Tucked at the northern reaches of New Zealand’s South Island, Picton is the gateway to Marlborough Sounds, a dramatic set of sunken river valleys that draws boaters, anglers and dolphin-spotters. But that’s not all this ridge-framed town has going for it. You’re only a day trip from the Marlborough wine region – home to the country’s zingy sauvignon blancs – and just a ferry ride away from cutesy capital Wellington. Make the base for your adventures one of these prime hotels.
The location couldn’t be more convenient: only moments from Picton’s restaurants, marina and boat-lined waterfront. Rooms are classic and comfy, but also bright, with many showing off views over the green forested slopes that encircle the town and the blue waterways that squiggle to the Insta-famous Marlborough Sounds. Count on the restaurant for a proper seafood feast, including tempura calamari, seafood chowder and mussels in a saffron broth.
There’s a bit of old-world flair to this central restaurant with rooms, from the clapboard exterior and the chandeliers to thr rolltop bathtubs and sturdy wooden bannisters. The building dates back to 1902 – it was once Picton’s bank – and its owners nurture the nostalgic feel with a decadent afternoon tea, starring lemon curd tartlets, opera cake and, of course, fluffy scones with lashings of jam. The restaurant, serving pulled-lamb pie and sticky pork ribs, is one of the town’s favourites.
Friendly, helpful hosts Kent and Marie will make you feel welcome at the Gateway Motel. They can hook you up with local cruises, swimming with fur seals or guided treks – all right on your doorstep. And they’ve made sure that their rooms come kitted out with everything you’ll need, no matter how long you’re staying; even the smallest studio units feature kitchenettes and outdoor patio space, plus barbecue and laundry facilities.
The three-course gourmet breakfasts – majoring in hazelnut-topped fruit parfait, airy scones and decadent blueberry pancakes smothered in cream – aren’t the only thing that’s sensational about this B&B. There are the bloom-perfumed garden, fringed with a picket fence, and classy rooms, with marble-topped bedside tables, throw pillows and button-back armchairs. Best of all? The cooking classes, where you’ll learn to make delights from terrines to cheese.
All the essential comforts are here: a central location (minutes from Picton’s boat-bobbing waterfront), complimentary wifi and free-to-use barbecues if you’d like a DIY dinner (a large supermarket right across the street makes it a no-brainer). Split-level units let families spread out, while kitchenettes and dining spaces mean you’ll have breakfast in-room, saving cash for day trips exploring Marlborough Sounds or bottles of wine at nearby Nelson’s cellar doors.
Shimmering blue water, framed by undulating green ridges and studded with bobbing boats – the view is the number one selling point at this waterfront motel, kitted out with kitchenettes and laundry facilities. Because you’re in sleepy Waikawa, just a 5-minute drive away from Picton’s town centre, serenity is practically guaranteed, too – though you still have a full list of must-try activities right on your doorstep, including kayaking and mountain biking.
With loads of different room categories to choose from, this self-catering option can suit travellers who might typically find apartment-style motels either too small or too big. Cream- and red-hued standard options sleep just two, while the largest two-bedroom spa units sleep up to five (and come with sink-in double spa baths for evening relaxation). Hosts Caron and Quinton work hard to ensure the whole place is spotlessly clean, too.
Mountain views from your terrace are the perfect sun-drenched moment to accompany a glass of Marlborough sauvignon blanc. And they come as part of the package at this motel, a short drive beyond Picton town centre. So, too, do comfortable rooms with microwaves and, sometimes, kitchenettes. Book two nights or more, and you’ll arrive to find a free bottle of wine in your room – a bonus that makes this reliable spot even better value.