Wellington is the gateway to NZ South Island. For those who want to go to the South Island, you can take a domestic flight from Wellington to Christchurch and Queenstown and Nelson. If you are planning to go to Nelson as we did, you would have to go on the ferry. You have the option to take the bus and travel with InterCity who offers daily services with comfortable air-conditioned buses from different points. I am OK with short bus rides but I try to avoid long bus rides as I get motion sickness. Therefore, we decided to rent a car and do a road trip down south. You have two ferry options. The Interislander and Bluebridge . The route between the North and South Island promises to be one of New Zealand’s most iconic experiences. Probably not for nothing it has been named one of the most beautiful ferry journeys in the world. The sea-drowned valleys at the northern end of the South Island of New Zealand seemed to promise spectacular views of Marlborough Sounds.
Why did we want to do it?
For starters – the views. Was it really as spectacular as I have heard and seen on pictures? But most importantly. I do love travelling on boats. I enjoy nature and wildlife. There is plenty of marine mammals depending on the season. Humpback whales can be spotted if you are lucky during the winter at Cook Strait and Malborough Sounds. You might spot chilled sunbathing seals, dolphins and even orcas. This is also a great trip for bird watching. Fluttering shearwaters, Australasian gannets, shags and albatross species are under the many species you might be lucky to see.
We decided to have breakfast extra early to head to the ferry with plenty of time. From the hotel you can get a great taxi deal, just ask at the reception desk or see the information available in the rooms. We decided to walk but I did not realise that we could not walk the entire way as the footpath ends so ended up taking a taxi at the train station. We were right on time. We checked in our luggage and headed to the waiting room of the ferry. Everything was running smoothly. Little did we know what was about to happen.
It was a pretty busy morning, so the queue was very long and it took a while to board. It was a beautiful sunny day. We had not slept much in the past few days so decided to get a basic cabin to leave our bags and maybe have a wee nap during our journey. You can add this onto of your ticket as you check in or do this in advance. For us, it was about £20.00 for the three of us. We headed to the deck to have a good view. It was taking a while to sail so we decided to go and have a coffee. They have a large selection of drinks, sandwiches soups and cakes. If you need to have vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options as I do, make sure to ask which area to purchase these foods from as not all the refreshment areas have these available.
After settling with our coffees and enjoying the views, we heard an announcement saying that there were technical difficulties and that they were trying to sort it out so we could sail as soon as possible. We did not think too much of it and believed that we would be leaving in no time. Unfortunately, this thought was short-lived and about an hour later a new announcement explained that we had to leave the ferry until further notice. We started hearing from other staff members chatting in the background that for some reason someone managed to cause a dent into the prow doors where the cars enter. As we were leaving the ferry it became evident that the dent was significant enough to delay the sail. We were told to reschedule, so instead of 7.30, we would be leaving at 14.30. We were guaranteed to sail in the early afternoon. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Between staff giving out mixed messages from one side to the other and tourists going crazy about losing tours, connecting flights and rooms it seemed that a beautiful day starting with the thought of going on a memorable journey was converted into mindless chaos of check staff vs angry customer, smiling staff telling customers things they had no clue about to make them go away, staff hiding from customers demanding information and a couple of crying tourists. DD and I just looked at the scene in disbelief. At this point, we decided that we had no choice but to wait. In between all the madness, I have to say we did get drinks, so we sat down and DD decided to draw. And so the time past. A queue started forming around 17.00. Are we all going to sail now? We did not know each other but we were all smiling, joking and laughing towards each other. We are finally leaving!
Interislander Journey Verdict
It was a nice feeling to finally be able to sail at 17.00. The views were really enjoyable and I would definitely recommend it. Thankfully it was sunny with mild winds so the sailing went smooth. The journey was excellent and the staff were very friendly. We saw many birds and enjoyed the last bit of sun. We were lucky to see white-capped albatrosses, Westland petrels, Australasian gannets and sooty shearwater, under others. There is never a guarantee with the weather. However, weather conditions tend to be less severe in the morning. Not to mention that if you have a delay as we had, at least you don’t end up arriving in the middle of the night. to just enjoy the journey and hope we would not have issues with the car as the offices would be closed at arrival. The better the weather, the better the chances are you will see the stunning scenery and maybe plenty of wildlife. In my opinion, it does not matter if you live in New Zealand or you are a visitor. If you enjoy nature and wildlife you will definitely not be disappointed.
As the ferry is approaching land, scattered houses are visible in between the trees until you see the little town of Picton from afar. South Island NZ. Initially, we were going to explore the area but had to change our plans due to the delay. If I would have extra time, I would stay 2 nights in Picton and do the following. I would visit the Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary which is an incredible community-based nature restoration project and a wildlife haven. You will find one of the last remaining populations of long-tailed bats in Malborough at the Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve. The best thing is to camp at Pelorus, as you will find them foraging after dusk. Maud Island Scientific Reserve, which is a predator-free scientific reserve, where you will find many rare and endangered native species. The island is only open a few days a year, so if you find this interesting do book ahead. For more information on permits, tours and other touristic needs, you could also check out the visitor’s information website. You will also find many as you are travelling through New Zealand. Don’t leave Picton without visiting the Picton Museum, with its interesting stories of the region’s whaling history, Maori collection, Heritage and Textile displays.
The crew bade farewell as we left. Once we disembarked, we looked for the car. The company agreed to leave the car at a location with the keys hidden. It took us a long time to actually find the car as it was a bit far away. And hundreds of parked cars. We were initially going to spend the night in Blenheim but had to cancel and went directly to Nelson. We had little time left as we wanted to arrive before it got dark. We got there just as It took us about 2.5 hrs. The Tudor Lodge Motel was going to be our place to sleep for the next 3 nights to explore the surroundings. More on this in the next article.