The Best Things to Do in Picton | Apollo NZ
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Nelson & Marlborough

Craving artistic flair, golden beaches, and a taste of adventure? Look no further than the Nelson and Marlborough region. Sitting at the top of New Zealand's South Island, this area is packed full of natural beauty, culinary excellence, and cultural richness. It’s easy to see why it makes the perfect destination for a New Zealand campervan holiday. Nelson, often hailed as New Zealand’s ‘sunshine capital’, radiates a warm, inviting atmosphere complemented by its vibrant arts community, historic architecture, and bustling markets. Nearby, the tranquil Marlborough Sounds offers a playground for kayaking, fishing, and scenic cruises. Wine enthusiasts will relish visiting Marlborough's famed vineyards, where tasting world-class wines becomes a memorable part of the journey.

A road trip through Nelson and Marlborough in an Apollo campervan means every day is a new adventure, crafted just to your liking. With the flexibility to explore hidden gems, from the secluded coves of Golden Bay in Nelson to the enchanting Marlborough Sounds, your journey can be as laid-back or as action-packed as you desire. The convenience of travelling by campervan, complete with a kitchen, bed, and bathroom, means that the beauty of Nelson NZ and the Marlborough Sounds are yours to enjoy in your own time. Whether you're soaking up the sun on Nelson's beaches or sipping on exquisite sauvignon blanc in Marlborough, travelling by campervan offers a truly unforgettable experience. 


Why explore Nelson & Marlborough by campervan

Travelling in a campervan, especially through beautiful areas like Nelson and Marlborough, turns a simple holiday into a series of unforgettable experiences. It's your adventure, at your pace, surrounded by the comfort and convenience that only campervan travel can offer. With a campervan, you're not tied down. You can linger over a long lunch in a Nelson café or decide to spend an extra day tasting wines in Marlborough because you've fallen in love with the scenery.

The journey itself becomes part of the fun when you're in a campervan. It's about making spontaneous stops at breathtaking lookouts, enjoying your morning coffee in the middle of postcard-perfect views, and finding your own special spot to watch the stars. Stumbled upon a hidden gem in Golden Bay or found a hiking track in Marlborough you’d like to tackle? With a campervan, you have the freedom to explore it as much as you like.


Things to do in Nelson & Marlborough

Nelson and Marlborough are rich with activities and attractions, offering something special for every kind of traveller. For families on holiday, there are endless opportunities for fun, from exploring the sun-drenched beaches of Nelson to the interactive and educational experiences in the region's museums and galleries. Food enthusiasts will revel in the culinary journey through Nelson and Marlborough, from the fresh seafood of the coastal areas to the exquisite flavours of the region's renowned wineries. Whether you're indulging in a leisurely lunch at a vineyard in Marlborough or sampling local artisan produce at a Nelson market, your taste buds are in for a treat. Adventure seekers and nature lovers won't be left wanting either. With activities like kayaking through the Marlborough Sounds or hiking the trails of the Abel Tasman National Park, the great outdoors is your playground. And for those looking to unwind, the charming towns scattered throughout the region offer a peaceful retreat with their unique boutiques, cafes, and galleries.

Alyssa Tresider
/ Categories: NZ blog

The Best Things to Do in Picton.

Nestled at the heart of the Marlborough Sounds, Picton is best known for its bustling ferry terminal for travellers making their passage between the North and South Islands of New Zealand. While it is true, this is where the interislander ferry coughs out cars and campervans full of adventurers daily, to transit through Picton without a little Picton sightseeing is to miss out on a secret slice of Kiwi paradise – ripe with adventures, tastes, and sights. 

From stunning harbour vistas to wine tasting, there are plenty of great Picton activities and attractions worth checking out on a road trip through this region. So, if you are looking for the best things to do in Picton, let's dive in and unwrap this overlooked gem together.


Where is Picton?

Picton is located at the top of New Zealand's South Island. It serves as the main ferry terminal linking the South Island with Wellington on the North Island, making it a bustling hub of travellers and adventures. However, this quaint township is not just a waypoint but a gateway to some of the most breathtaking landscapes the South Island has to offer. 


