A Travel Price Comparison for New Zealand Kaikoura vs. Picton for Families, Food, Beaches, and Hiking

Should you visit Kaikoura or Picton?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Should I visit Kaikoura or Picton? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city has activities that align with your interests along with knowing which is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the details and the data, which all comes from actual travelers.


Kaikoura is a nature-oriented, biologically diverse, and unique town. Other popular activities here include food, beaches, and hiking.


Picton is a scenic, quaint, and relaxing town. It's a very nice small town not to be missed. And you can't forget about the hiking, shopping, and museums.

Kaikoura and Picton: Pros and Cons

  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
Things to Consider
  • Less museums and historical sights
  • Public transit not as usable
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Good public transit
Things to Consider
  • Less popular for nightlife

Is there more to do in Kaikoura or Picton?

Both Picton and Kaikoura have plenty of things to do for visitors. Both offer a variety of sights, activities, and attractions for tourists. Kaikoura is more popular for its nightlife, while Picton is known for its museums and small town charm. Kaikoura is popular for its local Sperm Whale population, abundance of marine life, and local crayfish (lobster) recipes. Picton is popular for its picturesque scenery, laid back setting, and beautiful walking trails.

How is Kaikoura different from Picton?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Picton and Kaikoura. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Kaikoura or Picton?


Picton is a popular place for its sights and museums. However, Kaikoura is not a good town for its museums and history.

Picton offers a variety of museums and landmarks to choose from. There are a few local museums around town that are fun to visit with the weather isn't cooperating. Edwin Fox Ship is the world's oldest merchant ship. You can also learn about the town's whaling past at the Picton Heritage and Whaling Museum.

While most people don't head to Kaikoura specifically for the museums and attractions, it does offer a few options. There aren't many museums in the area, but it's worth learning more about the region's history with a visit to Kaikoura Museum.

Is the Food Better in Kaikoura or Picton? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?


Foodies will find both Kaikoura and Picton both to be superb destinations.

Eating is part of the travel experience when you visit Kaikoura. Seafood lovers will be in heaven in this town! There are many local, freshly caught favorites such as cod, mussels, and crayfish (which is actually lobster). You'll find plenty of casual eateries, including an authentic American diner.

Picton has a number of nationally recognized food spots and restaurants. The town is filled with restaurants that stay true to New Zealand's culinary traditions. Mussels and salmon are common on menus, and there are many bakeries and waterfront cafes to try.

Is Kaikoura or Picton Better for Nightlife?


Kaikoura is a good destination for its evening party scene. However, Picton is not a good town for nightlife.

There's a variety of activities in the evening in Kaikoura. This is a small town so the nightlife scene is limited, but there are a few restaurants with bars around town.

Those looking for nightlife will find a few places to hang out in Picton. It's a small town with a quiet and calm atmosphere.

Is Kaikoura or Picton Better for Beaches?


For a relaxing beach holiday, both Kaikoura and Picton are superb choices.

Kaikoura is considered a top beach destination. There are many black pebble beaches in the area, which are great for wildlife spotting, but not so good for swimming. Gooch's Beach is one of the most popular, and it's sandier than many of the other beaches. South Bay is another popular area to visit.

Picton is a very popular place to visit for its beaches. There are four beaches in the area. Picton Beach is by the town center and near many restaurants and cafes. About a ten minute walk from town is Shelley Beach and if you're up for more walking, Bob's Bay is secluded and nice. If you have a car you can make it to Governer's Bay.

Is Kaikoura or Picton Better for Hiking?


If you're looking to go hiking, Kaikoura and Picton both have superb trails.

Kaikoura is a popular spot for hiking. There are many coastal walks in the area that will take you through a variety of landscapes. This is also a great way to see the many diverse types of wildlife throughout the peninsula.

Many visitors explore the nearby hiking trails while visiting Picton. There are many nice walking paths in the area and this is a great way to explore, reach beaches, and see the surrounding landscapes. If you're up for a longer trip, Queen Charlotte Track is a popular trail.

Is the Shopping Better in Kaikoura or Picton?


Both Kaikoura and Picton are good shopping destinations.

Kaikoura offers some nice shopping areas. There are local shops where you can pick up some interesting products that are unique to the area.

Picton has a variety of shopping areas worth visiting. There are a few galleries and local shops around town.

Is Kaikoura or Picton Better for Families?


