Picton Marina, Picton, New Zealand

The Top 10 Best Free Things to Do in Picton, New Zealand

Last Updated: 17th July, 2023

Picton is a beautiful coastal town located in the Marlborough region of the South Island, and is one of my favourite places in New Zealand! Situated at the head of the Queen Charlotte Sound, it is a fantastic place to stay while exploring the area. There are many awesome free things to do in Picton, so you can happily make the most of your travels on a budget! Here I’ve put together a list of our favourite activities to do for free while we are here, enjoy! 🙂

In this article I cover the best free things to do in Picton while you’re in the area! If you fancy checking out a few more – including fun tours and adventures that you can do – check out my post of the Best Things to Do in Picton here! 🙂

10 Best Free Things to do in Picton!

1. Explore sections of the Queen Charlotte Track

The Queen Charlotte Track is a world-renowned hiking and biking trail located in the picturesque Marlborough Sounds of New Zealand’s South Island. Stretching for approximately 70 kilometers, the track offers an unforgettable outdoor adventure through stunning coastal landscapes, native forests, and secluded bays.

View from Queen CHarlotte Track in Picton, New Zealand

The Queen Charlotte Track is usually completed as a multi-day hike, however sections of it can be done for free as a more leisurely day-trip! These walks give you a taste of the beauty of the Queen Charlotte Sound and its incredible scenery without breaking your budget!

Anakiwa to Davies Bay

  • Walk Length: 5.4 km return
  • Walking Time: 1.5 hours return
  • Fitness Required: Great for any fitness level.
  • Track Pass: Not Required
Davies Bay, near Picton, New Zealand

This short walk begins along the foreshore of the stunning Thompson Bay in Anakiwa! From the wharf, the track follows an old bridal path through gorgeous beech forest and dappling fern trees, giving you glimpses of the stunning views across the water. Keep you eyes peeled for a glimpse of native NZ wildlife, with bellbirds and cheeky fantails being common in these forests! As you reach Davies Bay, the track opens up and gives you a stunning view of the shallow bay and the surrounding scenery. This is an awesome place for a picnic and a swim!

Anakiwa to Grove Arm Lookout

  • Walk Length: 12km return
  • Walking Time: 4 hours return
  • Fitness Required: An intermediate hiking track with a few steep sections, suitable for all skill levels
  • Track Pass: Not Required

If you are looking for a slightly longer jaunt into the Queen Charlotte Sounds, you could stretch your walk from Anakiwa all the way to the amazing Grove Arm Lookout! This lookout is a fantastic spot to spot – with 180 degree views over the Queen Charlotte Sound being a perfect photo opportunity! This hike travels on from Davies Bay, and winds steeply up the hill through mature beech forest until you reach the lookout. It’s definitely worth the burning thighs! Refresh and cool down with a cheeky swim at Davies Bay on your return.

Getting there:

These hikes start in the small coastal town of Anakiwa, at the base of the Queen Charlotte Sound. Anakiwa is around 40 minutes drive (24km) from Picton, around the stunning Queen Charlotte Drive! This road is an attraction in itself, with lots of places to stop and take in the incredible scenery! Just be warned, the road is incredibly windy and can be busy, so take your time for the drive.

2. Walk up to the Snout

  • Walk Length: 12 km return
  • Walking Time: 4 hours return
  • Fitness Required: Intermediate level track, well maintained path with a steep hill

Another free (and awesome) thing to do in Picton is to walk one of the most popular trails in the area – Snout Track! This scenic track gets its fantastic name from the unique shape of the headland it travels along, that resembles the snout of an animal jutting into the waters of the Queen Charlotte Sound.

The Snout Track gives you an awesome opportunity to enjoy panoramic views and beautiful landscapes – so remember your camera! Beginning in either Bob’s Bay or Picton Marina, the trail winds its way through native bush and up onto the headland. The highlight of the Snout Track is undoubtedly the breathtaking viewpoints that offer stunning vistas of the Queen Charlotte Sound, Picton Harbor, and the surrounding Marlborough Sounds.

Getting there:

From Picton, getting to the start of the track is easy, no need to drive! From the Marina, cross the pedestrian bridge to the east side of the bay. Follow the road as it curves around the bay, and head you will find the start of the walking track!

