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Picton is a small town in the northern part of New Zealand’s South Island where ferries from Wellington in the North Island dock. The town may just be a short stopover destination on your cross country trip, but if you look around, you will find that many of the country’s charms can be found in this small harbour town. Located within Queen Charlotte Sound, Picton is the gateway to the scenic Marlborough Region. Needless to say, driving around these parts is a travel experience in itself.
Who to Book With
Most of the car hire agencies in Picton can be found, unsurprisingly, at the Ferry Terminal. Companies represented here include Avis, Hertz, National, Alamo, Europcar, Budget, Thrifty, Ace and Auto Europe. Those interested in renting a car here should go online first to check for the latest in deals and prices. Renting a car when you arrive is more costly than booking ahead of time.
Best Time to Go
New Zealand is located south of the equator and therefore experiences seasons in reverse. The climate is temperate in Picton, with both summer and winter remaining relatively mild. Most of the rainfall occurs in winter, so a visit in the months of January or February is perfect.
Need to Know Essentials
When collecting your car rental, make sure you have the following:
- UK licence or International Driving Permit
- ID to confirm age (at least 25 years in some places)
- Credit card
- Rental confirmation
Driving to and from Picton, or the town’s ferry terminal for that matter, is easy because New Zealand’s Highway 1 begins here. The road runs down the coast towards Blenheim, just a few minutes away, and all the way to Christchurch, 4.5 hours away. Driving in the Marlborough Region is relatively pleasant and stress-free, and there are plenty of opportunities to make stops and take photos of the spectacular scenery around you.
Picton is a small town easily explored by walking. Public transport only comes in the form of taxi cabs and water taxis. The trains and bus that come here run to destinations outside of town. The coastal train service is a scenic rail journey heading along the Kaikoura Coast from Picton to Christchurch. Buses are the option for those heading inland away from the coastal areas.
There is no rail service in Picton other than the coastal line which runs to and from Christchurch. The service is operated by Tranz Scenic, and the journey offers superb scenery and is a great way to see the Kaikoura Coast. Trains bound for Christchurch depart Picton at 13:00, with a one-way ticket costing around £55.
Taxis are the most recommended option for those who want to navigate the small town of Picton without having to walk. At the harbour, water taxis are available for those that want to explore Queen Charlotte Sound. There are also several car companies that can be hired over the phone.
Buses do not go around Picton itself but run to other towns in the area as well as to major cities and national parks on the South Island. Three of the companies here are InterCity Coachlines, Atomic Travel and Nelson Lakes Shuttles. Destinations include Christchurch, Nelson, St Arnaud, Fox Glacier, Kahurangi National Park and Nelson Lakes National Park.
Driving around in New Zealand is often described as a feast for the eyes, as drivers are usually tempted to pull the car over and get off to take an insane amount of photos. Marlborough County, where Picton is found, is home to some spectacular bays, cliffs and valleys. It would be a real shame not experience the beautiful drives this region has to offer.
Nelson - This is a significant settlement in New Zealand’s South Island being the commercial and cultural centre of the region of the same name. It is found west of Picton, and the drive here is something of an experience in itself, as the road, Queen Charlotte Drive, hugs the head of the Queen Charlotte Sound, providing some spectacular views.
Wairau Valley - This is another scenic drive that can be enjoyed in Marlborough County. Highway 63 runs along the length of this valley from Blenheim, south of Picton, taking you alongside the scenic Alpine-Wairau Fault.
The Marlborough - These sounds are composed of two sounds: Queen Charlotte, with Picton as base, and Pelorus, with Havelock as base. Both sounds can be explored by driving along the roads that snake through the coast. Pelorus Sound, best seen via Kenepuru Road, is particularly gorgeous.