Cook Strait ferries from Wellington arrive in Picton, a small harbour and tourist town sandwiched between the hills and the deep, placid waters of Queen Charlotte Sound. Many people stop only for a coffee, looking out over the water before pressing on, but Picton is the best base for exploring the Queen Charlotte Track, serviced by several water taxis, and a good spot for getting into the Sounds on cruises and kayak trips. The town itself has a few noteworthy attractions and it also makes a decent base for exploring the wine region around Blenheim, half an hour’s drive to the south.

Brief history

There was a European settlement in the region as early as 1827 when John Guard established a whaling station, but Picton itself didn’t come into being until the New Zealand Company purchased the town site for £300 in 1848. Picton flourished as a port and service town for the Wairau Plains to the south but predominantly as the most convenient port for travel between the islands.

More about New Zealand

Explore New Zealand



Travel Offers

20% off ebooks

Subscribe to the Rough Guides newsletter and get 20% off any ebook.

Join over 50,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month.