Is your cruise ship stopping in Picton? This Picton Cruise Port Guide for Cruise Ship Passengers provides essential information and recommendations on what to do while in port.

Picton connects the south island to the north island with ferry crossings across the Cook Strait to Wellington. It’s the second-largest town in the Marlborough Region behind Blenheim, with a population of 4,730 (as of June 2020).

The Māori name for the town, Waitohi, translates as “waters of the tohi ritual”, a baptismal ritual of warriors before they went into battle. The Te Atiawa o Te Waka-a-Māui iwi occupied Waitohi Pā (Māori village) on the site of the present town.

Sir George Grey and Sir Francis Dillon purchased the land in 1850 from Te Āti Awa, who moved to Waikawa Bay. In 1859, the Marlborough province was established, and the newly named Picton became the provincial capital which moved to Blenheim in 1865.

Picton is named after Sir Thomas Picton, who was killed in the Battle of Waterloo. However, due to his treatment of slaves and the authorisation of torture while Governor of Trinidad, there have been calls to rethink the name ‘Picton’ prompted by Black Lives Matter protests worldwide.


Where is Picton?

Picton is located in the northern part of South Island in New Zealand. It is part of the Marlborough region, which includes the stunning Marlborough Sounds.


Where do cruise ships dock in Picton?

Cruise Ships either berth at Waimahara Wharf in Shakespeare Bay or Waitohi Wharf close to the town, depending on their size. Waimahara Wharf is mostly used for log exports and as a berth for large cruise ships, so you cannot walk around the port. Therefore, Port Authorities arrange a complimentary shuttle bus into town.

Our cruise ship, Celebrity Solstice, docked at Waimahara Wharf and took five minutes by bus to the I-Site Visitor Information Centre.

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Celebrity Solstice docking in Picton. Picton Guide for cruise ship passengers
Celebrity Solstice docking in Picton



Things To Do from Picton Cruise Port

 Marlborough Wine Region

There are several options to visit the Marlborough Wine Region from Picton Cruise Port, depending on your preference and budget.

Marlborough Hop On Hop Off Wine Tour

The Hop On Hop Off Wine Tour lets you discover the wonders of Marlborough in your own time. You can plan your day by following the bus timetable on your self-guided tour. You may need to pay for tastings at the various venues.

If you’re not a drinker, there is still plenty to see with a range of activities like museums, bike tours, chocolate shop, and delicious food to be sampled.

See the bus stops here.

Picton Shore Excursion Marlborough Wine Region Small-Group Tour

This Picton shore excursion visits at least six boutique wineries. You will travel by minivan from Picton Cruise Port through this beautiful wine region in the South Island, sipping award-winning New Zealand wines and sampling delicious chocolates at Makana Boutique Chocolate Factory. You can opt to buy a gourmet lunch on this small-group tour, which is limited to 11 people.

Find out more here.

Private Marlborough Winery Tour

The tour’s winemaker will tailor a Marlborough wine tour especially for you or your group’s needs. You decide what time to start and finish the tour and get behind the scenes for a private tasting. They can focus on boutique, organic wineries, breweries, fine wine, and food; anything is possible with this private tour. If you have children under the age of 12, the tour can visit wineries more suited to young families.

Book here.

Wings of Omaka and Marlborough Wine Tour

Combine a tour of Marlborough wine country with a visit to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Museum in a small group of 12 passengers or fewer. This half-day shore excursion from Picton Cruise Port includes wine tasting, entrance fees, and round-trip transportation. The Omaka Aviation Heritage Museum is home to a standout collection of WWI and WWII fighter planes and some early flying machines. It is a must-see for an aviation enthusiast.

Read reviews here.

lunch with glass of white wine in a vineyard

Water and Wilderness Scenic Flight Tour

The Water and Wilderness Scenic Flight Tour is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the spectacular Marlborough Sounds from the air. See the Queen Charlotte, Kenepuru, and Pelorus Sounds from above and land on a remote beach. The tour will have a maximum of 6 travelers.

See photos here.

Marlborough Sounds

Queen Charlotte Sound Mail Boat Cruise

On this popular tour, you visit the remote communities of Queen Charlotte Sound aboard a working mail boat. This scenic four-hour boat cruise departs Picton in the afternoon and makes New Zealand Post rural delivery service along different routes each day of the week. The boat captain shares regional history and stories of these isolated hamlets while you enjoy complimentary tea and coffee onboard. From the 1st October to 30th April, you get to disembark for a 15-minute stop at Ship Cove, a favourite anchorage of Captain Cook and the site of early contact between Maoris and Europeans.

This cruise books up fast, so check availability here.

Half day Sea Kayak Guided Tour from Picton

Half-day tour of the western end of Queen Charlotte Sound on a kayak adventure from Picton. Follow an expert guide from the waterfront to sheltered coves and remote beaches as you search for eagle rays, cormorants, little blue penguins, New Zealand fur seals, and dolphins. Learn about the area’s natural history from an expert guide and, as numbers are limited, you will receive personalised attention. There’s the choice of morning or afternoon tours.

Read more here.

E-Ko New Zealand Wildlife and Dolphin Tours

E-Ko New Zealand runs various tours from Picton, but the times of your cruise ship arrival and departure will depend on what ones you can do.

The Half-Day Dolphin Viewing Eco-Tour is a 4-hour cruise run by certified Department of Conservation operators, allowing you to interact with dusky, bottlenose, and orca dolphins in a safe, fun, and eco-friendly way.

