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20 Top Things to Do in Picton New Zealand

Are you considering a stopover in Picton, New Zealand? As the gateway to New Zealand’s South Island, this picturesque town attracts many visitors. Despite being just a transit point for many, we highly recommend staying awhile. Situated at the head of the Queen Charlotte Sound, this town boasts breathtaking beauty and natural wonders. However, regardless of how long you visit, we suggest not missing out on these Picton attractions. So please keep reading for 20 top things to do in Picton New Zealand.

Coffee with a view of marina and boats from Jolly Roger Bar & Cafe
Coffee with a view from Jolly Roger Bar & Cafe, Waikawa

Getting to Picton

On the northeastern coast of the South Island, Picton is a 25-minute drive from Blenheim, the largest town in the Marlborough region. 

Nelson to Picton is 2 hours drive, and Christchurch to Picton is approximately 4.5 hours.

Additionally, you can reach Picton by train from Christchurch.

Picton is also easily accessible by air (either Blenheim or Nelson airports) or by sea (from the North Island.)

The Interislander and Bluebridge ferries serve the town, which connects it to Wellington in the North Island. 

The ferries offer stunning views of the Marlborough Sounds and are a popular way to travel between the islands. 

View of water and bush covered mountains in Marlborough Sounds
Ferry cruise through the Marlborough Sounds

What is Picton Known For?

Picton is known for its vital role as a transportation hub in New Zealand. It serves as the connecting point for ferry and transport services to and from the North and South Islands and across the Cook Strait.

The Top Things To Do in Picton New Zealand

There are plenty of top things to do in Picton New Zealand. The town is the perfect base for exploring the Marlborough Sounds. Additionally, the region boasts plenty of hiking trails, and local operators provide guided tours, kayak rentals, and water taxi services. Please keep reading to compile your Picton to do list and not concern yourself wondering what to do in Picton.

Go On A Cruise

Love to cruise? It really is the best way to see the Marlborough Sounds and one of our 3 top things to do in Picton NZ and the Marlborough Sounds. You can take a short lunch cruise or an all-day cruise. There are many cruise options available departing from Picton.

One of the more interesting is the Mail Boat adventure, a unique experience that allows you to witness the picturesque Marlborough Sounds while assisting with delivering mail to remote communities. 

Or, if you are short on time, take a lunch cruise. You got to eat, so you could do it while sampling the regional delicacies on a seafood boat tour and seeing the glamorous Sounds at the same time.

Picton Harbor Lookout

There are some simply spectacular lookout points in and around Picton. Some of the best views are on the Queen Charlotte Drive. 

However, for those with limited time, one of the best things to do in Picton when you only have a few hours to spare before your ferry trip is to take a 5-minute drive to Picton Harbor Lookout. The views of Picton and down the Sounds as ferries are coming in are extraordinary. 

Marlborough Sounds lookout point with view of bush and water.
Picton harbour lookout

Edwin Fox Maritime Museum

One of the most iconic landmarks in Picton is the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum, home to the world’s oldest surviving merchant ship. 

The museum offers a fascinating insight into New Zealand’s maritime history and is a must-visit for anyone interested in nautical heritage. 

Picton Foreshore

Another famous landmark of the Marlborough Sounds is the Picton Foreshore, which offers panoramic views of the Marlborough Sounds. 

The Picton foreshore is one of the best things to do in Picton New Zealand, if you are short on time and waiting for your ferry to the North Island.

Take a short stroll or just relax and soak up the stunning scenery of the Marlborough Sounds.

Picton Heritage & Whaling Museum

Overlooking the Picton Foreshore, you will also want to visit the Picton Heritage & Whaling Museum if you’re a history enthusiast. 

The museum offers an in-depth look into the whaling history of the Marlborough Sounds and the local Maori history. 

Queen Charlotte Drive

One of our favourite things to do in Picton is to take a road trip on Queen Charlotte Drive. It’s one of the Picton must see attractions you shouldn’t miss.   

 The 40-minute drive from Picton to Havelock is one of the most stunning drives in New Zealand. We love it almost as much as the Great Coast Road on the West Coast. 

You can stop at many lookouts to get the perfect Instagram photos and admire the delicious sea and bush views of the Marlborough Sounds.

Allow 4 hours for the trip, including drive time there and back, stops at several lookouts, and a 2-hour lunch at Havelock, where you can indulge in the region’s seafood.

Queen Charlotte Track

You will have to stay awhile to hike the Queen Charlotte Track, one of New Zealand’s most popular walking and cycling tracks. 

The 73.5km track is a 3 to 5-day hike through stunning native bush and along the shores of the Marlborough Sounds.

However, you can do a short part of the trail as a day trip. 

One of the best things about the Queen Charlotte Track is that boat operators transport your backpack between accommodations. They can also transport you to any point of the track and back to Picton.

Additionally, you can drive through the Marlborough Sounds and then do some of the short walks at Anakiwa, Mistletoe Saddle, Torea Saddle, and Kenepuru Saddle, all can be reached by car.

