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Not only is Picton a super scenic coastal town, it’s right on the doorstep of one of the best wine regions in the entire world! So if you’re anything like me, visiting the area’s amazing wineries is a must while you’re in town.
A wine tour is a fantastic way to not only ensure that you get to hit all the best vineyards without too much planning involved, it also eliminates the need for a designated driver, which is a real buzz-kill with so much quality wine around.
There are some great options available in Picton that suit a variety of travel styles, from flexible hop-on hop-off tours to private gourmet experiences. I’ve rounded up the 5 best options so that you can enjoy an amazing day wine tasting in this beautiful part of New Zealand.
Don’t have time to read the full article? Some of my favorite wine tours of Picton are:
- This full-day wine tour lets you walk around vineyards while sipping on the area’s best wines
- Sail around Queen Charlotte Sound and enjoy a delicious lunch on this catamaran cruise wine tour
- For large groups or special occasions, I suggest this private wine tour so you can design your own wine-tasting experience
About Picton’s Wine Region
Picton itself is a small town, but it’s right on the cusp of the Marlborough wine region, which is the largest in New Zealand! Marlborough is world-renowned for its Sauvignon Blanc and even hosted the first International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration in 2016. This region also makes excellent Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Chardonnay – so it’s essentially a paradise for lovers of white wine.
The wine that Marlborough produces is known for generally being dry, light, aromatic, and fruity. And really, what’s better than sitting outside with a cold glass of crisp white wine on a warm day?
If red wine is more to your liking, then not to worry! They have plenty of that here, too! Syrah has traditionally been the most common red wine made in Marlborough, although in recent years the Pinot Noir vines first planted in the 1970s have come of age, so you can also find some exemplary bottles around here nowadays. No matter what your wine preference, you’ll be sure to find something you love on this part of the South Island.
Although Pinot Noir was only introduced to Marlborough in the 1970s, the first ever vines were planted here in 1873, and the first winery opened very close to Picton in 1880. That particular one is now closed, but there are still plenty of historic wineries to explore in the Marlborough region, as well as more modern ones.
Picton is located 29 kilometers (18 miles) from the Marlborough wine region, so it’s only a 20-25 minute drive if you rent a car in New Zealand. As I mentioned earlier, it’s best to go on a tour so that everyone in your group gets to enjoy all of the different wines, but the close distance is still super convenient because you spend less time traveling, and more time tasting!
Best Wine Tours in Picton
1. Full-Day Marlborough Wine Tour including Wine Tasting
What I love about this wine tour from Picton is that you get to go to such a great variety of wine estates. You’ll visit 5-6 different vineyards, each with their own specialty, to get a true overview of the area. For example, some are major producers, others are small boutique spots, and you’ll also get to try vegan and organic wines.
Despite the fact that you get to visit so many different spots, I love that the day doesn’t feel rushed at all. Plus, the tour has a maximum group size of 11, so it feels really close-knit and friendly. The guides are also super knowledgeable about wine and offer fantastic recommendations for the remainder of your time in Picton. After all, it’s one of the best places to visit on the South Island!
All of your tastings are included along the way, and you get to try Marlborough’s most famous varieties, such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, as well as sample some lesser-known and more experimental wines.
There’s also a stop for lunch at the Saint Clair Family Estate Vineyard, which is one of the most beloved wineries in the area. Although the meal is not included in the price of the tour, I think it’s totally worth it because the food is so delicious. I love the beetroot waffles! Meals typically cost around $35 – $45 NZD for a main here.
This tour costs $215 – $220 NZD per person, which includes hotel pickup and drop-off, and all of your tastings. You’ll be picked up in Picton around 9:30 am and the tour lasts for 6-7 hours, so there’s plenty of time to drink lots of the region’s delicious wine. There’s also an option to be picked up from Blenheim as well that’s slightly cheaper.
This wine tour is available daily, but it does sell out quite fast during the summer, so I recommend booking in advance here.
Related Read: If you’re traveling from the North Island, I’ve got a guide on how to catch the ferry to the South Island that will help you get here!