This 4-hour Wildlife Motuara Sanctuary Tour and Dolphin Tour cruises the Queen Charlotte Sound and allows you to walk on Motuara Island, where a predator-free landscape allows for plentiful birdlife. Listen to commentary from enthusiastic marine biologists as you try to spot several species of marine mammals, such as Hector’s, bottlenose, and dusky dolphins, along with New Zealand fur seals.

The Marlborough Sounds Ultimate Cruise offers an amazing, fully-guided experience. This small-group tour allows you to view some of New Zealand’s most spectacular scenery and wildlife. You will visit Motuara Island and cruise the calm waters of the majestic Queen Charlotte Sound led by enthusiastic and fun guides.

stunning tranquil sounds with mountains in the background

We use Viator due to its free cancellation policy and lowest price guarantee. Check timings to ensure you can make any of these tours mentioned.

Queen Charlotte Drive

If you want to do your own thing, hire a vehicle from one of the car rental companies in Picton. We use Europcar, but there are plenty to choose from.

After collecting your hire car, head north on Queen Charlotte Drive towards Havelock. The panorama is amazing and there are plenty of bays to pull over to capture the views, like the one below. It is regarded as one of the most scenic drives in the world.

It’s 40km of winding roads, so care needs to be taken when driving, but it’s an easy and stunning drive.

view from Queen Charlotte Drive Picton
Views from Queen Charlotte Drive

Groves Arm Jetty

Groves Arm Jetty is a lovely place to stop so you can take a break from driving and take in the astounding view.

The road then crosses Linkland, which is 5km of land between the head of Pelorus Sound and the head of Queen Charlotte Sound. It’s a straight part of the drive before starting the twists and turns of the final journey.

Groves Arm Jetty view Queen Charlotte Drive
Groves Arm Jetty

Cullen Point Lookout

Cullen Point Lookout is 5.5 km along Queen Charlotte Drive from Havelock. There’s a car park and toilets, and it’s a 10-minute walk to the lookout, which provides views of Mahau Sound and Kaituna and Pelorus estuaries.

This drive ends in the town of Havelock.

Cullen Point Look Out Marlborough Sounds
Cullen Point Lookout Marlborough Sounds – see the Mail Boat Cruise

Blenheim

You can head back south to Blenheim, a town in the heart of the Marlborough region. There are plenty of shops and cafes, or you can relax in Seymour Square. This beautiful park has a clock tower to commemorate those killed in the Great War (World War I). It also has a gorgeous World War II Memorial Fountain, which E. Hubbard designed. The garden beds are spectacular, and the park is used for the annual garden fête that takes place during Garden Marlborough.

World War II Memorial Fountain Seymour Square Blenheim
World War II Memorial Fountain Seymour Square Blenheim

Picton

Picton is a pretty seaside town with plenty of options for sampling the delicious seafood this region has to offer. There are numerous walks to take which provide marvellous views of the area.

Picton Town
Picton town

The town park, Picton Memorial Park, gets very busy, with a mixture of locals and tourists enjoying the weather and all that the park offers.

Picton memorial Park
Picton Memorial Park

Coathanger Bridge, near Picton Marina, connects the town to Shelley Beach and Bob’s Bay. Shelley Beach is only a 10-minute walk from the foreshore.

Picton Marina
Picton Marina

Marlborough Flyer

When your ship pulls into port, board the Marlborough Flyer, a historic World War I Memorial Locomotive (Passchendaele (1915). You will see two towns in one day on this restored heritage steam train as you follow your guide on a scenic rail journey between Picton and Blenheim. You’ll have free time to explore Marlborough attractions—or sample regional wine—at your leisure.

Weather in the Marlborough region

December to March has the best weather, with temperatures ranging from 20 to 25 degrees Celsius. The warmest month is February, while July is the coldest, with maximum temperatures around 12 C. The Marlborough region is said to have the best climate in New Zealand.

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The Best Picton Cruise Port Guide for Cruise Ship Passengers

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9 Comments

  1. It’s a real beautiful area. The Queen Charlotte drive would be something else I’m sure. I see you are after my own heart, in grabbing a rental car to see it. Did you get to go to the Marlborough wine region. I’m tired of the Sauvignon but the Pinot Noirs from there are one of my favourites. Delicious.

    1. Yes, we try and grab rental cars instead of joining tours. I think it’s because I hate being told what to do and where to go and at what time haha

      We decided against visiting the Malborough region mainly because we had our daughters with us and didn’t think they would enjoy it too much. We are lucky enough to have a lot of excellent wineries close to us that we visit for tastings and New Zealand wine is pretty accessible for us. I’m also tired of the SB but like a nice Pinot too.

      1. That’s the exact same reason why I like a rental car. And I fully understand not taking the girls to Marlborough. Maybe in a decade.

  2. travelingness says:

    Wonderful post Wendy! That scenic drive looks absolutely gorgeous. Oh and I would definitely enjoy the wine tours! 🙂

    1. The drive was amazing Vanessa. We love visiting wineries too but knew our girls would be bored and we are lucky enough to have a lot of New Zealand wine available in Australia 🙂

  3. Looks fantastic, it was nice and sunny for you, was there free internet in town?

    1. We managed to get free wifi by the Information Centre, while waiting for the return bus. There were a few crew there too which is always a sign of free wifi 🙂

    1. I would loved to have hiked part of it if we had more time

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