One of my favourite memories from our New Zealand adventure was taking the Interislander Ferry from Picton to Wellington. It was a journey that almost didn’t happen. We had planned to fly from Christchurch to Wellington but a last minute change of plans saw us driving from Christchurch to Picton to jump onboard the Interislander Ferry as foot passengers. You can read why we changed our minds here.
I am so pleased we may this decision, so I thought I’d share with you our experience of crossing the Cook Strait.
Table of Contents
Booking the Ferry
We booked the ferry the day before using our Top 10 Holiday Park membership to receive a massive 25% discount. It was a special promotion but as standard you receive 10% discount on all crossings (with or without a vehicle).
Where We Stayed
We had booked a hotel in Picton for the night before, cheapest on the day was the Picton Yacht Club Hotel. It was clean and comfortable, just what we needed. The hotel offered gorgeous views over the London Quay and surrounding countryside.
We spent the evening exploring Picton and grabbing a bite to eat. We headed to the waterfront and watched a few boats coming in and out. Picton really is the most picturesque little town. L loved running off some energy on the play equipment by the waters edge.
Up early and excited for the next leg of our journey. We arrived at Picton Ferry Terminal around 9.30am (our ferry was at 10.45am – you must check in 45 minutes prior to departure). This process is much like an airport, we checked in at the customer services desk and were given boarding passes, we then dropped our luggage off, you can find information regarding luggage and allowances here.
We then settled in to the upstairs lounge for a bit of breakfast and chill out before boarding. The cafe in the terminal is pretty basic but the coffee was hot.
Our boat arrived from Wellington and the passengers and vehicles disembarked. Time for our North Island adventure to begin. We boarded via the gangway and found a great seat with a table. Our ferry for the crossing was the Aratere (there are three that work the strait).
On board I couldn’t believe what was on offer. There was a full sized childrens play area. We parked right near that as you can imagine. There’s a cafe, restaurant and a bar (Deck 4), shop for those all important souvenirs, nursery for babies including cots, a cinema and lounge (which is an additional charge). Seating is available inside and outside.
We settled in for our three and a half hour journey. The ferry set sail on time and slowly made its way out of the gorgeous surrounds of London Quay and into the sound. I can’t imagine a more beautiful journey. The ferry weaved in and around Queen Charlotte Sound, through the East and West Heads and out into the strait. The scenery is truly breathtaking.
We were “at sea” for around two hours, during which time we grabbed a few snacks and a much needed coffee at Hectors Cafe. L spent the entire journey with his new mates in the play area. We sailed slowly through the Palmers and Pencarrow Heads and into Wellington Harbour. The sun was shining so we took the opportunity to stand on the deck soaking up the stunning views.
We docked in Wellington right on time and disembarked the ferry into the terminal. Our luggage arrived on the carousel really quickly and we were soon in a taxi on the way to our collect our camper.
We really could not have asked for a more perfect crossing. We were treated to simply breathtakingly scenery that can really only be seen by taking the ferry. Its worth noting that the Cook Strait crossing is notoriously rough at times. In fact we were really fortunate because the day before we travelled all of the ferries had been cancelled due to the weather.
It really was worth the 6 hour drive from Christchurch, the journey to Picton is one of the most beautiful drives we have ever done. Picton is so picture perfect and what better way to traverse the two islands than by boat taking in the very best New Zealand has to offer! I wish we could do it all again. You can read our full 10 Day South Island Itinerary here.
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