Nestled in the beautiful Queen Charlotte Sound about 215 mi/350 km north of Christchurch, Picton, New Zealand, is a quiet town that serves as the South Island's port for ferries from Wellington on the North Island. (The ferry ride takes three hours.)

Once a dead-end transit village, Picton is now an attractive little town. Along the waterfront, visitors can find some good cafes, restaurants, a New Zealand art gallery, craft stores and the Picton Museum, with exhibits about the area's whaling history. Across the footbridge in the marina is the restored ship Edwin Fox, a 19th-century wooden vessel.

The sheltered waters of the Marlborough Sound are renowned for sailing, fishing and kayaking, native bush walks and mussel farms. It's also a good place to explore marine reserves. Boat trips and coastal walks around the sound are easily arranged in town. Or you can indulge in an overnight stay at one of the lodges tucked away in a secluded bay. We had fun at the small bay near Picton watching regattas—including sailboats, powerboats and rowboats. You can also see whale migrations along the outer coast throughout the year.

From Picton or Blenheim, you can rent a vehicle or take a minibus tour to see the Marlborough wine country. Hikers and mountain bikers will like the breathtaking views along the Queen Charlotte Track, which stretches from Ship Cove to Anakiwa.

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