2. Hop-On Hop-Off Wine Tour
I always really enjoy hop-on hop-off tours, because they give you so much flexibility. You can go wine tasting at your own pace and visit the wineries that appeal the most to you, without needing a designated driver!
This bus tour stops at some of the best wineries around, including Rock Ferry, which specializes in organic wines, the historic Hunter’s Wines with its charming farmhouse and lovely garden that you can explore, and the beautiful Cloudy Bay, which makes a fantastic sparkling wine using the champagne method (but as we all know, they can’t actually call it that).
Other highlights on the route include Alan Scott Family Wines, where you can play a slightly tipsy game of giant chess, and Spy Valley Wines, aptly named because there’s a secretive satellite communications station nearby.
And it’s not all about wine, either. You can stop at the awesome Runway Cafe and perk up with a delicious coffee as you admire a historic plane that’s located out back. Or, mix it up with a visit to the Cork & Keg Pub where you can relax and enjoy a pint. One of my personal favorite stops is the Makana Chocolate Boutique. A wine tour that includes a chocolate factory – yes, please!
And if that weren’t enough, there are plenty of things to do around along the route. You can visit Brayshaw Heritage Park or walk through some local museums. Honestly, there are so many stops on this route that you could do this tour twice and have a totally different experience each time!
A ticket for the hop-on hop-off bus costs $89.50 NZD per person, but you’ll cover the cost of tastings and food on the day of. The bus ticket does grant you some discounts at the wineries you visit, so keep that in mind as you plan your stops.
This tour is available from Thursday to Sunday during the summer, and Friday to Sunday all year round. The bus leaves from the Picton isite Visitor Information Centre at 10 am, and buses arrive to take you to the next stop every 45 minutes or so. The final bus gets back at 5:45 pm, which means you can enjoy almost 8 hours of wine tasting!
If you like variety, you can book this hop-on hop-off bus tour here – there are 27 stops so it’ll definitely be a full day of fun!
3. Full-Day Marlborough Catamaran Cruise with Wine Tour and Lunch
What’s better than a wine tour? A wine tour AND a catamaran cruise!
This awesome combo tour takes you sailing around the stunning Queen Charlotte Sound in the morning before heading ashore for lunch and plenty of wine tastings. If you’re visiting from nearby places like Nelson, it’s the perfect way to spend a day in Picton.
I personally think that the Queen Charlotte Sound is one of the most beautiful sections of the Marlborough Sounds, and I like the fact that you get to stop at the scenic Ship Cove for a quick walk, too. This area also marks the beginning of the Queen Charlotte Track which is easily one of the best hikes on the South Island.
Next, you’ll have lunch at the Saint Clair Family Estate, which is one of my favorite places to eat in the area, and of course, you’ll get a glass of wine to go with your meal. After that, you’ll visit three wineries for tastings, so this is a pretty jam-packed day, but it’s totally worth it. There are only 10 passengers per tour, so it won’t be crowded while you sightsee and enjoy your wine.
This tour costs $365 NZD per person, which includes the catamaran ride, lunch with a glass of wine, transport, and tastings, so overall, it’s a pretty good deal. You can choose complimentary pickup in either Picton or Blenheim, or you can meet at the port in Picton, as the cruise office is within walking distance of most accommodations.
The tour is available from Wednesday to Sunday. I should also note that currently on Viator you’ll need to choose the “Blenheim Ultimate” option, but you’ll still be able to select a pickup point in Picton by contacting the tour operator after you book.
If you’re ready to sail, sip, and sightsee, I recommend booking this tour here in advance.
Related Read: If cruises are your thing, you have to check out this overnight cruise in Doubtful Sound. It’s a way to explore one of the most remote places in the world and I absolutely loved it!
4. Cruise Ship Shore Excursion Wine Tour
This small group wine tour is specifically designed for cruise ship passengers! So if you’re sailing into Picton for the day, this is the one to choose. The departure days are only on cruise ship docking days and the tour time will vary to line up with when your boat arrives.
