on a nice day and enjoy a meal or a coffee. Not only watch the Cook Strait ferries as the come and go, but enjoy the stunning view of the Marlborough Sounds themselves from one of the best vantage points in Picton.

3. Queen Charlotte Track

Bay of Many Coves Resort, Marlborough Sounds
Image Courtesy of Malene Holm
One of New Zealand's best walks, the hike along the Queen Charlotte track follows the ridge line between Queen Charlotte Sound and Kenepuru Sound. The total length is 71 kilometers and normally takes 2-3 days. However, it's possible to do just sections of the track as there is pickup by boat at several points along the way.
The scenery on this walk is unsurpassed, with views of the Sounds in all directions and a great variety of flora and fauna to appreciate along the way.

4. Other Walks and Trails

Karaka Point, Queen Charlotte
Image Courtesy of Malene Holm
There are a number of great walking tracks within walking or driving distance of Picton itself. Walk along the shoreline from the Picton marina to the Picton Domain to get elevated views back to Picton itself.

Drive fifteen minutes out of Picton to Karaka Point. This reserve was once a Maori pa; situated on a small headline (with a short walk down to a small beach), this offers great views of the Queen Charlotte Sound and surrounding hills.

5. Eco World Aquarium

Some of New Zealand's most interesting marine species are on display here, including penguins, fish species and lizards. There's even a five meter long squid. The emphasis is on getting 'up close and personal' so it's also a fun place to take the children.

6. Edwin Fox Maritime Museum

Edwin Fox Maritime Museum
Image Courtesy of Edwin Fox Society
Apparently the ninth-oldest wooden ship in the world, the Edwin Fox brought settlers to both New Zealand and Australia. She is now the centerpiece of this museum, which also features an array of other exhibits and artifacts of maritime history.

7. Drive the Coastal Route to Havelock

Pelorus Sound, Marlborough Sounds
Image Courtesy of Malene Holm
Havelock is a tiny community and marina and the port for the adjacent Pelorus Sound. The drive to Havelock from Picton along Queen Charlotte Drive is 32 kilometers of winding road - yet with some amazing views of the Grove Arm of the Queen Charlotte Sound. It's also the shortest distance between Picton and Nelson.

8. Blenheim and Marlborough Wineries

Marlborough Vineyards By the Sea
Image courtesy of New Zealand Wine Institute/Yealands Estate
Blenheim is less than half an hour's drive from Picton. As New Zealand's largest winemaking area, it's a good place to do a spot of winetasting, especially of the region's specialty, sauvignon blanc.

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