Picton, on the northern tip of the South Island of New Zealand, is a lovely town within easy reach of the famed Marlborough wine region. As you wander the small settlement, it's easy to feel like a local. There's a laidback yet genuine welcome from the residents who see just enough cruise ships to not be fazed (or overrun) by them.
Understandably, those stunning views across Queen Charlotte Sound, backdropped by steep mountains, encourage visitors to dial back their stress levels and simply relax in the waterfront park or on the beach. Picton also has plenty of cafes, galleries and gift shops to keep the wanderers happy.
There's much more to do in the surrounding area, so be sure to check out the hiking trails, water activities and, of course, the wineries.
Ships berth in Shakespeare Bay, at Waitohi Wharf, just across a narrow peninsula from the town of Picton, a short shuttle bus or taxi trip away.
Just so you know, many New Zealanders (who don't mind being called Kiwis, even though it is their national bird) think the accents of other English speakers are pretty hilarious, too. Be prepared for some gentle ribbing and invitations to say 'six', which sounds (to them) like sex.
The local currency is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD), which has 10, 20 and 50 cent coins, and one- and two-dollar gold coins. Banknotes are coloured and come as $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. Take time to look at the beautiful artwork on them featuring important New Zealanders as well as local birds, flowers and scenes.
ATMs can be found in Picton and, 28 kilometres away, there's a Bureau de Change at the Kiwibank in Blenheim PostShop, 3 Scott Street, Blenheim, capital of the Marlborough region. Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Phone: 0800-501-501.
For current currency conversion figures visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com.
English is the main language, although the New Zealand accent may take some getting used to. There is a vowel-shift going on, so that 'ham' becomes 'hem' and 'best' sounds more like 'bist'. Fish and chips, which is hugely popular in this country of pristine waters richly endowed with seafood, is pronounced like the 'u' in 'push' -- fush'n'chups.
Picton is a good place to pick up some local artworks at the town's galleries, or high-quality artisan craft work from the many souvenir and gift shops. Especially worth looking at are merino wool garments, hand-blown glass articles and the local Pounamu jade or greenstone, as well as rare New Zealand 'blue' pearls (see Shopping below).