Gateway to the South Island, Picton is a charming small town of 5,000 people, which most people pass through but relatively few stay in. They’re missing out as it’s a lovely spot to spend time, at the mouth of the magnificent Marlborough Sounds.
The Marlborough Sounds cover a huge area, making up nearly 10% of New Zealand’s total coastline, with a large number of islands and peninsulas, surrounded by beautiful waters.
As the primary link between the North Island and South Island there are multiple ferries crossing each day, with three Interislander ships (owned by KiwiRail, carrying passengers, cars, trucks, and trains on one ship) and two Bluebridge ships (privately owned, primarily focused on freight) that sail through the Marlborough Sounds into Picton. I’ve crossed the Cook Strait with Interislander over twenty times in the past year, always a memorable experience.
Most of the waterfront is owned by Port Marlborough, including the timber exporting wharf at Shakespeare Bay. Apparently Port Marlborough is the deepest in New Zealand, able to take the largest ships without any dredging required.
The lookout on Queen Charlotte Drive offers some of the best views of the port and town, while continuing along the road toward Havelock is one of the most scenic stretches of roads in New Zealand.
A more energetic way to enjoy this stretch of coastline is to cycle or walk the Link Pathway, much of which is off-road between Picton and Havelock, with a reasonably wide and easy track, if a few hills to tackle…
The most fascinating place in Picton is the Edwin Fox Museum, hard to miss as it is just 100m from the Interislander Ferry Terminal. It is home to the Edwin Fox, one of the oldest surviving wooden sailing ships in the world. Built of teak in 1853 in Calcutta it spent 43 years travelling around the world, including the UK, China, Australia, and South Africa, before arriving into Picton as a freezer ship, then coal hunk, then being left to rot for 15 years before being saved in 1965 by the Edwin Fox Society. The museum is very informative, and you can walk around and through the remains of the ship itself.
Picton Heritage & Whaling Museum isn’t quite in the same league but is still a worthwhile place to visit, with a varied and interesting collection.
The museum is on the edge of the beautiful Picton Memorial Park, an idyllic spot on the waterfront.
St Joseph’s Catholic Church is the grandest church in town, built in 1917.
Picton Cemetery dates back to the earliest days of European settlement in the mid-19th century, and includes a significant number of military graves.
The 200 hectare Victoria Domain reserve offers more lovely views of the Marlborough Sounds.
As does Karaka Point…
… and Bob’s Bay.
From Victoria Domain there is a pleasant walk out to The Snout, the headland that sticks out on the left when approaching Picton by water. The main walking track is fine but the best views are from the mountain bike track closer to the water.
To end with two photos from the same apartment balcony at different times of the day. There’s something quite magical about staying near the water in a port town, watching boats and ferries head in and out.