Picton (New Zealand)

Picton waterfront

Picton is a small town at the top of the South Island of New Zealand that has more visitor facilities than might be expected because it's the South Island start of State Highway 1 (SH1) when the Cook Strait inter-island ferries dock. For many, it's the gateway to Marlborough and Nelson Bays.

It also serves as a convenient hub for exploring the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. Nearby activities include sailing, SCUBA diving to the wreck of the Soviet passenger cruise ship Mikhail Lermontov, fishing, biking and hiking.


In 1962, the New Zealand Railways' chose Picton as the South Island terminal for its new Cook Strait road and rail ferry service, now known as the Interislander. Ferry GMV Aramoana provided the first roll-on-roll-off ferry service between two islands, dramatically cutting travel times between the two islands and proving extremely popular. By 1976, Aramoana has been joined on the route by three other ferries and together they had effectively wiped out their inter-island competitiors, including the long-standing 'Steamer Express' overnight ferry between Wellington and Lyttelton.

Get in

By plane

By train

The Coastal Pacific (formerly TranzCoastal), +64 4 495-0775 (email bookings@kiwirailscenic.co.nz, fax +64 4 472-8903, Freephone 0800 TRAINS (0800 872 467) (NZ only)) service operates daily between October and April from Christchurch via Kaikoura and connects with ferry sailings. This is a spectacular way to experience the Kaikoura coast. Departs Christchurch 07:00, arriving Picton 12:13. Departs Picton 13:00, arriving Christchurch 18:21. See also Train travel in New Zealand.

By bus

There are bus and shuttle services that connect with the ferry sailings travelling to Christchurch via Kaikoura, Nelson via Havelock and one shuttle to Fox Glacier via Murchison and Greymouth. All services travel via Blenheim.

By car

State Highway 1 leads to Blenheim (20min), Kaikoura (2h) and Christchurch (4.5h). SH1 begins right from the Interislander ferry terminal but is a relatively narrow road with two-way traffic for most of its length. Travelling to Nelson, drivers have the option of taking the Queen Charlotte Drive which snakes along the Marlborough Sounds to rejoin State Highway 6 at Havelock. Queen Charlotte Drive, despite being far shorter by distance does not save much driving time but does provide magnificent views and the sound of birdsong as you slowly negotiate its myriad hairpin bends. Allow additional time for photography. The main truckers route to Nelson is to take State Highway 1 to Spring Creek (5min before Blenheim and then take Rapaura Rd to join State Highway 6 to Nelson.

Almost all rental car companies will have an office in Picton so you do not need to take rental cars on the ferry. A number of rental car companies are clustered around the Ferry Terminal. Sometimes they will offer deals relocating cars (usually) to Christchurch.

By boat

The Interislander Ferry

Take a ferry from Wellington. Two main services are available:-

Cruise ships smaller than 245m dock at the Waitohi Wharf, about a half mile from the center of Picton. A kiosk of the Picton Information centre is located on the wharf. Taxis are generally available at the pier. A complimentary shuttle from the wharf to the centre of Picton is sometimes provided.

Picton, Shakespeare Bay is on left

Larger cruise ships dock at the Port's Waimahara Wharf on adjacent Shakespeare Bay, a deep water port facility opened in April 2000. The 200 metre long Waimahara Wharf is a multi-purpose berth, predominantly used for log exports, and an service large cruise ships up to 320m. As it is a working port, not a passenger wharf, passenger access is only by transfer shuttles (no foot traffic) from the ship to the i-SITE Visitor Information Centre in Picton.

One reason cruise ships call on Picton is for the sail in/out through the Queen Charlotte Sound. Very picturesque, so make sure you get a good viewing position.

Get around

Picton has no local bus service. The "one-horse" town centre is easily explored on foot. If you need to get around and don't feel like driving, take a taxi. Queen Charlotte Sound is best explored by boat.


Picton Edwin Fox Maritime Museum



Precious minerals may be worth looking into, such as the lustrous greenstone from the wild, boulder-strewn rivers of the area. The area also favors a concentration of craftspeople, especially glass blowers, potters, weavers and wood carvers, who have been attracted by the high quality of raw materials.








Go next

Routes through Picton

Wellington Ferry  N  S  Blenheim Christchurch

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, October 18, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.