You’ll meet your guide and driver, Mike, at the Picton Visitor Centre (only a 5-minute walk from the port) where he’s ready to whisk you away to visit some of the award-winning wineries in Marlborough. The tour allows time to visit four or five wineries for tastings, but what I love about this experience is you also get vineyard and cellar tours!
If you’re looking for a day off the cruise ship, this experience will have you strolling through vineyards to see where these amazing wines start and visiting cellars with the aroma of wine in French oak barrels around you. It’s an experience for all your senses!
The wineries you visit can change from day to day, but it will be a combination of smaller vineyards that are family-run and larger operations that are well-known and loved in this area. Along the way, you’ll try the crisp Sauvignon Blancs this region is famous for along with a variety of other wines including fruity Pinot Gris and rich, oak-aged Chardonnay.
Transport for the day is an air-conditioned mini-bus, so it’s a comfy ride. Mike also makes stops for photos along the way and it feels like a mini sightseeing tour since the scenery around here is stunning. You’ll learn a lot about the Marlborough Region and its iconic wine as you drive around and since there’s a maximum group size of 11, this tour feels like going wine tasting with a bunch of friends!
At one of the vineyards, you’ll stop for lunch which isn’t included, but the tour company has planned ahead with the winery to put together a set menu. This means you won’t be waiting hours for your food! The tour company is really conscientious about getting you back to your ship on time, but not making the experience feel rushed so you can relax and enjoy the day. You can choose from local seafood like mussels or salmon, venison, beef, or a platter of cheeses and other treats that pair oh so well with wine.
The tour costs $240 NZD per person, which includes all transport, wine tastings, and even a bonus stop at a local chocolate factory on the way back to port. It lasts for around 5 hours and I think it’s a fantastic way to make the most of this fantastic wine region if you’re only stopping in Picton for a day.
If you’re ready for a great day filled with delicious wine, you can get your tickets here!
5. Private Gourmet Winemakers Tour
If you’re looking for an upscale wine tour in Picton, then look no further! This private tour is led by a local winemaker, so you get to hear first-hand accounts of what really goes into making a great bottle of wine.
One of the coolest things about this tour is that your guide will take you on a behind-the-scenes stroll through Mount Riley Wines to show you how it all works, and you’ll get to try wine straight from the barrel! Plus, the guide knows the staff and owners at the wineries personally, which adds a nice touch to the experience and allows you to discover even more winemaking secrets.
You’ll visit 4-6 wineries in total, depending on your particular preferences, including Cloudy Bay Vineyards and Clos Henry Vineyard, which is a premium French wine estate. They make organic wines here and the tasting room is inside an old chapel, so it’s a lot of fun to visit. And if there’s another particular winery that you’re dying to visit, your guide can make it happen!
The tour also includes a gourmet platter at Saint Clair for lunch, and you’ll also visit the Makana Confections factory where you’ll see delicious chocolates being made, and even get to try them for yourself. Personally, I think this would make a lovely romantic getaway, but that’s just me.
The tour costs $2,000 NZD for a group of up to 10 people. So if you are traveling in a big group, it can actually prove cheaper than a shared wine tour, since it’s an all-inclusive day out. It’s available daily, all year round, and it’s ideal for travelers on shore excursions but you don’t have to be a cruise passenger to enjoy this tour. It’s also a great option if you’re road tripping around the island!
The tour lasts for 5-6 hours, which I think is the ideal amount of time for a wine tour. You’ll be picked up from the Picton isite Visitor Centre at either 9 or 9:30 am, and your guide will have a sign with your name on it since it’s just you and your group!
If you’re traveling with a group, or just looking for a private tour, this is a great option and you can reserve your spot here!
Related Read: While you’re traveling, I have a guide to the best waterfalls in New Zealand that are absolutely breathtaking.
Why I Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! I almost always book tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
Other Activities to do in Picton
While I’m always up for a fun wine tour, there are plenty of other things to do in Picton. Be sure to check out some of my other favorite things to do in this charming coastal town:
- Hiking – If you’re always on the hunt for the best trails, you’ll love the Queen Charlotte Track. While this entire hike takes about 4 days to complete, you can also choose shorter options like Ship Cove to Endeavor Inlet which will take about 6 hours to finish. If you’re short on time, I recommend the Tirohanga Track which usually takes less than 45 minutes to hike.