Why visit Picton

But why, you might ask, should you visit Picton, especially if you’re just there for a pit stop? Well, beneath its transit hub facade lies outdoor adventures, foodie delights, and serene escapes. Picton is the unassuming gatekeeper of the stunning Marlborough Sounds, a vast network of sea-drowned valleys offering a maze of tranquil bays, lush islands, and serene beaches. Picton is full of surprises, including: 

  • Stunning Nature: Picton is surrounded by lush forests and the crystal-clear waters of the Sounds. 

  • Beachcombing: Picton’s beaches are serene, stunning, and perfect for a day under the sun. 

  • Wine Tasting: The surrounding vineyards are a perfect excuse to treat yourself to a winery tour in Picton, New Zealand.

  • Hiking and Nature: The Queen Charlotte Track offers an escape into nature, with views that seem to stretch on forever.


When to visit Picton

Choosing the perfect time to visit Picton is like trying to pick your favourite chocolate from a box – every season has its sweetness. The summer months of December to February are the town's high season, offering warm, sunny days perfect for everything from kayaking in the Sounds to lounging on sun-drenched beaches.

However, for those who prefer their adventures served with a side of tranquillity, the shoulder seasons of spring (September to November) and autumn (March to May) offer the same stunning scenery with fewer crowds. These months are a kaleidoscope of changing colours, from the fresh greens of spring to the rich golds of autumn, providing a breathtaking backdrop for your road trip adventures.

Regardless of when you decide to visit, remember to align your travel itinerary with the activities you're most excited about. Picton, with its myriad offerings, is sure to enchant, whether you're basking in the summer sun or enjoying the milder days of the shoulder seasons in your campervan.


Getting to Picton

Whether you're coming from the buzz of Wellington or the charm of Christchurch, Picton is an essential pin on the map of your South Island road trip. For those beginning their campervan adventure in Wellington, the ferry crossing is your introduction to the stunning Marlborough Sounds. And if you're coming from Christchurch (4 hours south), Kaikoura (2 hours south), or Nelson (2 hours west), the roads to Picton are a feast for the eyes, with each turn revealing vistas that resemble Middle-earth and fairy tales. For more information, check out the full guide to crossing the Cook Strait in a campervan. This is your go-to resource for making the ferry crossing a breeze. 

READ MORE: For more ideas on what to do on your campervan travel itinerary, check out the 7-day South Island itinerary and the popular Christchurch to Nelson itinerary

Image: Tourism New Zealand


Where to stay in Picton

Finding the perfect spot to park your campervan in Picton is like choosing the best seat in a movie theatre – location is everything. Here are a few of our top picks for where to stay in Picton in your campervan hire.

Tasman Holiday Parks – Picton

Tasman Holiday Parks – Picton is your home away from home in a campervan, just a 10-minute drive from Picton. Nestled within a scenic enclave, this park not only offers stunning views but also boasts top-notch facilities, including BBQ areas for that perfect evening feast to playgrounds that promise fun for the little adventurers.

Picton Campervan Park

Picton Campervan Park understands that the best road trips are those where you can kick back in comfort after a day of exploring. Conveniently located 2 minutes from the ferry terminal, this park offers easy access to Picton's treasures while providing all the amenities needed for a restful stay. With powered sites for your campervan, along with clean and modern facilities, it’s a no-brainer for travellers seeking a blend of convenience and cosiness. 

Parklands Marina Holiday Park

If waking up to the sound of lapping waves and the scent of salty air sounds like your kind of morning, then Parklands Marina Holiday Park is where you should be heading. A stone’s throw away from the marina, this holiday park not only offers a picturesque setting for your campervan but also serves as a perfect launchpad for your adventures. Whether kayaking in the Sounds or simply enjoying a leisurely day by the water, Parklands Marina Holiday Park offers a serene base for exploring the nearby Picton activities and attractions.

Alexanders Holiday Park Accommodation

For those who appreciate the charm of smaller, more intimate settings, Alexanders Holiday Park Accommodation is the holiday park for you—offering a mix of spacious powered and non-powered sites, as well as all the campervan essentials, including a dump station, play area and communal kitchens. From the solo wanderer in their campervan to families on a road trip, Alexanders provides a tranquil backdrop to your Picton adventure, ensuring you wake up refreshed and ready to explore.

