The picturesque seaside town of Picton, located at the northern end of the South Island, is the gateway to the Marlborough Sounds, an enchanting area of islets and bays with beautiful beaches and native forest. Picton has got to be one of New Zealand’s most scenic towns, with heaps of quaint cafés, stylish restaurants and various galleries set next to a beautiful harbourfront. Some people may think that Picton is “where you get on and off the ferry”, but it’s so much more than that. Here are some of the best things to do in Picton:
Hike the Queen Charlotte Track
Known as one of the nicest coastal hikes in New Zealand, the Queen Charlotte track takes you through stunning coastal views, native bush and spectacular beaches. The 75km Queen Charlotte Track runs almost the entire length of New Zealand’s Queen Charlotte Sound, and takes 3 to 5 days to complete. The track stretches from Ship Cove to Anakiwa with great views of both Queen Charlotte Sound and Kenepuru Sound. We only did parts of the Queen Charlotte Track (we mostly drove around the Marlborough Sounds) but we were definitely impressed with what we saw.
Go on a Scenic Drive through the Marlborough Sounds
Depending on how much driving you want to do, and how much you want to see in the Marlborough Sounds, you can venture across the different “arms” that branch off these channels of water. Spectacular views from different vantage points await! We explored most of this area and saw various sections of Queen Charlotte Sound and Kenupuru Sound from the road. We also did a road trip to the French Pass and Bulwer (the farther reaches of the Marlborough Sounds that are accessible by road). Note that there are limited petrol stations in this area so make sure to fill up when you can.
Walk the Snout Track
The Snout Track, a two-hour walk over a small peninsula (the snout) in Picton, offers amazing views over Queen Charlotte Sound. From various parts of the track you’ll be rewarded with scenic views of lush unspoilt peninsulas and bays surrounded by varying shades of water from deep blue to emerald green.
There are different access points to the Snout Track. We accessed the Snout Track via a mountain bike path starting close to Queen Charlotte College, but most people start at either Shelly Beach / Bob’s Bay or the Snout Track car park (Joseph Sullivan Drive). Grab a map from the Picton i-SITE Visitor Information Centre, which contains information about the access points and distances of walking tracks in Picton.
Enjoy the Views at Tirohanga Track (Hilltop Track)
One of the best viewpoints in Picton is the top of the Tirohanga Track. From there you can most of Picton, including the Marina, “The Snout” and Queen Charlotte Sound. You might even see one of the inter-island ferries coming or going. The loop track takes about an hour return and starts at Newgate Street located a few minutes out of the town centre.
Visit Karaka Point and Karaka Point Beach
Karaka Point is one of the most accessible viewpoints in Picton. It only takes round a 15-minute drive from Picton and doesn’t require much walking. Enjoy great views of Queen Charlotte Sound from the car park and parts of the Karaka Point track.
The track to the small beach at Karaka Point takes you through the forest, past some large holes in the ground that were long ago home to Maori dwellings. Karaka Point Beach is pretty special it’s rocky but it had glorious views of the surrounding islets and is a great place to get close to the water.
Marvel at Governor’s Bay
Governor’s Bay is one of the most photographed places in the Marlborough Sounds. With dazzling blue waters and a stunning beach area, it’s sure to impress any visitor.
Have a Picnic at Shelley Beach
Shelley Beach is the closest beach to downtown Picton. It’s easily accessible via the marina. It’s a nice beach which would be ideal for a picnic! If you have more time, you can continue along the coast or go up the bush track to reach Bob’s Bay.
Walk to Bob’s Bay
From Shelley Beach, you can choose to go via the lower track (along the coast) of the upper track, which goes into the bush and up the hill. We did the upper track, which offered awesome view of Bob’s Bay from above and goes down towards a small beach area.
Join a Marlborough Sound Cruise
Another way to explore the Marlborough Sounds is by going on one of the various cruises which go through Queen Charlotte Sound, Kenepuru Sound and Pelorus Sound. There are also cruises in the Marlborough Sounds that specifically take you to see wildlife. If you’re lucky, you can even see some dolphins.
Take the Ferry between the South Island (Picton) and the North Island (Wellington)
The ferry ride from the South Island to the North Island is a unique experience. We did this ferry ride recently with Interislander ferry and it added an extra element to our road trip. The ferry ride may seem like just another form of transport but it’s actually pretty scenic! Part of the 3.5 hour journey passes through different parts of Queen Charlotte Sound and the views of both Picton and Wellington are superb when viewed from Cook Strait.
Explore Picton’s Town Centre
If you find yourself with but a few hours in Picton, there is enough going on in town to keep you entertained. Picton’s beautiful harbourfront has lots of charming cafés, stylish restaurants and various galleries to explore.
Try Local Seafood and Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
Being so close to the sea has its perks. Picton is a great place to enjoy seafood (ie green-lipped mussel). Marlborough is also well-renowned for its sauvignon blanc. If you are keen to do a wine tour in the Marlborough area, Picton is closely located to Blenheim, where most of the vineyards and wineries are located.
Map of Things to Do in Picton, New Zealand
Disclaimer: We were hosted by Interislander during a ferry ride from Picton to Wellington. All thoughts and opinions in this post are our own.
Do you have plans to visit Picton in New Zealand? Which of these attractions are you most excited to visit? Let us know.