Picton is a bustling town, busy with little ships and those who sail in them. As the South Island terminal for the Cook Strait rail ferry, the many passengers and cars to and from Wellington ebb and flow with timetable regularity. In an incomparable setting at the head of exquisite Queen Charlotte Sound, the town enjoys a vista of green and blue bush-clad ranges dropping sheer to a sheltered lake-like sea. The view is broken by the verdant hump of Mabel Island in the harbour’s throat. Landward the town is ringed with steep hills.
The rapid growth in inter-island rail freight has seen the Waitohi River channelled and the mudflats at its mouth reclaimed for marshalling yards. Activity with the rail ferry and the occasional overseas ship to the west of the harbour is balanced by a multitude of small craft in and about the marina to the east. Linking the two is a developed foreshore with massive palms and a variety of amusements. Picton is named after one of the Duke of Wellington’s generals, a casualty at Waterloo.
Once known as Waitohi, Picton was the site of a Ngati-awa Pa (Maori village), and the area is rich in both maritime and Maori history. The intriguing history of whaling and shipping unfolds in the Picton Museum and at the Edwin Fox – one of the world’s oldest ships now being restored at the harbour.