Picton, New Zealand

If you fancy a shorter walk, you can park at the carpark in Victoria Domain and join the trail there! From Picton, drive along Waikawa Road, and then turn left onto Victoria Domain Road. You will see the Snout Track Car Park on your right.

3. Ngakuta Bay

One of my favourite bays in the Marlborough Sounds is the stunning Ngakuta Bay! Only a short drive from Picton, Ngakuta Bay is a secluded and tranquil bay with calm turquoise waters, surrounded by lush hills covered in native bush. It looks like something directly from a post card!

Ngakuta Bay, Picton, New Zealand

Ngakuta Bay offers a range of activities for visitors to enjoy! One of the popular pastimes is boating, as the calm waters of the bay provide an excellent spot for sailing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. Exploring the bay by boat allows you to soak in the beauty of the surrounding landscape, discover hidden coves, and perhaps even encounter marine wildlife such as dolphins or seals.

Another awesome activity to do in the bay is to snorkle! The waters are crystal clear, and often you can see fish and huuuuge orange star fish on the white sandy bottom of the bay.

Starfish in Ngakuta Bay, Picton, New Zealand

If you prefer to stay on land, there are a number of small walking tracks that meander through native bush, giving you fantastic views over Grove Arm and the surrounding coastline!

Getting there:

Ngakuta Bay is only a short 20-minute drive from Picton, but it feels like a world away! From Picton, head onto the Queen Charlotte Drive, which winds it’s way around the headland and past a number of small bays before you reach Ngakuta! There is a carpark here right next to the beach!

4. Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary

One of the coolest free things you can do in Picton is visit the incredible Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary! This is a conservation project located on the headland to the left of Picton harbor, and is dedicated to protecting and restoring native New Zealand wildlife.

Bellbird at Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary, Picton, New Zealand

The sanctuary covers approximately 40 hectares of land, encompassing a range of habitats such as native bush, regenerating forest, and coastal areas. It was established with the aim of creating a predator-free environment where native species can thrive, and where visitors can experience the beauty and biodiversity of the region.

There are a bunch of small walking tracks that wind through the native bush, where you can observe birdlife, spot geckos and skinks, and learn about the unique ecology of the area! it’s a super cool way to spend the afternoon and learn more about the incredible NZ native species!

kereru at Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary, Picton, New Zealand

Getting there:

The sanctuary is separated from the mainland by a predator proof fence, so they once way to access it is by water! How cool! You can grab a short boat trip by water taxi from Picton to the sanctuary’s jetty, where you’ll find the starting point for the walking tracks. The sanctuary is open to the public during daylight hours, and entry is by donation, which helps support the ongoing conservation efforts.

5. Picton Memorial Park

In the heart of Picton you will find the beautiful Picton Memorial Park! This park is right next to the waterfront, and is a lovely place to relax, people-watch (my favourite pastime), or have a picnic in the sun!

There is a good range of amenities and facilities to enjoy while you’re here! The park features well-manicured gardens with colorful flowers, lush green lawns, and mature trees that provide shade on sunny days. It also has a fantastic playground for children (and children-of-all-ages), including a pond for miniature sailboat racing, and a model railway that you can ride on!

Picton Memorial Park, Picton, New Zealand

The park is dedicated to honoring and remembering those New Zealanders who served in various conflicts and wars. It features a war memorial cenotaph that stands as a solemn tribute to the fallen soldiers and serves as a place for commemorative ceremonies and events throughout the year.

Picton Memorial Park, Picton, New Zealand

Getting there:

Picton Memorial Park is conveniently located near the waterfront, making it easily accessible for those exploring the town or arriving from the nearby ferry terminal.

6. Drive the spectacular Queen Charlotte Drive…

Driving the Queen Charlotte Drive is a scenic and breathtaking experience that takes you along one of New Zealand’s most picturesque coastal roads. Located in the Marlborough Sounds region, this drive offers stunning views of the Marlborough Sounds, lush forests, and charming coastal settlements.

View over the sounds, Picton, New Zealand

The Queen Charlotte Drive spans approximately 35 kilometers (22 miles) and connects the towns of Picton and Havelock. It winds its way along the coastline, hugging the hillsides and offering panoramic vistas of the sparkling waters and surrounding landscapes. There are numerous lookout points along the way, where you can stop and soak up the scenery!

