8 Best Things to Do in Port Picton (NZ), Cruise Guide, Shore Excursions

Picton Harbour, New Zealand

Welcome to port Picton, New Zealand!

Nestled in the northeast of New Zealand’s South Island, the town of Picton is the main gateway to the scenic Marlborough Sounds and a major transport hub connecting South Island roads with the ferries across Cook Strait to Wellington (New Zealand’s capital) and the North Island.

Built around a sheltered, picturesque harbour, this charming town boasts a rich historic heritage and a beautiful seafront that is home to numerous restaurants, cafes and shops. From there, you can explore the natural beauties of the Marlborough Region, its incredible wildlife, wines, museums and art galleries in Picton and the nearby cities.

In this article, I share with you insider information on:

  • Port Picton (Picton cruise terminal, getting around the port)
  • 8 best things to do in port Picton, shore excursions, destination highlights

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Explore the ports of New Zealand: Milford Sound, Dunedin, AkaroaAuckland, Wellington, Tauranga, Napier, Bay of Islands

Port Picton Info

Cruise ships dock at Waitohi Wharf, located about 0.5 miles from the town center of Picton. It is not allowed to walk on the pier and there are complimentary shuttle buses provided by port authorities to transfer the cruise passengers to Picton downtown and back.

See Picton port on Google maps

There may be one shuttle bus available for full-time wheelchair users (with a ramp provided), however, you should check this out with your cruise line/in the cruise planner.

The harbor is easily accessible for guests with walking difficulties and using a device.

At the shuttle drop-off point near Picton Marina, you will receive a free local map and you will find numerous independent vendors running kayaking trips, cruising activities like dolphin watching, fishing or mountain biking.

High Street is one of the town’s main streets where you can find souvenir shops, eateries, a supermarket, and a public library. The library offers free wi-fi.

Picton downtown
Picton downtown. Photo courtesy of Roxana Popescu.

Useful tips:

  • There are facilities available for an extra fee (cash only) right next to the shuttle bus stop.
  • The water taxi is available downtown.
  • The currency in New Zealand is New Zealand Dollar (NZD). 1 US dollar equals 1.44 NZD. It is recommended to have local currency or credit cards. See the currency converter

Suggested article: What to Pack for a Cruise – Top 50 Cruise Essentials 

Hotels in Picton

Search the best hotels in Picton on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Tripadvisor, Expedia, Agoda

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8 Best Things to Do in Port Picton

Before I share with you the best things to do in the port of Picton, I invite you to sign up below and get my exclusive, insider Shore Excursion Guide for FREE!

1. Edwin Fox Museum

Dating from 1853, Edwin Fox Maritime Museum showcases a variety of unique objects, exhibits and artifacts where you can learn about New Zealand’s fascinating maritime history!

Its most significant treasure is Edwin Fox, the world’s second-oldest surviving merchant ship and the last surviving ship that took convicts to Australia and brought immigrants to New Zealand. In this incredible museum, you can visit the dry dock, descend into the ship’s hull, learn stories about the convicts and passengers, watch the documentary and visit Edwin Fox 100-year-old Marlborough clinker dingy.

You will see the ship relics, ship replicas, and there is also an aquarium that is part of the museum and features an interesting collection of relics recalling the whaling era.

Feel the thrill as you walk around the ship and make sure you bring a camera as you’ll get fantastic photo opportunities!

Useful tips:

  • The museum is located within a short walking distance from the shuttle bus drop-off point.
  • Allow at least 1 hour to visit the museum. The visit involves handling up to 80 steps and extended periods of standing.
  • Closed-toe shoes are recommended.
  • Edwin Fox Museum is NOT wheelchair accessible.
  • Bring some local currency or a credit card.
  • The admission fee is NZD $15 per adult and  NZD $5 per child (although there are promotions and currently kids under 14 can go for free).
  • Get more information on https://www.edwinfoxship.nz/

2. Karaka Point Historic Reserve

Karaka Point (Te Rea o Karaka) is a historic site situated 9 km/5.6 miles (a 15-minute drive) northeast of Picton cruise port offering unique views of the Port Underwood area and the iconic Queen Charlotte Sound (Tōtaranui).

