New Zealand Cities: Picton New ZealandNew Zealand . Travel . Worldwide Travel
New Zealand Cities: Recommendations for Your South Island New Zealand Itinerary
New Zealand Cities: Picton New Zealand. We set aside day seven of our 14-Day New Zealand Itinerary for the scenic drive through Nelson wine country to Picton and the ferry docks and the ferry ride to Wellington. There is a lot to do along the Northernmost stretch of the South Island, and you could easily add an extra night or two in wine country at a VRBO or other local accommodations. Blenheim and Nelson and the region are rapidly developing the region’s vineyards, and the growth is obvious; new vineyards connect the more established estates all along route 6, almost until the hills leading into Picton.
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After an epic adventure along the Abel Tasman Coast Track, you may want to stay the night in Takaka, Pohara, or even back in Motueka. There are backpackers accommodations near the Waiuta trailhead and on the way back to Pohara Beach, where you’ll find the Top 10 Park and a few other options nearby. Takaka has more accommodations, but we decided to drive back over the pass through Upper Takaka on Highway 60 back to Motueka. We stayed the night at the Top 10 Motueka (The Top 10 site gets it right: “Motueka – Gateway to Abel Tasman National Park”). After a backpacking trip, it’s always nice to have a place to clean up, clean out the gear, and re-organize a bit before the next leg of the trip. Both Pohara Beach and the Motueka Top 10 parks have a variety of accommodations, from tent sites to rooms with ensuite accommodations.
This area is also a great region for cycling; our friend Andrea (we met years ago as students in Dunedin; she now works for a government agency in Wellington) frequently rides the ferry to Picton from Wellington to bike the hills around Picton, Waikawa, and Anakiwa. There are plenty of activities in and around Picton, including a gorgeous waterfront park and museum, the nearby EcoWorld Aquarium & Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, and a thriving touristy downtown core with shops, restaurants, and grocery stores. The two primary ferry terminals are located in Picton, and both are reasonably close to the center of town.
The two ferry companies offer comparable rates and inter-island accommodations. If you are taking the early morning or late night routes, for an additional NZ$40 or so you can reserve a private cabin with one or more beds (complete with linens and a private bathroom). We highly recommend this if you have to travel during the early morning or late night hours. Otherwise, there is plenty to do and see (and eat and drink) on the various indoor and outdoor decks of the ships.
New Zealand Cities: Picton New Zealand
For our road trip through New Zealand cities and countryside, we have the benefit of flexible accommodations; if all else fails, we have our tent and camping gear, so we’re not worried that we won’t find places to stay if we haven’t booked far enough in advance.
With that in mind, we didn’t pre-book our ferry rides to and from Wellington, in part because we didn’t know exactly how long it would take us to drive to Picton from Queenstown, and we wanted to have a more flexible schedule along the way. When we got to Picton, we visited both ferry terminals to check on routes and prices; with the various seasonal sales, the round-trip tickets were roughly the same price, so we picked the late afternoon Interislander because of the departure time and arrival in Wellington a little after dinner time. That left us with several hours to play before loading up, so we headed down to the waterfront park and restaurants.
After a delicious lunch overlooking the harbor, we wandered down past palm trees and the city’s museum toward the sandy waterfront beach. The girls found a beach volleyball and splashed in the shallow water before stumbling upon a large wooden pirate ship playground, complete with planks and a mast and ropes to swing on.
Picton New Zealand’s EcoWorld Aquarium and Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre
Picton’s EcoWorld Aquarium and Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is home to a wide variety of reptiles, fish, mammals, and other assorted creatures. It’s right next to the waterfront park, between the shore and the interislander ferry terminal. We wandered through the exhibits, watching stingrays and fish circle giant glass tanks. Iguanas crawled through their bark-lined habitat, bobbing their heads up and down as we passed. My favorite had to be the rat hammocks; I’ve never seen such comfortable, relaxing digs for rodents.
The Aquarium and Rehab Centre are small, but staff offer great educational programs, hands-on exhibits, and informative panels with great local and regional history and information about biodiversity, flora, and fauna in the Marlborough Sounds. The Aquarium’s EcoWorld Trust supports educational outreach in the area and species conservation and relocation. The entrance cost is worth the visit and the projects the fees support.
“EcoWorld’s knowledgeable staff strive to give you outstanding, intimate experiences. We help you discover, have fun, sharing with you some of New Zealand’s amazing native animals that live in our beautiful Marlborough Sounds.– EcoWorld Aquarium and Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre
EcoWorld Picton Aquarium is home to many different fish species from the Marlborough Sounds, as well as Little Blue penguins, Mystical Seahorse, Ancient Tuatara, Giant Weta, Lizards, Turtles and Kakariki.”
New Zealand Cities: Take the Interislander Ferry from Picton to Wellington
New Zealand Cities: Picton New Zealand. The three-hour tour by boat from Picton to Wellington is really divided into three distinct segments: (1) the sounds, (2) the open water across Cook Strait, and (3) coming around and into Wellington Harbour. Each part of the journey has its own unique landscape and views; our favorite was the mouth of the sounds leading out into open water across the strait. Jagged rocks and small islands extend out away from shore before the Tasman Sea opens up between the North and South Islands. Despite horror stories from friends who have taken the ferry in rough, stormy weather, we experienced calm water and smooth sailing across to the North Island. There is plenty of time to explore the upper, outside decks, with spectacular views in every direction. And if you forgot to bring a snack, there are plenty of food and beverage options aboard the ferry.
Back to Picton New Zealand: Another Sunny Day in Paradise
We spent a second night in Wellington before riding the Interislander back to Picton on the 9 am route. Ben went for another run along the harbour, just before an organized race. Runners began to gather on the waterfront for various distances; had we planned more time in Wellington, it would have been fun to participate. Nevertheless, we made our way back to the docks and loaded up for the ride across Cook Strait on the oversized water taxi that cuts through the water no fewer than four times a day, each way. The full breakfast options and flat whites were just what we needed, especially a little protein after a run along the shore. The girls settled in and read a bit before wandering around the outer decks to watch the hills roll by.
When we arrived in Picton, the sun shone even brighter than when we were last playing at the waterfront park. Nyah discovered a stranded blue starfish in the sand, pummeled relentlessly by the waves. After a brief inspection, she dutifully relocated it among the protected rocky pools off to one side of the beach. The starfish didn’t show many signs of life, but we were hopeful that the tide pools would give it a chance to recuperate.
We stretched our legs and headed South, past Blenheim toward Christchurch, along coastal route 1. Major storms and landslides closed this section of road for more than a year, and the re-construction has created not only a newly-reinforced roadway, but ample walking and biking lanes, as well. (There isn’t a more scenic, winding stretch of highway if you are traveling the South Island on motorcycle or road bike). We arrived at the Christchurch Top 10 Superior Meadow Park Holiday Park around dinner time, after several beach stops along Highway 1. After setting up camp, we visited Tutto Bene, a highly-recommended Italian restaurant a short drive from our accommodations for the night. The food, wine, and service were excellent, and the narrow historic building opens up to a warm, welcoming seating area in the back and a large patio area with lush vegetation surrounding the outdoor eating area. The downtown core has plenty of trendy restaurants, but Tutto Bene was a great find a little further out.