Picton is the town you’ll arrive at (or leave from) when travelling by ferry between New Zealand’s North and South Islands, but there is far more to it than that. It’s the main town in the Marlborough Sounds and is home to some incredible short hikes. Looking for the best things to do in Picton? You’ve come to the right place!
The Tirohanga Track
I’m going to start this things to do in Picton list strong, with by far my favourite hike in town. The Tirohanga Track follows a forested path above town and opens out to a stunning view. There’s a little seat at the top and from there you can see right over town, the harbour, Queen Charlotte Sound and the distant hills. The Tirohanga Track will only take you an hour or so and it starts a short distance from the centre of town. It’s best to drive and park at the bottom but you could walk there from the main part of town if you had to.
The Snout Track
The other top hike in Picton, the Snout Track takes you along a peninsula and starts even closer to the centre of town than the Tirohanga Track. This makes it a great option if you’re visiting Picton on a cruise or you have a few hours to wait for a ferry and don’t have a vehicle. There are lots of beautiful views to be had on this walk and there isn’t too much uphill walking involved.
Other Picton Hikes
There are plenty of other options in Picton if you want to stretch your legs a bit. You could walk from the centre of town to Waikawa Bay, walk the short track from the centre of town to Bob’s Bay or do the Link Pathway. Or, if you have heaps of time, consider walking some or all of the Queen Charlotte Track.
Shelly Beach and Bob’s Bay
These two beaches are close to the main part of Picton – Shelly Beach is a very short walk and Bob’s Bay will take a little longer to reach. It was a bit cloudy when we were there, but I can imagine these beaches looking amazing in the right light. We saw a few people swimming at Bob’s Bay and the walk to get there was really nice.
Things to Do in Picton Town Centre
Picton is a compact little town and it’s very easy to get around on foot. There are a few nice old buildings to look at as well as a weekend market. The marina area is also cool and there are plenty of places to hang out close to the ferry terminal (including a small movie theatre) while you wait for you boat. There are plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants or you can grab some food from the supermarket and eat it by the harbour if you’re on a budget.
The Eastern Bays
If you’ve got your own transport, it’s a good idea to get out of town for a bit and explore some of the nearby bays. The logical choice is to drive along Queen Charlotte Drive, which takes you towards Nelson, but the other direction has its charms too. We drove as far as Karaka Point and did the short walk down to the beach – it was a very peaceful spot on a warm summer afternoon.
Queen Charlotte Drive
If you’re into scenic drives, you won’t want to miss Queen Charlotte Drive. This is the road connecting Picton and Nelson (and lots of places in between) and you’ll want to pull over and admire the views as often as you can. One of my favourite spots is just after you leave town – look back towards Picton and you’ll see the colourful waters of a smaller harbour – you might even see a massive cruise ship there (which may or may not be a good thing).
Another great spot on Queen Charlotte Drive is Governors Bay. The highlight is the view you get from the car park above, but the short walk down to the beach is worth it. Governors Bay attracts a lot of boats and can get busy, but it’s a stunning spot regardless. Governors Bay is only around 30 minutes from Picton and I’d recommend going there even if you’re not driving further west.
Other Scenic Roads in the Marlborough Sounds
My favourite thing to do in the Marlborough Sounds is to drive along the scenic roads to French Pass / Bulwer and Titirangi Bay. These are the most scenic coastal roads in New Zealand (in my opinion) and you could easily spend a few days exploring this area. There is so much to see, including deserted beaches, stunning viewpoints and, if you want to explore by foot, you could do the Queen Charlotte Track (or part of it). Check out my posts about these drives and you’ll see what I mean when I gush about the scenery!
Catching a Ferry to the North Island
The ferry ride from Picton to Wellington takes around four hours and it’s a great experience (on a good day). The ferry first cruises through Queen Charlotte Sound and the views are great – try and spend some time on the outside decks if it’s not to cold! There are two companies which ply this route, Interislander and Bluebridge – we went with the Interislander (we received complimentary tickets – the perks of being a travel blogger!) but there doesn’t seem to be too much difference between the two.
Marlborough Sounds Cruises
If you’re keen to get out on the water but aren’t heading to Wellington, there are plenty of options. There are some cruises which leave from Picton, or you could do the Mail Boat which leaves from Havelock (an hour or so from Picton on the road to Nelson). We haven’t done any of them, but my mum recently did the Mail Boat and raved about the experience.
Marlborough Wine Tours
I’m not much of a wine fan, so these tours didn’t appeal, but a highly regarded thing to do in Picton is to head to the nearby Marlborough wine region. You can take these tours from Picton or drive to the area yourself and explore (obviously take a sober driver though!).
Are you planning a road trip in New Zealand? Check out our two-week South Island itinerary!
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