Kaikoura is very popular for its family-friendly activities. Also, Picton is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its kid-friendly activities.

With a huge array of activities for kids, Kaikoura is very family-friendly. Kids who love animals will appreciate all of the wildlife in the area. This is one of the best places in the country to see dolphins, whales, and seals. There are world class whale watching trips as well as opportunities to swim with the dolphins and get close to the seals. There is also kayaking, a coastal train, and even sheep shearing. Minigolf is also a fun activity in the area.

Picton is a very family-friendly destination. Kids will enjoy taking a boat cruise to Motuara Island. You can see dolphins, birds, and other wildlife. There are also wildlife centers in the area, family-friendly walking trails, museums, aquariums, and kayaking opportunities.

Is Kaikoura or Picton Better for Couples?


With fun activities for couples, both Kaikoura and Picton make for a superb place to visit.

Kaikoura is a very popular place to visit for couples. The town is all about wildlife, so if whale watching trips, dolphin spotting, and experiencing amazing local wildlife is your thing, then this is your spot! There are also beautiful coastal sights with a dramatic mountain backdrop.

Picton makes for a fun place to visit for a couple. There are romantic and quaint bed and breakfasts, beautiful walking paths, wildlife encounters, and many more fun activities for couples. Kayak trips, vineyard tours, and local spas make this a great couple's getaway destination.

Is Kaikoura or Picton Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?


Both Kaikoura and Picton are superb destinations for backpackers.

Kaikoura is a great town to visit for backpackers. There are a decent number of hostels in the area and plenty of fun activities that backpackers will enjoy.

Plenty of budget travelers and backpackers visit Picton. There are plenty of hostels in the area as well as great transportation links, making this a great spot for backpackers.

Is Kaikoura or Picton Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?


Picton is a popular place for its public transit. However, Kaikoura is not a good town for times when you don't have a car.

Picton has a few public transit options. There are water taxis but no buses around town.

Public transit is quite limited in Kaikoura. The town is very small and there is no real public transit in the area.

Is Kaikoura or Picton a more walkable city?


Picton is a well-known place for its high level of walkability. Also, Kaikoura is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its ease of walking around.

Picton is a very walkable town. It's a quaint and compact town that's easy to explore on foot.

Kaikoura is a somewhat walkable town. There are many coastal walks in the area, which is a great way to soak up the beauty and see the wildlife. The town itself is small and most of the accommodation is along Beach Road, so it's relatively easy to reach places on foot.

For even more information, also check out Is Kaikoura Worth Visiting? and Is Picton Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Picton or Kaikoura?

How long in Kaikoura or Picton?

You'll be able to find lots of things to do in Kaikoura or Picton to fill your time. Many travelers usually spend more of their time in Kaikoura than Picton because of the number of activities and things to do in the area. Usually, 2-4 days is a good amount of time for Kaikoura, and 1-2 days is enough time in Picton.

Families should spend more time in Kaikoura than Picton. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Kaikoura, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Picton than Kaikoura. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Picton that are perfect for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Picton than Kaikoura if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Picton.

  • How many days in Kaikoura or Picton? Ideal Length of Stay
    Kaikoura 2-4 
    Picton 1-2

One day in Kaikoura or Picton?

Many travelers enjoy the food and shopping when visiting the destination of Kaikoura. Hikers are also drawn to this area. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than one day exploring.

The town of Picton offers food and shopping. Many visitors also spend a good bit of time hiking. With all of its activities, you can easily fill one day here. It will give you the chance to have new experiences.

A weekend in Kaikoura or Picton?

Kaikoura is a great place to explore. It is common to spend a weekend here. With all of its activities, you can easily fill a weekend here. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

Picton is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. If you have a weekend, this town makes for a great vacation. Many visitors spend time at the beach while visiting the area. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Picton, a weekend is sufficent for most. Take your pick from the many activities offered here.

Five days in Kaikoura or Picton?

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Kaikoura. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. Five days may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.

Picton is a popular choice for travelers. Five days is usually plenty of time to spend here with extra days to spare. With this much time, visitors often visit nearby destinations or take day trips. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

A week in Kaikoura or Picton?

Travelers enjoy the food and shopping when visiting the nature-oriented destination of Kaikoura. This town offers a variety of activities to choose from. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.

Picton is a great place to explore. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. One week is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. This town offers something for everyone.