The route is known for having arelatively low traffic volume, making it an enjoyable and leisurely drive. It’s advisable to take your time and allow for frequent stops to fully appreciate the stunning viewpoints along the way. The journey can be completed in under an hour, but it’s recommended to allocate more time to savor the beauty and explore the surrounding attractions.

7. Or explore it by bike!

Another way to enjoy this awesome stretch of road is by bike! The recently completed Link Pathway is a dedicated 42-kilometer walking and mountain bike track that connects Picton, Havelock, and Anakiwa. The pathway follows Queen Charlotte Drive around the headland, and offers mountain-bikers and walkers an off-road route!

The path is well-maintained and smooth to ride, with a few gentle hills as you travel between Picton and Havelock. The ride is easily manageable in a day, so you could stop for lunch or a drink in Havelock before making your way back home!

8. Check out the nearby town of Havelock

Havelock is a small but lively town located around 45 minutes drive from Picton, and is definitely worth seeing while you are in the area. As you arrive, you will notice the town seems dedicated to mussels, with mussel restaurants, murals, and even funny sculptures all around the heart of the town! This is because Havelock is the ‘Greenshell Mussel Capital of the World‘!

Mussels in Havelock, near Picton, New Zealand

The town is wonderful for an afternoon mooch, with it’s friendly and laid-back atmosphere. There are several restaurants and cafes where you can taste the local seafood, including the famous green-lipped mussels!

Getting there:

There are two routes that you can take when travelling from Picton to Havelock! Our favourite way is to take the very scenic but very windy Queen Charlotte Drive, that take you around the headland of the Queen Charlotte Sound before depositing you in Havelock. If you are looking for a more straightforward route, you can head south of Picton towards Blenheim, before turning right and heading back up to Havelock. This way is longer in distance, however slightly faster to drive as it follows the main roads.

9. Go fishing off the Waikawa Wharf

Waikawa is a small settlement just north of Picton along the Queen Charlotte Sound. It is one of our favourite places to stay while we are in the Marlborough Sounds, as it has a beautiful beach with incredible views, and is a little off-the-beaten-track!

Waikawa Bay Wharf in Picton, New Zealand

The area surrounding Waikawa is characterized by picturesque landscapes, with rolling hills, forests, and clear blue waters. In the center of Waikawa is a small marina and jetty, which serves as a popular base for boat owners and fishers. The area is known for its abundant marine life, and so is the perfect opportunity for beginner and experienced anglers to cast out a line. What awesome way to experience a bit of kiwiana than to sit on the wharf with the locals and try your luck!

The waters around Waikawa are home to various fish species, including snapper, blue cod, kingfish, gurnard, kahawai, and terakihi, among others. These species provide an exciting mix for both experienced anglers and beginners.

And if you aren’t so lucky, you can always grab some fush n chips and sit on the beach instead!

10. Check out the views from the Tirohanga Track

If you are looking for the best view over Picton, then look no further! The Tirohanga Track is a short (but steep) track that leads to a hilltop lookout point, offering incredible views of Picton and Waikawa!

  • Walk Length: 1.2 km to summit
  • Walking Time: 45 minutes
  • Fitness Required: Easy track, well maintained path with a steep hill

The most common starting point for this walk is at the Newgate Street trailhead, as this direction has the least steep climb up to the summit! The trail winds it’s way unward through regenerating native bush, with small clearings that offer fantastic views over Waikawa and Picton. After a few steep zig-zags, the path finally flattens out and you have reached the summit! There is a bench, where you can rest and take in the glorious scenery!

You can either head back in the same direction, or keep heading forward and down the other side of the hill. This will give you glimpses over the hills to the south of Picton. This route is a little steeper, and can be muddy after rain, so take it slow and steady on your way down. The end of the walk joins up to Garden Terrace, where you can walk back into the center of town.

Yeeow budget travellers! I hope this post was helpful in helping you find awesome things to do in Picton without breaking the bank! We usually travel on quite a tight budget, and I love finding free activities that allow me to make the most out of the area. Happy travelling! 🙂

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