Picton is a small city (population 4,487).  In a few minutes you can visit all the stores and restaurants.  But it is a good jumping off point for the South Island.

We went on a 4 hour eco wildlife tour which was very enjoyable.  The first 2 hours were cruising up the sound leading into Picton viewing fur seals and various species of birds including several species of shags.  We then stopped on the island of Matuara which has been turned into a bird sanctuary.  They got rid of all the mammals and reintroduced various bird species.  Saw a number of species along a walk to the top of the island – an incline for the entire 30 minutes required to reach the top.  Very nice views once you got to the top.

We also went to several wineries in the Marlborough area for wine tasting.  What is interesting is that they do not use corks on the wines in New Zealand – they have screw cap bottles.  There are numerous reasons for this but as I understand it for wines meant to be consumed young there is no need to have the wine breath as it ages.  They are also able to avoid the loss due to bad corks.  And as a consumer I cannot begin to tell the number of times I have messed up getting the cork out of a bottle.

Another side trip we made was to the town of Nelson and Abel Tasman National Park.  The national park is about 1 hour from Nelson.  At the National Park you can see how large the tides are in this area.  Boats are no longer afloat and they use tractors to bring kayakers and others back to land.  On the way back we were on Queen Charlotte Drive.  This is a very twisty road.  We had done it during the day but driving back this time we did it at night, in the dark.  Of course there are no lights.  So you are looking for the edge of the cliff – kind of white knuckle by the end.

Our final little excursion was to take a water taxi to the Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary for a 2 h walk.  Heard many birds calling but did not see much.  Taking a water taxi was neat in that you arrange for a time for your return and there is you taxi.  I do not know what they do if you do not show up and how you would contact them but it worked out for us.

Taking the ferry between the North and South Islands

To get to the South Island we took the ferry which runs from Wellington to Picton.  We returned our car at the ferry terminal in Wellington.  Although you can take cars on the ferry the rental companies do not wish you to do so.  To me it was odd in that you park your car in a certain area of the lot and drop you keys in a return box.  I felt some degree of anxiety about the car company saying there were issues with the car but it works out fine.  On the other end in Picton the car rental agencies are right outside the terminal doors.

The ferry terminal in Wellington is not near anything of interest so once you are there you are stuck.  They did have a little snack counter but not much else.

The ferry ride was nice and smooth.  I stayed on deck most of the time to catch the views and to take pictures.  We had opted for the upgrade and so had plush seats.  The upgrade also includes food and drinks.  Since I do not drink all that much and did not wish to drink that early in the day we did not eat and drink the extra cost.