The experience of Maori culture in Picton – New Zealand

The Heart of Marlborough Sound Begins Here…

Visiting New Zealand’s South Island wouldn’t be complete without exploring Picton. A special experience for all travellers to the area 

By i.c Golina

Picton in Brief

Picton, located on the north coast of the South Island in New Zealand is one of the most picturesque small town in the Marlborough Region. The town is located near the head of the Queen Charlotte Sound. Picton’s waterfront has one of the world’s best water views you’ll ever come across, known for its ever changing colours. This picturesque small seaside town is the South Island’s base and major hub for the ferry service that links the main islands of New Zealand and the heart of Marlborough Sounds. There are two local marinas that are a stunning testament to the importance of boats to this charming waterside village.

Picton Waterfront

Why Go?

Picton town, nestled at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound in the beautiful Marlborough Sounds is possibly New Zealand’s prettiest seaside town in the South Island. For many tourists and locals, Picton is known as a gateway to the islands and inlets of the Marlborough Sounds but to me, it is the gateway to stunning landscapes and vineyards. With one fifth of New Zealand’s coastline at its door and close proximity to Marlborough’s famous wine region, this makes Picton becomes a world class destination for international and domestic visitors. A region for wine-lovers paradise. 

Taking this 3 hour ferry journey from New Zealand’s windy city and capital – Wellington in the North Island with the Interislander ferry to Picton to South Island is no ordinary ferry ride. This ferry is the longest running Cook Strait ferry service in New Zealand and is one of the most beautiful ferry journeys in the world. Without a doubt, it is one of the most iconic tourism experiences to do in New Zealand from the north to the south. This jaw-dropping ferry ride is one of the most unmissable Great Journeys of New Zealand and is a “must do” experience for any travellers to the region.

The views leading up to Picton waterfront were incredibly breathtaking. This seaside town on New Zealand’s south island which sits at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound in the beautiful Marlborough Sound is regarded as one of New Zealand’s prettiest town. Being located on Marlborough Sound gives the town a relaxed atmosphere and is characterised by secluded bays and lovely clear waters. The view from the town’s waterfront is perhaps one of the world’s finest views. Since the town is built around a very sheltered harbour, it provides a picturesque and attractive seafront dotted with cafes, restaurants and various types of galleries. This town is popular with travellers across the world who come here to enjoy its wonderful coastline.

Maori Cultural Experience

This tiny township of Picton has an abundance of activities from relaxation to stunning tracks and hikes, including Waikawa, a small town which lies just north-east of Picton which is often considered to be contiguous part of Picton. However, since I am always been fascinated about cultures and history and to experience the way local indigenous people live, I ventured on a cultural tour of Maori cultural experience outside Picton town. With cool breeze passing my way with a little of sunshine made it a perfect day to explore this unique part of New Zealand. The drive out of Picton was easily accessible and the smooth high-way with clear visible posts made it very friendly for me as I drove for the first time visiting the area. The road leading to the cultural centre was even more scenic – the lush green hills with endless lines of pine trees, stunning landscapes and miles and miles of vineyards was just mesmerising. Such beautiful scenery on every corner, stopping and taking photographs along the way was not an option for me.

Without any distraction and mechanical failures, I finally, arriving at my destination with the help of GPS. As soon as I stepped out of the car, I was greeted by this friendly warriors of the village and it was certainly most welcoming experience I ever had. I was guided through on a journey learning about local Maori history through storytelling with other hundreds of visitors. The stunning Marae with its beautifully carved meeting house was definitely the perfect place to find out more about the Maori heritage of the area. The guided tour tells about sharing of the Maori values and knowledge of practices such as Kaitiakitanga (Maori way of guardianship) and Rongoa Maori (Maori medicinal plants). This tour not only fascinated me but was having some comparison with some of the values and knowledge of practices back in the village in Papua New Guinea before the missionaries concreted their ideology.

Maori Culture experience

After this incredible cultural experience, I headed back to Picton, taking a scenic route with few stops visiting some of the New Zealand’s iconic wines and vineyards along the way. The region is renowned for its winery and the vineyards went for miles and miles as far as the eye can see.

Where to stay?

Getting to Picton is accessible by the ferries or direct flight to Christchurch from Auckland or Wellington and take a scenic drive up to Picton. There are various types of accommodations in the area to suit all budget ranging from resorts, backpacker, holiday houses, apartments and B&Bs. Also, the town offers a range of properties throughout the region to fit most holiday styles and budgets.

Popular Attractions

There are regular boat trips from Picton’s waterfront jetties that take visitors to stunning locations throughout Queen Charlotte Sound. As you get wished away into a world, the sound of birds, the breeze and gentle waves lapping along side your boat becomes your daily soundtrack.

It has the The Edwin Fox Maritime Museum, a 19th-century former convict and cargo ship. The EcoWorld Aquarium shelters and rehabilitates native animals such as tuatara reptiles and blue penguins. Nearby, the Queen Charlotte Track traverses coastal forest, skyline ridges and bays.

The area is home to many stunning walking tracks and hiking locations. Driving around in this area is possible if you have the time and want to see more of the area on your visit. To fully enjoy your stay in this area and to make the most of the region’s attractions, I’d recommend staying right in the main centre of the town and most of the places are within walking distance unless you plan to go out of the town.

I recommend to start your holiday in Picton area, which is a great place to start your journey if you’re travelling further south.

Picton and Queen Charlotte Sound are special places that you’ll never want to forget. 

Exploring the area

It is entirely possible to get around and visit many attractions and places in this area and locals are always willing to give you directions. However, my recommendation would be to hire a car or do a self-drive tour and explore the area on your own time. Driving in this area is straightforward as long as you keep your wits about you and don’t mind the locals who drive much faster than wary tourists. When visiting new areas, be aware of no-drive zones and one-way streets. Sometimes, you will save yourself a few headaches when it comes to parking or driving around places to locate the area, it is best to go on a tour and get away with less stress.

Such an experience gives me an adrenaline that wants me to travelling and learn more about many cultures around the world and learn and understand the way local indigenous people live and survive.



Papua New Guinean living in Cairns, Australia. Weekend getaway adventurer and Free-Independent-Traveller (FIT). Lover of unique and exotic travel experiences with a touch of luxury. Follow me to my travel world, brining you closer to your destination.

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