Hotels in Picton (South Island, New Zealand)

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Hotels in Picton

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Picton, New Zealand: Gateway to the Marlborough Sounds

A picturesque port town at the head of the Queen Charlotte Sound, Picton is most well-known as the South Island base of the inter-island ferry service, yet new arrivals will find many reasons to linger on shore. Its harbour front is arguably the prettiest in New Zealand, while the high streets offer a tempting array of upscale boutiques, eateries, and souvenir shops featuring fine, locally-made goods. Travellers are also spoiled for choice in places to sleep; accommodations in Picton range from simple motels and backpackers’ hostels to posh four-star hotels and holiday homes on the waterfront.

Paddle your way through the Marlborough Sounds…

Picton is often called the gateway to the Marlborough Sounds, a gorgeous maze of waterways which makes up twenty percent of New Zealand’s coastline. Fringed by lush native forest thick with wildlife, the Sounds’ myriad bays, coves, and inlets are ideally suited to sea kayaks, and guided tours are available to suit all levels of fitness and experience. Fishing charters and luxury cruises also do a brisk business here every summer; trips to Marlborough’s mussel, salmon, or paua pearl farms are very popular ways to explore this beautiful area’s unique eco-system. However, travellers who are curious about what it is like to live the “island life” year-round may particularly enjoy a trip on the Beachcomber Cruises Mail Boat. The New Zealand Post has been delivered by boat for over 150 years, and the cargo has included everything from live bees to Christmas presents and school supplies. Tours depart from Monday to Saturday, with a different route and a unique set of deliveries every day.

Hike or bike the Queen Charlotte Track…

Picton is also the ideal starting point for a trek along the Queen Charlotte Track; the 70-kilometre walking and biking trail traces the island’s densely forested coastline from Ship Cove to Anakiwa, offering spectacular views over the Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds along the way. Part of Te Araroa, which runs for an impressive 3000 kilometres from Cape Reinga to Bluff, the Queen Charlotte Track is graded “moderate” for hiking, and ranges from “intermediate” to “advanced” for biking; some sections may be a bit steep or muddy, but the trail is generally well marked and maintained, with bridges over the major streams and rivers. Outdoorsy travellers can walk the entire track in four days, spending their nights at the simple, “self-serve” campsites and lodges en route. Another, decidedly more luxurious, option is to take the water taxi to one access point or another, enjoying a day’s hike or ride (and a gourmet sack lunch) before retiring to the only five-star resort hotel and spa in the Marlborough Sounds.

Dive into New Zealand’s rich maritime history…

The historic Edwin Fox is permanently docked at Picton’s Dunbar Wharf; built near Calcutta and launched in 1853, the merchant sailing vessel once carried troops to the Crimean War, convicts to Australia, and immigrants to New Zealand. Travellers are welcome to step aboard, walk the graving dock, and imagine the voyages of yore. History buffs may also enjoy a leisurely afternoon at the Picton Museum or a day trip out to the Wairau Bar. About 20 minutes from Picton by car, the Wairau Bar is one of the country’s oldest archaeological sites; artefacts discovered here date back to around 1300 AD. Guided eco-tours of this stunning area can be undertaken on foot, by kayak, or in a 4WD vehicle. Diving tours bound for Port Gore also depart from Picton. Port Gore is home to the Mikhail Lermontov, an opulent cruise ship which sunk in 1986. The Lermontov is a bucket-list wreck for advanced divers, though beginners can also come to enjoy an unspoiled reef rich with marine life.

Savour New Zealand’s greatest wine region…

With more than 140 registered wineries producing award-winning wines, Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest wine producing region. Also the sunniest and southernmost wine region in the country, Marlborough sits at the end of the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail, which is temptingly billed as “380 kilometres of indulgence.” While Sauvignon Blanc is easily the Marlborough region’s greatest claim to fame, thirsty travellers will also find exceptional Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Methode Traditionelle sparkling wines. Guided half-day and full-day tours are widely available, over land or water, and some tour operators are pleased to pick up travellers anywhere in Picton for no additional charge. Johanneshof Cellars, just nine minutes from town, is a small boutique winery with a wide range of wines, all made on site with hand-harvested fruit. Its extensive underground rock cellar, the first of its kind in the country, is open for guided tours and tastings.

Frequently Asked Questions about Picton