He left England for Australia on the Asia, arriving in July 1839. He found ready employment and by 1849 and owned two lots on the Portuguese Road, Hindmarsh and a timber merchant"s business. In 1851 he joined the gold rush to Victoria, and within a few years returned to Hindmarsh sufficiently wealthy to give up active business life.
He served on the Hindmarsh District Council from 1857 to 1866 and had a year each as Chairman and Treasurer.
He was, with H. Quarterly, Francis Hunwick, Luther Scammell and John Gibson behind the formation of the Hindmarsh Institute. He lost his seat at the 1868 election but succeeded at the February 1870 by-election called to replace George Bean, was defeated at the 1870 election, but didn"t have long to wait before the 1871 election, when he was again successful, and held the seat until 1878, when he was defeated by a handful of votes.
In 1881 he was successful in winning one of the six vacant seats in the Legislative Council and retired in 1888. He was appointed Justice of the Peace.
Pickering was a staunch Congregationalist, and helped build the "Mud Chapel" on the opposite side of Orsmond (then Roberts) Street from the present chapel, alongside Crawford"s Hindmarsh Brewery.
Pickering was married He lived his whole life in Hindmarsh and died at his son"s residence in Bacon Street, Hindmarsh after an illness lasting several weeks. They had one son:
John Pickering Junior (ca1849 – 19 February 1921) was a senior officer with the Railways and a prominent cricketer with the Hindmarsh, then Norwood Clubs, and helped found the South Australian Cricket Association, and was its first Secretary, from 1871 to 1873.
He was a teetotaller, a prominent worker for the Temperance movement and a member of the British and Foreign Bible Society.