Cook Strait ferries from Wellington arrive in Picton, a small harbour and tourist town sandwiched between the hills and the deep, placid waters of Queen Charlotte Sound. Many people stop only for a coffee, looking out over the water before pressing on, but Picton is the best base for exploring the Queen Charlotte Track, serviced by several water taxis, and a good spot for getting into the Sounds on cruises and kayak trips. The town itself has a few noteworthy attractions and it also makes a decent base for exploring the wine region around Blenheim, half an hour’s drive to the south.
There was a European settlement in the region as early as 1827 when John Guard established a whaling station, but Picton itself didn’t come into being until the New Zealand Company purchased the town site for £300 in 1848. Picton flourished as a port and service town for the Wairau Plains to the south but predominantly as the most convenient port for travel between the islands.