Image: Greta Beutgen


10 of the best things to do in Picton

From serene walks and kayaking to unique culinary experiences and gourmet wine tours in Piction, New Zealand, this guide will lead you through 10 of the best things to do in Picton, ensuring your visit is packed with unforgettable moments. Let's dive in, shall we?


1. Walk the Queen Charlotte Track

One of New Zealand’s crown jewels, the Queen Charlotte Track, stretches with majesty through the heart of the Marlborough Sounds. This track takes you through lush forests, serene coves, and breathtaking ridgelines. Spanning around 70 kilometres, it offers various entry and exit points, making it ideal for day hikes for adventurous families and multi-day adventures for the ultimate outdoorsy travellers. For a deep dive into planning your trek, check out everything you need to know about hiking the Queen Charlotte Track, from must-see spots to practical tips. 


2. Jump on a Marlborough Wine Tour from Picton

The Marlborough region, with its sun-soaked hillsides and cool climate, produces some of the world’s most acclaimed Sauvignon Blancs. Joining a wine tour from Picton, New Zealand, is easily one of the best ways to sip and savour without care, thanks to your designated driver. Whether you join a group wine tour in Picton, New Zealand,  or chart your own course among the vineyards, these wineries are the perfect place to learn about the stories behind each bottle, the people who craft them, and the land that gives them life. However, if you are visiting in the off-season, be sure to check opening times before driving! 


3. Try a famous Toasty at Toasty Lords

If you are wondering what to eat in Picton for the whole family, look no further. No visit to Picton is complete without indulging in a local delicacy that has everyone talking – the famous toasties at Toasty Lords. These aren’t your average sandwiches; each toasty is a masterpiece of flavour, crafted with local ingredients and a dash of Kiwi innovation. Plus, with so many options to choose from, there is bound to be a toastie to please everyone in the family! Finding a spot for your campervan is easy, with street parking available along High Street, where Toasty Lords beckons with its irresistible aroma and quirky charm.


4. See the Marlborough Sounds via Kayak

Exploring the Marlborough Sounds by kayak is an adventure that brings you face-to-face with the serene beauty of this aquatic paradise. Companies like Marlborough Sounds Adventure Co. offer guided tours for the whole family that glide you through tranquil waters, hidden coves, and alongside lush coastal bush – perfect for those looking for a little outdoor adventure merged with Picton sightseeing. For those adventuring by campervan, the nearby Waterfront Carpark in Picton offers a convenient place to park before you set out on this must-do Picton attraction.


5. Check out the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum

Step aboard history at the Edwin Fox Museum in Picton, where you can explore the world's ninth-oldest ship. This floating museum not only tells the tale of New Zealand's rich maritime heritage but also offers a unique glimpse into the life of a sailor. This is perfect for getting a little dose of local history, all while entertaining the littlest adventurers in the group. Campervan visitors will find ample parking at the nearby Picton Foreshore Carpark, making it easy to visit the Edwin Fox Museum in Picton.


6. Visit the Picton Town Hall Farmer’s Markets

The Picton Town Hall Farmer’s Market is a celebration of local produce, artisan crafts, and the vibrant community spirit of Marlborough. Held every Sunday, it's the perfect family-friendly Picton attraction to sample the freshest local ingredients, pick up unique handmade items, and mingle with the locals. For those exploring Picton in a campervan, the nearby Coathanger Carpark offers convenient parking options, allowing you to stroll through the market at your leisure, soaking up the sights, sounds, and smells of local Kiwi life.


7. Get Close to Nature at the Kaipūpū Sanctuary

The Kaipūpū Sanctuary is a haven for nature lovers and another essential Picton sightseeing stop, nestled within the heart of the Marlborough Sounds. This volunteer-run sanctuary is a testament to conservation efforts, offering families a chance to see New Zealand's native birds, flora, and fauna up close. The sanctuary’s walking tracks lead you through a regenerating forest, buzzing with the sounds of native birdlife, making it a perfect family-friendly spot for nature photography and bird watching on your travel itinerary. The magic of Kaipūpū is its accessibility and commitment to preserving the natural beauty and biodiversity of the area.  


