Road Trip: Picton to Christchurch via Kaikoura, 3-Day Itinerary

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

This short trip from Picton to Christchurch via Kaikoura will give you a wonderful insight of what the South Island has to offer. You will experience some of New Zealand’s best vineyards, get up close to the wildlife and be immersed in stunning scenery. Driving from Picton it takes roughly 4 hours and a half of non-stop driving to drive to Christchurch, which equates to roughly 336 kilometres of distance. Along this route, there are many places to explore, we’ve made an itinerary to see all the highlights. This guide recommends roughly 3 days to complete this road trip, but you can extend or shorten this itinerary to suit your journey specifically.

To begin your road trip in Picton, you will need to book a ferry crossing from Wellington. Ferry crossings are at fixed times, so you can expect to arrive at either lunchtime, late afternoon, or evening. It is approximately a three-and-a-half-hour journey. Enjoy the views of the green hills of the Marlborough Sounds, or you might be lucky to see dolphins as you make your way to Picton.

Day 1: Picton to Blenheim

Drive time: 25 minutes (28 km)


If you are arriving later in the day, Blenheim is a great destination for your first night. It’s less than 30 kilometres away, around a 25-minute drive from Picton. For accommodation, you can treat yourself to a stay in a luxury lodge or vineyard accommodation. You can also choose from boutique hotels, motels, and hostels. 

The Marlborough Food & Wine Festival every February is a great way to sample a big range of the region’s offerings. If you are travelling at a different time of the year, there is still plenty to tempt your taste buds. Try a chocolate tasting at Makana Confections, or relax at Dodson Street, a Biergarten that boasts an international menu and the largest range of craft beers in New Zealand. The highlight of the area is the vineyards. Sipping on a glass of world-renowned Sauvignon Blanc is a must-do. Marlborough produces 70% of New Zealand’s wine and 85% of them are this quintessentially New Zealand tipple. Pick up a Wine Trail map from any accommodation or i-SITE and enjoy the varied and delicious tastings on offer.

Day 2: Blenheim to Kaikoura

Drive time: 1 hour 40 minutes (128 km)


The next morning set off for your next destination Kaikoura. It is approximately a 2-hour drive from Blenheim to Kaikoura. This drive takes you along the dramatic coastline, where you will see the results of the destructive 2106 earthquake. Stop along the way to see if you can spot any sea lions on the rocks!

Visit the thriving farmers market and award-winning Kaikoura Museum, there is plenty to satisfy stomachs and minds. However, it’s the great outdoors that is the crowning glory of this corner of New Zealand.

Enjoy a stroll along the beach or take the coastal walkway to see the seal colony. Look out for the many bird species in this birding hotspot, including 12 different types of Albatross.

There are tours by boat to see large bird colonies, as well as arguably the most famous of Kaikoura’s attractions: dolphin and whale watching. While it’s relatively rare to see whales in the wild, Kaikoura is recognised as one of the best spots in the world to experience these magnificent creatures.

For accommodation, you choose from luxury lodges to backpacker-friendly digs.

Day 3: Kaikoura to Christchurch

Drive from Kaikoura: 2 hours 30 minutes (180 km)

From Kaikoura to Christchurch is only a 2-and-a-half-hour drive along State highway 1. If you feel you didn’t taste enough wine in Marlborough, you can make a stop at Waipara Valley.

Waipara Valley

Waipara Valley is just over an hour and a half drive from Kaikoura and boasts incredible vineyards and more of those spectacular views. Grab an early lunch at Waipara Springs Winery & Restaurant or visit one of the many tasting rooms.


Continuing from Waipara Valley, it is a 50-minute drive to Christchurch, the South Island's most metropolitan city. There is a lot to explore in the city, from Canterbury Museum and Botanical Gardens to the International Antarctic Centre. For food and drink, make your way to Oxford Terrace and enjoy a meal along by The Avon River. 

Enjoy your trip, but do remember to drink and drive responsibly. From all of us at ___mode, happy travels!

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