Picton, New Zealand

Picton (Māori: Waitohi) is a town in the Marlborough Region of New Zealand's South Island. The town is located near the head of the Queen Charlotte Sound, 25 km (16 mi) north of Blenheim and 65 km (40 mi) west of Wellington. Waikawa lies just north-east of Picton.


Waitohi (Māori)
A view of the harbour in Picton
A view of the harbour in Picton
Picton is located in New Zealand Marlborough
Coordinates: 41°17′34″S 174°0′21″E / 41.29278°S 174.00583°E / -41.29278; 174.00583
CountryNew Zealand
 • Total33.79 km2 (13.05 sq mi)
 (June 2019)
 • Total4,310
Picton from the air
Picton, a park at the coast

Picton is a major hub in New Zealand's transport network, connecting the South Island road and rail network with ferries across Cook Strait to Wellington and the North Island. The town has a population of 4,310 (June 2019),[1] making it the second-largest town in the Marlborough Region behind Blenheim. It is the easternmost town in the South Island with a population of at least 1,000 people.


The town is named after Sir Thomas Picton, the Welsh military associate of the Duke of Wellington, who was killed at the Battle of Waterloo. His connection to the slave trade and controversial governorship of Trinidad has resulted in calls for places named after him to be renamed.[2][3][4]

Author Katherine Mansfield spent time in Picton where her grandparents, Arthur and Mary Beauchamp, and her father Harold, lived for some time when they came from Australia. She included a reference to the port in her short story "The Voyage" (in the collection The Garden Party), which is "an account of a trip to Picton from Wellington on the Cook Strait ferry".[5][6]


The Main North railway line and State Highway 1 link Picton southwards to Blenheim, Kaikoura, Christchurch and beyond, while the scenic Queen Charlotte Drive (shorter in distance but usually slower than State Highway 1/State Highway 6 via Rapaura, near Blenheim) winds westward to Havelock. The completion of the highway link ended the relative isolation of this scenic area in the 1950s and encouraged modern motels, beginning with the American Luxury Motels, and many more after the ferry service to Wellington began.

Picton is the main link between the South and North Islands, with scheduled ferry service over Cook Strait. The two main shipping companies operating this route are the Interislander and Strait Shipping, with both offering roll-on/roll-off capabilities for cars and trucks, and, for the Interislander, sometimes trains. There have been proposals in recent years (the latest in 2011) to relocate the ferry terminals from Picton to Clifford Bay, south of Blenheim, to reduce travel times. However these plans never got past the design proposal, and were eventually dropped.[7]

The Coastal Pacific long-distance passenger/tourist train from Christchurch makes a daily return trip to Picton during the summer months. The 1914 railway station has been listed NZHPT Category II since 1991.[8] It is a standard class B station, of weatherboard and tile.[9]

Cruise ships regularly visit Picton between October and April. During the 2018-19 season, 44 ships carrying 85,000 passengers visited Picton.[10]

Picton Aerodrome at Koromiko 7.4 km to the south of the town has regular services to Wellington with Sounds Air and charter flights around the Marlborough sounds.

The Edwin Fox Maritime Centre features the remains of the Edwin Fox, the only surviving ship that transported convicts to Australia, and a small museum.


Waikawa Marae is located in Picton. It is the marae (meeting ground) of Te Atiawa o Te Waka-a-Māui, and includes the Arapaoa wharenui (meeting house).[11][12]


The first school in Picton opened in 1861 at the corner of Devon Street and Broadway. A new school opened in 1882, and part of the old school was moved to the new site, but was destroyed by fire in 1928. A Catholic Convent school opened in 1915, and was replaced by St Joseph's in 1924.[13]

Picton today has three schools:[14]

  • Picton School is a state contributing primary (Year 1 to 6) school with a roll of approximately 104 students.
  • Queen Charlotte College is a state Year 7 to 13 secondary school. It opened in 1965 and has a roll of approximately 374 students.
  • Waikawa Bay School is a state contributing primary (Year 1 to 6) school in Waikawa with a roll of approximately 124 students.


The town is also the usual starting point for holidays in the Marlborough Sounds. Highlights include fishing, walking, the Queen Charlotte Track, and diving. A popular dive trip is to the 177m long wreck of the cruise liner MS Mikhail Lermontov, which lies at Port Gore, 37 metres underwater.[15] Dive charter boats leave from Picton for the last resting place of the Mikhail Lermontov, one of the world’s largest, most accessible and most recent shipwrecks. Guiding is essential as the 1986 wreck is in 30m of water and divers can become disoriented inside the hull, which lies on its starboard side.[16]

Other dive sites in the Picton region[17] include Fish Reserve, the Koi wreck, and Long Island Marine Reserve. Introductory dives (discover scuba dive) and PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) certification courses from open water diver to dive master are available from Picton.[18] Technical diving and TDI (Technical Diving International) courses can be completed in Picton, diving in the Marlborough Sounds.

Notable peopleEdit


  1. ^ "Subnational Population Estimates: At 30 June 2019". Statistics New Zealand. 22 October 2019. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  2. ^ MacManus, Joel (11 June 2020). "Calls for colonial statues to go start to pick up in New Zealand". Stuff. Archived from the original on 12 June 2020.
  3. ^ Bond, Jordan (12 June 2020). "Hamilton statue's removal raises debate over artefacts of British colonialism". Radio New Zealand. Archived from the original on 12 June 2020. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  4. ^ "Calls to rethink name 'Picton' as history emerges of 'cruel' slave-owner". Stuff. 2020-06-12. Retrieved 2020-06-14.
  5. ^ "Kennedy, Julie". Wellington, New Zealand: Book Council. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
  6. ^ Kennedy, Julie (2000). Katherine Mansfield in Picton. Auckland: Cape Catley. ISBN 0-908561-73-3.
  7. ^ Vernon Small; Cathie Bell (14 November 2013). "Cook Strait ferry terminal stays in Picton". Marlborough Express. Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  8. ^ NZHPT listing with photo
  9. ^ Rail Heritage Trust - Picton
  10. ^ "Ready or not? Record-breaking cruise ship season forecasted for Picton". Stuff. Retrieved 2020-01-22.
  11. ^ "Te Kāhui Māngai directory". tkm.govt.nz. Te Puni Kōkiri.
  12. ^ "Māori Maps". maorimaps.com. Te Potiki National Trust.
  13. ^ A. D. McIntosh, ed. (1940). Marlborough - A Provincial History. pp. 329, 340–342.
  14. ^ "New Zealand Schools Directory". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  15. ^ Wreck Diving in the Marlborough Sounds New Zealand. Mikhail Lermontov, Lastingham, Koi and Rangitoto : Go Dive Marlborough
  16. ^ Charter Information Marlborough (NZ): Yacht, Launch & Boat Charters and Deep Sea Diving
  17. ^ Wreck and reef dive sites in the Marlborough Sounds including the Mikhail Lermontov, Lastingham, and Rangitoto wrecks
  18. ^ New Zealand Wreck Diving in the Marlborough Sounds, Diver Training, Liveaboard and live ashore expeditions. PADI accredited scuba diving and dive tourism instruction
  19. ^ Croot, James (2017-03-27). "Goodbye Pork Pie producer Nigel Hutchinson dies, aged 75". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 2017-04-19.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 41°17′S 174°00′E / 41.283°S 174.000°E / -41.283; 174.000