Delivering the post: Picton

By Sam Robinson, a Travel Enthusiast

Read more on Picton.

Overall rating:3.5 out of 5 (based on 4 votes)
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Activity, Cruise, Budget

Dogs, dolphins and post-bags; an unlikely combination which adds up to a boat trip with a difference! Delivering the post to remote residences in Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand included all three

A great number of people only visit Picton whilst passing through on their way to the inter-island ferry to cross the Cook Strait to Wellington, however the town is the gateway to the Marlborough Sounds and in particular Queen Charlotte Sound and, in my opinion, well worth a longer pause on a trip through. The drive in to Picton took us along winding roads with occasional views of both Kenepuru and Queen Charlotte Sounds, these views only whet your appetite for the closer look you get once actually out on the water. Picton itself is a quiet, friendly town and the marina is full of sail boats and pleasure cruisers, one of which we intended to use to gain our closer look of the Sounds.

The Mail Boat Run

Rather than viewing these picturesque waters on a regular cruise, we decided to take part in the local 'mail run'. Beachcomber Fun Cruises ( :Tel: +64 3 57 36 175 cost NZ$91 per adult, NZ$47 for children age 5-14) are licensed by the New Zealand Post service to provide a rural delivery service to the homesteads located actually within Queen Charlotte Sound. The route you take on the cruise is entirely dependent on what needs to be delivered and alongside the regular mail; you could be delivering other essentials such as fuel, or in our case, plants and carpet!

Our 'run' first took us to the East Bay area of the Sound where we made a few stops; some of these involved tying up at jetties whilst others passed over a mail bag via a boat hook at a slow speed. It never failed to amaze how friendly all the homesteaders were, many smiles and waves were given as the boat came closer. At one jetty the children all jumped in to the water to greet us! Moving further in to the Sound we visited Endeavour Inlet where one of the most amusing sights was the dogs at each jetty. Each dog was given a biscuit from the seemingly endless supply on board the boat; however, one of the dogs had her own special 'mail' bag containing doggy chocs which she promptly trotted off down the jetty with!

A bit of history and wildlife

The run also takes a break part way through the trip to visit 'Ship Cove' where there is a memorial to Captain Cook as he spent a lot of time in the area repairing and watering his ship. The memorial itself was well worth a visit, although I was more impressed by the curved benches and other carved statues!

Although not a wildlife cruise, seeing the local flora and fauna is inescapable when on the Sound. The whole area is green, lush and serene and home to three different breeds of dolphin - Dusky, Hectors and Bottlenose, all of which we had sightings of, most notable the breath-taking pair who surfed in the wake of the boat.

A different experience

Sailing through the Sound and experiencing this snapshot of people's lives was an interesting way of viewing the area and for us much more pleasurable than a straightforward cruise. The homesteads themselves, although peaceful, do rely on the service this boat provides. The crew of the boat were extremely friendly and knowledgeable about the area and the families they support, continually providing information and answering questions whilst carrying out their duties. One of the best parts of the day for me, however, was the opportunity to have a go at steering on the way home! 

Picton on foot

The town of Picton is small enough to navigate easily on foot and the main streets (London Quay, High Street) are full of small cafes/restaurants and shops including the obligatory tourist souvenir shops as well as more specialist shops selling Paua shell or Jade jewellery alongside carved wood. For those travelling (and self catering) like us, there were a couple of small supermarkets which easily allowed us to stock up.

The most photogenic area of Picton has to be the area around the waterfront and the Marina. The foreshore is palm lined and has both grassy areas for chilling out on and paths for making the walk easier! During our visit, this area was crammed full of locals and visitors due to the annual ‘Maritime Festival (usually held in January/February). There were lots of stalls, sideshows (including a puppet show) and one of the most interesting (and my husband’s favourite!) was the ‘boat building’ competition. The teams entering had to build, from scratch, a sea-worthy vessel; many were wooden and the cutting, carving, hammering and frenetic energy of the teams involved, made the emerging creations quite mesmerising! Later in the day, these entries would be tested in the marina itself. Sadly we missed this part of the competition due to being out on the mail boat. 

Places to stay

Many of the town’s accommodations are near to the foreshore and marina and as such are perfectly placed for sunsets and enjoying the wide range of boats sailing in and out of the marina. For backpackers, there is a huge hostel near to the inter-island ferry terminal – Atlantis Backpackers (Cnr Auckland Street and London Quay;; +64 35737390) with dorm rooms available from around $25 NZ per person.

For those who require a little more comfort, there are a number of other hotel/motel options including the Marlin motel (33 Devon Street;; +64 35736784, rooms from $90 NZ) and the more luxurious Jasmine Court (78 Wellington Street;; +64 35737110) with self catering rooms from $130 NZ.

As we were travelling by campervan, we stayed at the Picton Top10 caravan park (78 Waikawa Road, +64 35737212; NZ$40-46 for powered site) where the facilities were clean, simple and very well located for the marina and other facilities in town.

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Sam Robinson
Traveller type:
Travel Enthusiast
Guide rating:
Average: 3.5 (4 votes)
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First uploaded:
19 August 2010
Last updated:
2 years 12 weeks 6 hours 34 min ago
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Community comments (7)

0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

Thanks for being response to the comments and suggestions of others, the inclusion of some more information on Picton will surely increase the usefulness of the guide.

I have one more suggestion to make, highlight key words and phrases in the text to make it more appealing.

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I have updated by highlighting as suggested.
Thank you.

0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

Thank you to everyone for your comments about my guide. As it was my first, I am still getting used to relevant content and your suggestions have helped enormously. I have read a few more guides on the site to get a better idea and have now edited the guide to include a little more information regarding Picton itself. Initially, I had just focused on the mail boat cruise, but hopefully my additions have increased the scope of the guide.

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1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Hi Sam,
I enjoyed reading your guide, it adds a new dimension to the town of Picton. I am sure after reading your guide some of the readers may be inspired to make a brief halt in the town rather than using it just as a transit point.

At just over 600 words, the guide is well below the threshold limit of an ideal guide(800-1200). A little bit more about Picton like places to eat/drink, shopping etc could be included to tie up the loose ends

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1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

It is always a delight to read about some travel activity that I have never heard of and offers a unique experience. These kind of guides are real gems because we are always looking for something different to do.

It is a very readable article and flows along nicely so that I can easily picture being there. I can see plenty of people booking this after reading your guide.

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1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

What fun having a 'serendipity' trip with the mail run, must have made you feel really useful and part of it all. It sounds quite magical, and if you're in the area, the only 'way to go!'

Your mention, and picture of the Cook Memorial reminds us that history really happened - those men were there!

You stopped rather suddenly. I could have read more - and you have plenty of room for more prices and eatery possibilities.

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1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Hey Sam - welcome aboard Simonseeks!

I loved your tip of taking the mailboat, and agree it must be a great way of seeing the locality other tourists never reach. My father was a postie and always carried dog biscuits as a bribe - he never got bitten in 40 years of mail delivery!

I would have liked a little more information about Picton itself to make your article more helpful - are there any other places to stay, is there a variety of places to eat or shop?


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