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Picton is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the great outdoors. The town is built around a sheltered harbour on New Zealand's South Island and ferry-loads of people arrive from Wellington every day to explore the area's wild and wonderful countryside. Sandy beaches and gentle blue waves are a relaxing way to experience the beauty of the coast, while the dramatic geography of the Queen Charlotte Sound (or fjord) is ideal for a more rough and ready adventure.
Get cosy in a Picton hostel with a bubbling spa pool and toasty fire. You can meet new people while you cook on the barbecue or play games of pool. You can even stay in a place with a sunny garden and fairy-lit treehouse: perfect for relaxing after a day's hike. There's a Picton hostel that used to be a museum and another that's been welcoming guests since the 1940s. Most places have free Wi-Fi and free breakfasts, with bonus extras like bikes, ferry transfers and even cheese scones.
The town of Picton itself is relatively small and has a laid-back atmosphere. It's a good base for water or adventure sports. Later, you'll find bars and eateries filled with an infectious easygoing ambience. Waikawa, just along the coast to the northeast, is the gateway to the Queen Charlotte Sound and home to the Waikawa Marae, a culturally important meeting place for the Te Āti Awa Māori people.
Picton's main attractions will get your heart racing. Explore the Queen Charlotte Track for native wildlife, either on foot or by hiring a mountain bike. The whole route takes three to five days but you can see sections on day trips or even cruises. Take a sea kayak around the coast to experience the almost mythical views from the water (and maybe spot a dolphin or two). A 40-minute coastal walk to the east will take you to Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary, which protects New Zealand species including the Rowi kiwi and the South Island Robin in its old forests.
Flights arrive at Picton's small airport from Wellington every day, with the journey taking just 25 minutes. You can take the shuttle bus into the town centre from there. Ferries also arrive from the North Island regularly; they take around 4 hours and have spectacular views. From Christchurch, it's a 5-hour train ride through stunning scenery.