After a very gratifying tour of the South island of New Zealand, we were headed to the North island. If fjords, adventure sport and scenic drives are the hallmark of the South island, amazing variety of geothermal activity is what is in store in the North island. This is not to be interpreted as these activities being mutually exclusive of each other. Their preponderance in these locations is what I am trying to convey here.
The fastest way to cross over between the islands is of course to board one of the innumerable flights . But an exhilarating experience of sailing the Cook Strait on an Interisland ferry ,is so much more than getting from one island to the other.
The Interislander is a ferry service between the North and South islands in New Zealand operated by KiwiRail. It runs between Picton in the South island and Wellington in the North island across the Cook Strait covering a distance of around 95 km in 3 hours.
It forms a part of the tourism brand Great Journeys Of New Zealand created by Kiwi Rail to connect their Scenic transports and The Interislander and Tranz Alpine (which we did recently) are part of it.
We traveled from Christchurch to Picton by road. The road embraces the coast for considerable distance and awards great views! One of the main tourist destinations in New Zealand is Kaikoura….a coastal town known for whale watching.
Kaikoura is an important stop on this route. This place is also home to fur seal colonies and travelers get to see them if they are lucky.
Some seals relaxing on the rocks at Kaikoura
We had booked our trip on the Interislander from Picton to Wellington. Arriving Picton the previous evening, we relaxed at a hotel in Picton . Picton is a natural harbour with plenty of cafes, restaurants, and shops. Picton’s marina is home to many of the local’s yachts and boats. Picton is also a base to explore the Marlborough Sounds. There were beautiful views of Picton harbor and Yacht club from our hotel.
Picton Yacht club
Next morning, we headed to the boarding point of the ferry and collected our boarding passes and waited with anticipation for the journey.
The waiting lounge at Picton terminal
As we waited to board the ferry, the cars were being loaded on to the lower deck and we watched the cars being driven on to the ferry. Soon we boarded the ferry .
Some images of the ferry and its interiors:
The passenger deck of the ferry
Vehicles driving onto the lower deck of the ferry
Soon we set sail from Picton and the views of the port and town as we left it, looked beautiful..
Leaving Picton behind
Just after we left Picton, the ferry sailed along some dramatic fjord-like valleys, passing secluded coves and bays. This is the Queen Charlotte Sound, which is part of the Marlborough Sounds. Some pictures….
Queen Charlotte Sound
Soon after that, the hills of Marlborough surrounded us and we were sailing into an extensive labyrinth of waterways with lush greenery of the forest-clad hills soaring into the sky. This is the Marlborough Sounds. Taking up a considerable amount of the New Zealand coastline, the Marlborough sound provides an ideal location for sailing, watersports, fishing and mountain biking. Some pictures as we sailed the Marlborough Sounds….
The hills of Marlborough gradually appear
The Marlborough Sound
After some beautiful views of the Marlborough Sounds, the ship entered the Tory Channel which is the entrance to Cook Strait. At one point it almost looked like a dead end but the ship took a sharp turn and entered the Tory Channel
The sharp turn at Tory Channel
Once we crossed the Tory Channel, we were in the Cook Strait. Dolphins, penguins and seals are very often spotted here and we did see some dolphins!!
Leaving Tory Channel into the Cook Strait.
Dolphins playing around
Once in the Cook Strait, it was water water everywhere….surrounded by water on all sides.
After some more sailing , we were at the entrance to Wellington Harbour.
Two lighthouses mark the entrance to Wellington Harbour. Wellington Harbour is quite big and it takes almost an hour to sail from the entrance to the harbour.
The lighthouses at the entrance to Wellington Harbour
After we left the ferry, we collected our luggage and headed to our hotel in Wellington.
After a rather short stay at Wellington, we went on to explore the town of Rotorua….a hotbed of geothermal activity.
See you next week at Rotorua….till then, do comment and subscribe below