8. Check Out the Karaka Point Walk

The Karaka Point Walk is an inviting, family-friendly walking trail that offers stunning views of the Pelorus and Queen Charlotte Sounds. This brief yet beautiful walk is perfect for starting or ending your day of Picton sightseeing, taking you through native bush to a historic Māori pa site. Along the way, interpretive signage provides insights into the area’s cultural and natural history – a perfect family-friendly Picton activity to add to your travel itinerary.


9. Take a Cruise Around the Marlborough Sounds

Exploring the Marlborough Sounds from the water offers a perspective that simply can’t be matched by land. With a myriad of cruise options available, from leisurely half-day excursions to full-day luxury cruises complete with lunch, there’s something for all families. Joining a cruise in Picton is an unparalleled opportunity to soak in the majestic landscapes, wildlife, and tranquillity of the Sounds. Whether you’re interested in eco-tours, fishing, or just basking in the natural beauty, a cruise is a perfect Picton attraction and activity to experience this region as a family.  


10. Immerse Yourself in History at the Picton Heritage & Whaling Museum

The Picton Heritage & Whaling Museum offers a deep dive into the town’s past, from its Māori roots to its European settlement and whaling era. The museum is home to artifacts, photographs, and stories that paint a vivid picture of Picton’s historical significance and cultural heritage. Exploring its exhibits offers insights into the lives of those who shaped the region, making this one of the best things to do in Picton for history lovers.


See the best of Picton with Apollo

Ready to add these Picton activities and attractions to your road trip travel itinerary with Apollo? An Apollo campervan not only adds comfort and flexibility to your travels but also connects you with the stunning landscapes and unique attractions Picton has to offer. You can book your Apollo campervan online and pick it up from any Apollo branch, setting the stage for an unforgettable road trip through New Zealand’s Southern Island.

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Popular Nelson road trips & itineraries

Nestled at the top of New Zealand's South Island, Nelson and Marlborough are prime starting points for some of the most picturesque road trips in the country. Kicking off from Nelson, you can weave through the scenic drives that unveil the artistic townships, golden beaches, and lush national parks. Heading into Marlborough, the journey continues through rolling vineyards and along the majestic Marlborough Sounds. Whether you're venturing from the urban buzz of the North Island or the rugged landscapes of the South, these regions promise memorable campervan road trip adventures tailored to every interest. Here are a few worth checking out:

Ultimate 7-day South Island campervan itinerary Ultimate 7-day South Island campervan itinerary

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Great savings on your New Zealand road trip

Apollo offers a fantastic selection of deals and specials for those looking to explore New Zealand by campervan. From hot deals and last-minute discounts to long-term hire benefits, you’re sure to find a deal designed to help you make the most of your campervan adventure. 

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Apollo Campervan branches


The drive from Apollo Christchurch to Nelson takes you along some of the South Island’s most scenic coastline. There’s a fair bit to see and do along the way, so be sure to take your time and perhaps plan an overnight stay in Kaikoura. 


Keen to make the most of your road trip and explore more of the South Island? Book your camper with our Queenstown branch and spend a few days heading northward taking in some of the great southern highlights along the way. 


The North Island is packed full of sights and experiences, so why not tick off a few with a road trip from Apollo Auckland to Nelson? This journey includes crossing the Cook Strait by ferry offering the opportunity to travel through the pristine Marlborough Sounds. 

Auckland City Skyline


New Zealand’s multi-cultural hub of food, music, arts and culture.


Christchurch City, New Zealand


 One of the world’s most unique destinations.



Breathtaking scenery and adrenaline-pumping adventure activities.


Helpful tips for visiting Nelson & Marlborough


Climate and seasons in Nelson & Marlborough

Nelson and Marlborough are renowned for their inviting climates, making them year-round destinations for visitors. Nelson, often celebrated as the sunniest city in New Zealand, enjoys a mild maritime climate that complements its outdoor lifestyle and vibrant arts culture.