Karaka Point was once a fortified pā where early Māori strategically settled to look out for potential invaders. Nowadays, you can take a walk along a trail leading you to the Maori historic sites, see the holes where they used to live and learn about important events that took place here in the 19th century.

From Karaka Point Car Park you can get beautiful views of the Queen Charlotte Sound, and if you continue walking along the track through the forest you’ll come across a small beach where you can have a relaxing picnic.

Karaka Point, Picton, New Zealand
Karaka Point. Image by Laura Filbee.

Useful tips:

  • If you love history, this is a must-see location.
  • Traveling time from the dock to Karaka Point is 10-15 minutes.
  • Closed-toe shoes and a wind jacket are suggested.
  • The site is only partially wheelchair accessible.

Suggested article: 25 Top Shore Excursion Packing List Items

See Karaka Point reviews and tours

3. Marlborough Wine Region

Also called the “country of wine”, the Marlborough wine region is the center of New Zealand’s wine industry known for its renowned Sauvignon Blanc wines recognized worldwide.

Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest grape growing and wine region and therefore is home to about 70 wineries. The vineyards are set among rolling hills all the way to the Marlborough Sounds, a series of sunken river valleys known for gorgeous views and a lot of activities offered.

Popular varieties are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and you can sample these on numerous wine tasting tours offered by both the cruise lines and independent tour operators.

Marlborough wine region New Zealand
Marlborough wine region. Source: Pixabay.com

Some of the must-see Marlborough highlights located in the Awetere Valley (near Seddon town) are Barewood Garden Farm, very famous for sheep-herding demonstration accompanied by local wine and cheese pairing; Yealands Estate Winery with over 1000 hectares of prime viticultural land; and Makana Boutique Chocolate Factory for delicious, hand-made chocolate in the town of Blenheim.

Useful tips:

  • Traveling time from port Picton to the Marlborough region is between 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Bring local currency/a credit card.
  • Check with your cruise ship the maximum number of bottles permitted to bring back onboard in case you purchase alcohol.
  • The minimum legal age to consume alcohol in New Zealand is 18 years old.
  • Closed-toe shoes are recommended.
  • Spy Valley Winery has a variety of olive oil tastings.

Check out Marlborough region tours and activities on Viator and Tripadvisor

4. Blenheim Town

Blenheim town is the most populous town in the Marlborough region named after the Battle of Blenheim (1704), where troops led by John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, defeated French and Bavarian troops.

The town is located within a short distance from the region’s world-famous wineries of the Wairau Valley, which makes it an excellent stop for all visitors exploring the wine country.

Once in Blenheim, make sure you visit Seymour Square – the main square of the town, with its War Memorial and Clock Tower dating from 1928. Head over to the Marlborough Museum set in a beautiful Brayshaw Heritage Park if you want to learn about the regional pottery, wines and archaeological findings.

Seymour Square Blenheim, New Zealand
Seymour Square. Source: Creative Commons

History buffs should definitely visit the Omaka Aviation Heritage Center, while the fans of outdoor activities should head to Pollard Park, a beautiful botanical garden, playground, golf course and exercise trail. The town is packed with shops, cafes and restaurants and has a lot of options to offer for everyone!

Useful tips:

  • Blenheim is located 29 km/18 miles south of Picton port. The traveling time is 25 minutes.
  • If you are looking for high-quality shopping in New Zealand, Blenheim is the perfect place as it offers a great variety of boutique shops and unique retail shops that you can’t find elsewhere.

Check out Blenheim tours and activities on Viator and Tripadvisor

5. Queen Charlotte Sound / Tōtaranui

Queen Charlotte Sound / Tōtaranui is the easternmost of the Marlborough Sounds boasting stunning coastline, lush vegetation, island sanctuaries, unspoiled bays and rich wildlife.

There are numerous ways you can explore this gorgeous piece of paradise: by cruising, hiking, walking, cycling, kayaking, and so much more!

The most famous activity is an amazing hike on Queen Charlotte Track, a 73.5 km /45-mile-long trail system that travels from historic Ship Cove to the Anakiwa area. During this incredible journey, you’ll discover secluded bays and coves, spectacular coastal views, breathtaking landscapes, and the Marlborough region’s unique fauna and native bush.

