City Travels - Picton
I was there from June 23th to July 29th.
All prices are given in New Zealand dollars.
I took the Interislander ferry across the Cook Strait. The Cook Strait runs between the north and south islands of New Zealand. Bluebridge also runs ferries across the strait, and were only a few dollars more expensive. Plane flights are usually similarly priced, assuming you don't have a car. A lot of tourists take a ferry between the North and South island for a fun and beautiful tour of the Marlborough sounds, but I also took it since both of the ferries drop off in Picton, which was my final destination.
However, I will say that the ferries struggle heavily with delays. My ferry was three hours late because of mechanical trouble it encountered early the day before. I received an e-mail around 8PM the evening before I left warning me that my ferry would be late, with further details in the morning. I really feel these companies need a way to get back on schedule within a day. The ferry ended up being off-schedule for several days because of one mechanical problem. This could cause severe issues if you are trying to catch a connecting bus.
A Place to Stay and Work
I worked for accommodation while I stayed in Picton, so it cost me nothin'. I worked at Fat Cod Backpackers doing evening shift reception work. Because I worked there, I will not be giving a formal review of the hostel, but I'll do a quick summary.
The hostel has one set of mixed bathrooms in the basement of the building. The showers and toilets are in separate rooms, and in stalls. The building has a wood-burning stove for heat, and at least in winter, serves a breakfast of toast and jam, and vegetable soup in the evening. The kitchen is decently stocked, and does have an oven. Dorms range from 10-4 bed dorms, with several family rooms available. The bunk beds have wooden bed frames in a variety of arrangements.
If you are WWOOFing, you'll stay in a 3-single bed room. You'll have a bathroom you'll only share with four people (the three people in the WWOOF room and one of the owners.). There's also a semi-private kitchen and living room you'll share with the other workers. That kitchen has a freezer. A selection of meat and vegetables are provided for your food.
I worked the reception desk, which in the winter is a pretty laid back job. I made sure the fire stayed lit, sometimes folded and stored the laundry, make homemade bread, and served and cleaned up the nightly soup. Of course, I also did front desk work, such as checking in guests, answering the phone and helping guests with any questions they may have. The job is much busier in the summer as there are most customers coming through, but in the winter I'd usually complete most of my job duties in an hour or two, and then just play around on my computer until someone came to check in. If you're looking for a laid back, accommodation-providing position, I would recommend the job.
To say Picton is a small town is an understatement. There is High Street, where you can go to the grocery store or the library. The library has free wi-fi for anyone, even if they don't have a library card. I would go there, download podcasts to listen to at work, and flip through magazines.
There are many walking trails in Picton, and I did all of them. That does not at all include the Queen Charlotte Track. People would often come in thinking they could walk to this famous trail: you cannot. You would have to get dropped off there by boat, of which there are plenty to choose from starting at ~$65. I never ended up doing that due to the steep price.
A map of the Picton walking trails is available here. The dam trails are like walking through the middle of a rainforest, and can be quiet and peaceful. However, I couldn't finish the Barnes Dam trail because of a downed tree. The trail to Bob's Bay runs along bluffs and ends at a pretty little cove. The Harbor View track is an easier trail, that can even be driven if you have a car. The harbor view trail goes to the top of a plateau and overlooks the city. From there, you could continue onto Waikawa Bay, which is a beautiful little marina, or onto the Snout Track to the Queen Charlotte View, which was my favorite walk, although quite long. There, you get a great, wide view of the sounds.
There is also another walk called the Tirohanga Track to a hilltop view on the other side of town. I do not recommend that walk alone or if the trail seems at all muddy. The trail is very narrow at points, very slippery, and on the edge of unguarded cliffs. While the hilltop view is pretty, the trail can be scary. Also, the trail ends telling you to cross non-existent stepping stones across a small, hip-deep stream. They are especially non-existent if the stream is running high. There is a private bridge a few feet down the road, and while not specificially made for hikers, it was far better than getting swept up in the stream or walking in soggy pants back home.
The movie theatre in town is cute, because it's in the aquarium. You have to walk past a penguin to go see the movie. It is discounted for locals on Tuesdays, and if you're WWOOFing, you're a local.
There's also a volunteer-run gym you can purchase a $25 monthly-membership to at the local sports store if you're in town a while.
I walked everywhere with absolutely no problem. The town is so small where if you're near the center, there's no point in having a car.
However, although the larger, service town of Blenhiem is only a 25-minute drive away, there is little bus service there, and the bus tends to be expensive, as expensive as renting a car for a day. There was a new shuttle service in town opening up when I was there that you may want to look into.
There are two groceries in town: a Four-Square and a Fresh Choice. I only shopped at Fresh Choice, and recommend looking for their reduced to clear produce and bread. You can get some really good stuff for a dollar or two. There is also a Bottle-O in town if you need better booze than you can buy at the grocery store. There are also several cafes in town, but I didn't eat at any of them.
I figured I'd have a lot of free-time in a small town and I'd get some writing done or something. Nope. But I did exercise everyday.
It is a town where many places are closed on Mondays, and while I can't say that affected me heavily, it would affect you if you're coming into town then.