Though, please note there has been storm damage to the track. So please check the DOC website for the most up-to-date track information on Queen Charlotte Track.

View of the green water and bush at Punga Cove in the Marlborough Sounds
Punga Cove, one of the delightful resorts on the Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough Sounds

Visit a Picton Beach

One of the best free things to do in Picton New Zealand, is to visit Picton’s beaches. 

If it’s summer, you can swim in the delicious calm sea. Otherwise, soak in the beach vibes no matter what time of the year.

Shelly Beach, Bobs Bay Reserve and Waikawa Jetty all offer stunning sea views and are not far from Picton.

Take A Scenic Flight Over The Marlborough Sounds

Experience the breathtaking beauty of the Marlborough Sounds from above with a scenic flight. 

Several companies offer flights that depart from Picton and provide breathtaking views of the sounds and surrounding landscapes. 

Travelling around the Marlborough Sounds region? Read Next – Best things to do in New Zealand’s Marlborough region.

Visit Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary

Located just a 10-minute boat ride from Picton, Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected area home to various native New Zealand species. 

Visitors can take guided tours of the sanctuary and learn about the conservation efforts underway to protect these precious animals.

Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary

Discover the avian wonders of Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary, a haven for native New Zealand bird species, including kiwis and penguins.

Take a guided tour from Picton to witness rare birds in their natural habitat while enjoying panoramic views of the Marlborough Sounds.

Coathanger Bridge, Picton

Walk the Coathanger Bridge, an iconic landmark in Picton. We consider it a Picton must do.

The steep bridge offers breathtaking views of the harbour, surrounding hills and a unique vantage point for capturing memorable photographs.

View of Pitcon harbour and bridge
Picton Harbour

Picton Memorial Park

For those with more time, the Picton Memorial Park offers various walks, including access to Picton Marina and the best Picton beach, Shelly Beach.

You can find memorials in the park dedicated to those who lost their lives in World War II.

Karaka Point

Explore the serene beauty of the Marlborough Sounds at Karaka Point. This off-the-beaten-track gem is the ideal place to watch the sunset.

You can take the short, scenic 10-minute walk by the water’s edge and learn about the history of this historic Maori pa site (fortified village).

The short drive from Picton to Karaka Point is also a lovely coastal drive.

Kayak Tour From Picton

Embark on a thrilling kayak tour from Picton, navigating the tranquil waters of the Marlborough Sounds. 

Besides guided tours, you can rent kayaks independently.

Explore the Wine Region

Delve into the delights of the local wine region surrounding Picton. 

Embark on a wine tour to sample exquisite wines and learn about winemaking, surrounded by picturesque vineyards and stunning landscapes.

Victoria Domain

Victoria Domain is a quick 5-minute drive from the Picton foreshore. Alternatively, you can take a short walk there.

Take the walking trails for captivating Picton Harbour and Queen Charlotte Sound views.

Additionally, for those who would rather drive than walk, the drive along the ridge offers epic bush and sea views.

Take a Steep Walk on Tirohanga Track

For those who love moderate walking adventures, you will find this track one of the top 10 things to do in Picton New Zealand.

Expect it to take around 1-2 hours (depending on your level of fitness), and you will be rewarded with epic hilltop views over Picton.

Tirohanga Track and Snout Track are among the best walks around Picton New Zealand.   

Snout Track

The walk offers a pleasurable 3-hour hike, leading to the panoramic vistas showcasing the stunning Queen Charlotte Sound.  

Along the way, you will be mesmerized by many stunning lookouts, including the Queen Charlotte View lookout.

The best part of this walk is you can take as long as you like and start from Picton centre or the Snout Track car park; you can join one of the adjoining Picton walking tracks – Bob’s Bay Track and the Picton-Waikawa Walkway or you can do a shorter walk to Queen Charlotte View lookout.

Bobs Bay walk

Indulge in Drinks & Dinner With a View

Relish a memorable dining experience by indulging in drinks and dinner against the backdrop of the stunning Marlborough Sounds. It’s one of our favourite things to do at Picton; the picturesque views make every sip and bite even more enjoyable.

Picton is home to various cafes, restaurants, and bars, offering everything from traditional Kiwi cuisine to international delicacies. 

Picton is a very small town; to find the best food in Picton, just take a walk from the Picton foreshore along London Quay and High Street and Wellington Street.

Is it Worth Visiting Picton NZ?

Picton has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for outdoor adventure, dinner with a view, or a relaxing break in a stunning natural setting. 

Its convenient location and wealth of Picton tourist attractions make it an easy option to add to it to your itinerary. You definitely won’t be bored if you do these 20 Top Things to Do in Picton New Zealand.

View of Picton harbour from bridge
Walk along the foreshore and Picton Harbour, one of the best things to do in Picton while you’re waiting for your ferry

Hope you enjoyed our 20 Top Things to Do in Picton New Zealand. Need more inspiration for your New Zealand South Island travel? Read Next-

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