Queen Charlotte Sound landscape, New Zealand
Queen Charlotte Sound. Image by Laura Filbee.

Useful tips:

  • Peninsula Loop Track at the Mistletoe Bay offers beautiful coastal views and is usually offered to cruisers (moderate activity level hike, closed-toe shoes are mandatory, rain/wind jacket suggested).
  • If you decide to do your own thing, keep in mind that some parts of the track may be closed. Find more information on Queen Charlotte Track official webpage

Explore Queen Charlotte Sound tours and activities

6. Lochmara Wildlife and Underwater Observatory

Standing on the hill surrounded by lush vegetation, Lochmara Lodge overlooks beautiful Lochmara Bay located in the Marlborough Sounds.

This 4-star Lodge offers exclusive accommodation, a cafe/restaurant, access to a lovely small beach, beach amenities, free wi-fi, and a wide variety of activities you can sign up for.

Guests at Lochmara Lodge receive free access to the on-site Wildlife Recovery and Arts Center featuring various recovery programs, exhibitions, and a Marine Research and Educational center where you can learn about the marine life of this part of New Zealand.

There is also an Underwater Observatory where you can see New Zealand’s smaller sea creatures in their natural habitat without getting wet.

Useful tips:

  • Traveling time from the town of Picton to Lockmara is approximately 20 to 30 minutes by boat/water taxi (otherwise is a 1-hour drive by road).
  • Walking shoes are recommended.
  • Get more information on https://www.lochmara.co.nz/

7. Havelock Marina

Havelock is a small town in the Marlborough region located 36 km/22 miles (a 45-minute drive) west of Picton. Known as Greenshell Mussel Capital of the world, Havelock is the main gateway to Pelorus and Kenepuru Sounds, two of the Marlborough Sounds.

It is a popular tourist hub where you’ll find a wide range of hotels, art and crafts galleries, shops, cafes, restaurants, and a beautiful marina.

Havelock Marina, Marlborough region, NZ
Havelock marina. Source: Creative Commons

Havelock Marina is the perfect place to sample freshly steamed Greenshell mussels and learn about the area’s mussel industry and decades-old harvesting techniques.

One of the must-do things is the Greenshell Mussel cruise where you get to cruise along the fjord and try fresh mussels paired with a glass of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Some tours include a visit to a mussel farm and all of them offer stunning views and a one-of-a-lifetime experience!

Useful tips:

Havelock is located 45 minutes’ drive from Picton, 30 minutes by road from Blenheim, and one hour from Nelson.

Find more information on Havelock on https://havelocknz.com/

Explore Havelock tours and activities

8. Omaka Aviation Heritage Center

Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre is a fabulous aviation museum located at the Omaka Air Field in the town of Blenheim. With the help of Peter Jackson who created quality exhibits to show the atrocities of war, Omaka aviation center has become one of the world’s leading aviation history museums known worldwide.

The museum features permanent exhibitions on WWI and WW2 aircraft and memorabilia and takes you on an unforgettable journey through time. The visit takes around 2 hours, and (time-permitting) you can also visit the Omaka Classic Car museum situated next door.

Useful tips:

  • Traveling time from Picton cruise port to Omaka Aviation Heritage Center is approximately 30 minutes.
  • Closed-toe shoes are suggested.
  • Bring local currency/a credit card.
  • Find more information on prices and opening times on https://www.omaka.org.nz/

Check out Omaka Aviation Heritage Center tours and activities

Wrapping Up

If you are planning your cruise to New Zealand and the itinerary includes the port of Picton, make sure you plan your day ahead so you can get the most of this wonderful port of call!

Read more about the ports of New Zealand: Milford Sound, Dunedin, Akaroa, Auckland, Napier, Wellington, Tauranga, Bay of Islands


8 Best Things to Do in Port Picton:
  1. Edwin Fox Museum
  2. Karaka Point Historic Reserve
  3. Marlborough Wine Region
  4. Blenheim Town
  5. Queen Charlotte Sound
  6. Lochmara Wildlife and Underwater Observatory
  7. Havelock Marina
  8. Omaka Aviation Heritage Center
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This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see my disclaimer here.

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