For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best One Week (7-Day) Tours in New Zealand, The Best 2-Week Tours in New Zealand, The Best Bicycle Tours in New Zealand, and Tours for Outdoor and Nature Lovers in New Zealand.

Which place is cheaper, Picton or Kaikoura?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Kaikoura is $137, while the average daily cost in Picton is $88. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Kaikoura and Picton in more detail.

  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Kaikoura $49
    Picton $37
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Kaikoura $98
    Picton $74
Compare Hotels in Kaikoura and Picton

Looking for a hotel in Kaikoura or Picton? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Kaikoura

Hotels in Picton

Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.

Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Kaikoura Hotel Prices and Picton Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Kaikoura $17
    Picton -

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Picton

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Picton:

  • Private Transfer from Picton Cruise Port to Blenheim City Hotels: $39
  • Private Transfer from Blenheim city hotels to Picton Cruise Port: $39
  • Private Transfer from Picton Port to Blenheim Airport (BHE): $46
  • Private Transfer from Blenheim Airport (BHE) to Picton Port: $47

Is it cheaper to fly into Kaikoura or Picton?

Prices for flights to both Picton and Kaikoura change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.

  • Food Meals for one day
    Kaikoura $38
    Picton $20

  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Kaikoura $154
    Picton $111

Tours and Activities in Kaikoura

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Kaikoura are as follows:

  • Sunset Kayak tour in Kaikoura: $83
  • Llama Trek (Taster) - Kowhai River Valley and Native Woodland Tour: $83
  • Seal Kayaking Adventure in Kaikoura: $84
  • Wildlife Sea Kayaking Tour - Kaikoura: $93
  • Sunset Evening Kayaking Tour - Kaikoura: $93
  • Half Day Zipline Adventure in Kaikoura: $99
  • Private Wildlife Kayaking Tour - Kaikoura: $185
  • Kaikoura Whale Watch Day Tour from Christchurch: $218
  • 40-minute Mt Fyffe Summit Heli Tour in Kaikoura : $227
  • 1-Hour Private Heli-Picnic Mountain top tour in Kaikoura : $243
  • Kaikoura Swim with Dolphins Tour from Christchurch: $246

Tours and Activities in Picton

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Picton are as follows:

  • Picton Self-Guided Audio Tour: $15
  • Skip the Line: Dangerous Skies WWII Exhibition - Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre: $16
  • Hinterland Cycling Tour, Havelock: $25
  • Skip the Line:WWI & WWII Combo Exhibitions at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre: $31
  • Winery Express Tour: $41
  • Queen Charlotte Sounds Sightseeing Cruise: $43
  • Queen Charlotte Track: Cruise & Self-Guided Hike from Picton: $53
  • Kayaking Mangrove Adventure at Havelock: $56
  • Marlborough Sounds and Ship Cove Cruise from Picton: $59
  • Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary and Ship Cove Cruise from Picton: $59
  • Half-Day Cruise in Marlborough Sounds from Picton: $60
  • Cruise Ship Day - Marlborough: $62

  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Kaikoura -
    Picton $35

Sample the Local Flavors in Picton

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Picton:

  • Self-Guided Biking Wine Tour (full day) in the Marlborough Region.: $38
  • Self-Guided Wine Tours by Bike with Steve & Jo in Marlborough : $41
  • Marlborough: Hop On Hop Off Wine, Brewery, and Wonders Tour: $55
  • Hop on Hop off Wine Tours Marlborough: $56
  • Marlborough Afternoon Wine Tour with Tastings: $72
  • Half-Day Wine Tour from Picton: $91
  • Half-Day Wine Tour from Blenheim: $91
  • Discover Marlborough Wine - Afternoon Marlborough Wine Tour : $94
  • Marlborough Discovery Sampler Wine Tour - 1/2Day Blenheim: $100
  • Taste the Valley Wine Tour in Marlborough with Wine Tasting: $103
  • Half-Day Marlborough Wine Tour & Beer Tour : $113
  • Full-Day Wine Tour from Picton: $116

When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Kaikoura and Picton, we can see that Kaikoura is more expensive. And not only is Picton much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Picton would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Picton and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Kaikoura would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Kaikoura than you might in Picton.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Kaikoura Expensive? and Is Picton Expensive?.

Which is Bigger, Kaikoura or Picton?

Picton has a larger population, and is about 4 times larger than the population of Kaikoura. When comparing the sizes of Kaikoura and Picton, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.