- Visit the Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary – Take a boat to Motuara Island where you can spot all kinds of birds from parakeets to penguin chicks to kiwis. This wildlife sanctuary is now predator-free and I recommend going on this half-day cruise to get some amazing sightseeing opportunities while visiting the sanctuary.
- Take a train ride – One of the best ways to enjoy the views is on this Coastal Pacific train journey. This trip is very popular as it showcases some of the South Island’s best scenery. It takes you from Picton to Christchurch, and you’ll definitely want to bring your camera for this adventure.
- Eat great seafood – Picton is known for its seafood which is no surprise considering its location on the ocean! The snapper and red cod are local favorites along with mussels and oysters (which I loved!). Cortado Restaurant and Bar is my pick as it has a large menu of fresh seafood and waterfront views.
- Go on a scenic flight – Get a truly magical view of Picton while exploring from above. This 30-minute flight offers epic sightseeing of the nearby bays and mountains. If you want to treat yourself, check out this scenic flight which includes 45 minutes of air time while you travel over islands and coves, and includes a short landing on a remote beach.
Where to Stay in Picton, New Zealand
Picton may be a small town, but there are a ton of great places to stay. The truth is, picking a hotel with a great location is important because, let’s face it, I’m sure you really want to enjoy the natural scenery and be near the coast!
Atlantis Backpackers – $
If you’re a budget traveler, I’m sure you will love Atlantis Backpackers! I stayed here once when I was transporting my car from Auckland to Queenstown and simply wanted a cheap place to stay. The hostel is tons of fun, and it’s easy to meet other travelers. It’s located close to the marina and right next to Picton Memorial Park.
Harbour View Motel – $$
If you can spend a little more, then you’ll really get a nice upgrade. The Harbour View Motel is one of my favorite hotels in Picton because of its amazing location and views. From your room, you can stare out at the gorgeous marina and enjoy sunset drinks on your balcony – pure travel bliss!
The staff here are also super friendly and happy to help you out if you have any questions during your stay in Picton. Rooms here start at $173 NZD per night for a double room, and you can book in advance on Booking.com here.
Picton Waterfront Luxury Apartments – $$$
Are you looking for a luxury stay? Well, I’ve got you covered! The Picton Waterfront Luxury Apartments is one of the most luxurious options in Picton. These self-contained apartments are as waterfront as you can get, and the rooms come with large balconies and ocean views.
You’re also just a 2-minute walk from the center of town, perfect for grabbing a bite to eat at the end of a busy day. With rooms starting at around $500 NZD per night, it’s not the cheapest place to stay, but you do get some serious Picton luxury for your money! You can check availability and book your stay here.
Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!
You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:
- Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
- Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.
- Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. My top choice for a motorhome company is Star RV because they have beautiful motorhomes at affordable prices. You can check prices and availability for Star RV motorhomes online here. Alternatively, you can use Motorhome Republic to search all motorhomes in NZ. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your JUCY or Star RV campervan or motorhome before the end of June 2024! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy! One thing to note is that this code is only valid for travel before Dec 21, 2024.
Travel Insurance Has Your Back!
Life can be unpredictable and when you’re traveling abroad, the last thing you want to worry about is getting sick or injured and having to pay out of pocket for treatment.
If this concerns you, SafetyWing can help! SafetyWing specializes in very affordable and comprehensive medical and travel insurance that is aimed at digital nomads, remote workers, and long-term travelers. It costs just $45 USD per 4 weeks!
To start coverage, you must purchase it after leaving your home country, so we usually buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada before the border closed!
Thanks for reading!
Picton is a gem of a travel spot, especially if you’re a wine lover. I personally love going on wine tours and am always looking for the best ones so I can maximize my time while traveling. I hope this guide has helped narrow down some options so you can choose the tour that works best for your vacation!
If this article was helpful, I hope you’ll consider reading some of my others. I’ve travelled all over New Zealand, and have tons of advice for fun road trips to places to stay. I’ve listed a few articles that I hope you’ll find useful below.