  • Summer (December to February) in Nelson are warm and sunny, with temperatures typically ranging from 20°C to 25°C, perfect for enjoying the region's stunning beaches and outdoor dining. In Marlborough, the warmth accentuates the beauty of the vineyards, making it an ideal time for wine tasting and scenic tours.

  • Autumn (March to May) in Nelson are warm and sunny, with temperatures typically ranging from 20°C to 25°C, perfect for enjoying the region's stunning beaches and outdoor dining. In Marlborough, the warmth accentuates the beauty of the vineyards, making it an ideal time for wine tasting and scenic tours.

  • Winter (June to August) brings cooler weather, with daytime temperatures hovering around 12°C to 15°C. It's a great time to enjoy the region's art galleries, museums, and cosy dining spots, with the occasional crisp, clear day perfect for outdoor adventures.

  • Spring (September to November) breathes new life into the regions, with blossoming gardens and warming temperatures. It's a beautiful time to witness the region's natural beauty, from the awakening vineyards in Marlborough to the blossoming landscapes in Nelson.

Both regions enjoy relatively low rainfall compared to other parts of New Zealand, though it's always wise to pack a light rain jacket just in case. The transitional seasons of autumn and spring offer a spectacular display of nature's beauty, making them particularly rewarding times to visit.




What to pack

Heading out for an adventure in Nelson and Marlborough with your campervan is an exciting prospect, and packing smart can enhance your experience. The region's welcoming climates and diverse outdoor activities mean you'll need a mix of gear to comfortably enjoy everything from sun-soaked beaches to leisurely vineyard tours. Here’s a rundown of what to bring along.

  • Outdoor gear: The stunning landscapes of Nelson and Marlborough are your playground, so come prepared with versatile outdoor gear. Lightweight, breathable clothing will keep you comfortable during the warm days, while a layer or two for the cooler evenings ensures you can enjoy those starlit nights by the campfire. Durable walking shoes are essential, whether you're hiking in Abel Tasman National Park or exploring the coastal trails.

  • Campervan add-ons: Enhance your campervan living with a few thoughtful extras. A portable barbecue can elevate your dining under the stars, while extra camping chairs and a table (these can be added to your campervan hire) can make your outdoor setup more comfortable.

  • Sun protection:The New Zealand sun, particularly in the Nelson region, known for its high sunshine hours, calls for diligent sun protection. Pack high-SPF sunscreen, a quality pair of sunglasses with UV protection, and a hat to shield you during those outdoor adventures. Remember, sun safety is key, even on overcast days.

For more helpful ideas, check out our guide to what to pack for your campervan road trip.



Nearby attractions and day trips from Nelson


Farewell Spit

Farewell Spit is a striking natural feature located at the northern tip of the South Island, renowned for its extensive sandbar and rich birdlife. This area serves as a bird sanctuary where visitors can observe a variety of migratory birds in their natural setting. The iconic lighthouse at the spit's end also provides a picturesque backdrop for visitors exploring this unique and protected landscape.


In the heart of Golden Bay, Takaka is a vibrant town known for its artistic community, quirky cafes, and nearby natural wonders like Te Waikoropupū Springs. A day trip to Takaka can be as relaxing or adventurous as you like, with options ranging from exploring local art galleries to hiking in the Abel Tasman National Park.

Rabbit Island

Just a short drive from Nelson, Rabbit Island offers vast sandy beaches, picnic spots, and cycling trails. It's an ideal place for a family day out, where you can enjoy swimming, beach games, or simply bask in the tranquil atmosphere of this coastal gem.

Lord of the Rings film locations

For fans of the Lord of the Rings series, the Nelson region offers the chance to visit some of the trilogy's filming locations. Take on a day trip to explore the diverse landscapes that were transformed into Middle-Earth, from the rolling hills to the lush forests, each offering a glimpse into the magical world of the films.


Where to stay in Nelson & Marlborough with a campervan

When it comes to finding the perfect spot to park and rest in Nelson and Marlborough, there's no shortage of picturesque, comfy campgrounds. Here are a few worth checking out:





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