Car Rental Picton Ferry Terminal
So you’ve just stepped off the Interislander after an amazing journey across Cook Strait. The passage from New Zealand’s capital Wellington to the Picton Ferry Terminal on the South Island, is famed as one of the most spectacular ferry rides in the world. While the trip may have taken just 3.5-hours, you’re bound to store those memories of sailing through the Marlborough Sounds for a lifetime. Now that you’ve docked in the calm, sheltered waters of Picton harbour, this is where the real adventure begins!
Pick up your hire car and be prepared to see the best of the port town of Picton. Plus, of course, more of the magnificent Marlborough Sounds and the surrounding region. There are sanctuary islands where you can get close to native New Zealand wildlife. Sweeping sandy beaches to set up camp around Cloudy Bay. World-class wineries, pumping out three-quarters of New Zealand’s top drop. And pretty towns like Blenheim – the largest in the Marlborough region, and the heart of wine-producing country – just 20-minutes away.
Further afield, you’ll have some choices to make: the South Island is loaded with a variety of treasures, and the driving between attractions is a pleasure in itself. Sunny Nelson is a buzzy place for a daytrip or longer, with its mix of beaches, nature and culture. Less than two hours to the west, you’ll enjoy its creative, coastal vibe. For something a little rawer, head to Mount Richmond Forest Park, the second largest of its kind in New Zealand. Dense, untouched native forests flourish here, and the summits are quite a challenge – perfect for the keen hiker. But the solitude and epic views are your great reward.
An hour away, Pelorus Bridge is a little more lush, with the caché of being one of the filming locations for The Hobbit. Get out your own camera – the river, waterfall, bushland and rockpool are superb for holiday snaps. Whatever way you prefer the outdoors – mountainous and forested, or kayaking on the water – there’s something for every nature lover on a trip to Picton. Whether you’re after a self-guided Kiwi vacation, or touring with the experts, your getaway begins in a scenic seaside town that is much more than just a gateway.
The pretty town of Picton is a cinch to discover in your hire car
Picton could rightly be described as picturesque and makes a pretty lovely first impression. The colourful waterfront is wall-to-wall galleries, craft shops, outdoor cafes and restaurants, with yachts dotting the marina. Eat the fresh catch from nearby Queen Charlotte Sounds. Relax and recharge after your ferry ride. Then start the excursions where you are. Pop into the eco aquarium and floating maritime museum at the port: the ninth-oldest ship in the world, the Edwin Fox, is berthed right here in the harbour waters.
If you’re curious about New Zealand’s wildlife, then there’s no better introduction to unique native species than Motuara Island. Located at the entrance to Charlotte Sounds, this birdlife haven is 32 kilometres from Picton. Meet kiwi, tuatara and giant wētā in their habitat. The fastest route is by water taxi; or take a scenic cruise past bays, islands and coves; or better yet, arrive on your own steam by sea kayak. From the landing jetty, follow the Motuara Lookout Track that ends with stunning views of the Sounds. Put it all together with a dolphin and whale watching cruise that takes in a one-hour nature walk at Motuara Island. Learn from conservation experts on board and see some fur seals too.
The Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary is even closer to Picton and requires another trip by kayak or a 10-minute water taxi ride. An abundance of native fauna and birds awaits you here, all protected by a predator-proof fence. There’s a floating pontoon in Dolphin Bay. From here walk the circuit track – a two-hour round trip. A half-day here couldn’t be better spent.
Marlborough Sounds and more – explore with the ease of a hire car
Picton makes the ideal base to explore the jaw-dropping surrounds of Marlborough Sounds. Especially made for water lovers, the area covers 1,500 km of diverse coastline and 50 nature reserves over Queen Charlotte, Kenepuru and Pelorus Sounds. Discover islands, beaches and bays, sheltered coves and inlets. Meet huge starfish and stingrays, get familiar with all sorts of sea birds. Plus, many more marine life encounters will turn up on your sight-seeing agenda.
Queen Charlotte Sounds encourages you to connect with your adventurous side: scuba diving, mountain biking, tons of hiking, cruising or kayaking. Book tours with wilderness guides – there are loads of friendly, knowledgeable folk who come with that built-in Kiwi charm. Otherwise, discover things on your own time. The multi-day Queen Charlotte Track walk will leave you breathless with its vistas, particularly from Eatwells Lookout. A shorter half-day hike will get you to the top of Mount Stokes on Kenepuru Head. Expect lush forests and sub-alpine surroundings on this peninsula.
To end your stay around Picton, set off for a busy day in Blenheim. Keen foodies and wine lovers flock here. Tour this renowned grape-growing region with your designated driver at the wheel. Go upmarket and have a long lunch at one of the award-winning vineyards. For a cheaper meal, enjoy a classic serve of chips and the freshest fish in the area. Or grab some great local produce at the Farmers’ Market for your picnic. Walk it off along the Taylor River Reserve and make the most of the sunshine. Blenheim has more sunny days than any other spot in New Zealand. You’d have to agree that choosing Picton as your holiday destination was a fine idea indeed!