Island hopping: from Picton to Wellington via the Interislander

The 92km journey across Cook Strait is serene, scenic. It’s so beautiful I’m surprised people don’t take the Interislander for the views alone.

I packed my surfboard first, clothes second, and pointed my trusty Honda CRV north. North Island bound!

I would spend the summer in Wellington!

I’m a Christchurch local and, like the thousands of travellers who grace our country's shores every year, I love discovering New Zealand. I’ll take any and every opportunity to kayak, sail, tramp, surf, climb, cycle, snorkel these three most beautiful islands (let’s not forget Stewart Island!). I didn’t bat an eyelash at the prospect of driving from Christchurch to Wellington, with a three hour cruise with Interislander in between.

The drive from Kaikoura (2.5 hours north of Christchurch) to Picton (the ferry port) on highway 1 rivals any of the world’s scenic coastal highways. Throw in a bit of seal spotting and surf spotting with those forever seas and maybe New Zealand’s got the best coastal highway.

After driving four hours I arrived in Picton. It surprised me. I expected a small, quiet town that would do only one thing well—welcome and farewell passengers on and off the ferries. I was glad to be proven wrong. It’s a small town, yes, but it bustles with travellers and restaurants and pubs and yet sits nestled in the comforting enclosure of the foothills with an outlook onto the undisputedly unrivalled Marlborough Sounds and, further on and out of sight, the North Island.

Northward and seaward with Interislander!

Leaving my CRV below deck, I parked upstairs on the outside deck, refusing to miss a moment of the views-to-come. And those views didn’t disappoint. I’d only ever flown over Cook Strait before then. Flying over seems to only take a few minutes. But cruising it! There’s no comparison. The 92km journey is serene, scenic. It’s so beautiful I’m surprised people don’t take the Interislander for the views alone, never minding the necessity to island hop.

When we passed through the Sounds and headed into the open waters of Cook Strait, the North Island beckoned. The ferry deck filled with eager onlookers who were just as awed as I was at the view of the North Island appearing in the distance.

Three hours after embarking, I drove off saying “goodbye” and “see you in a few weeks” to the ferry. Within a few minutes I drove into downtown Wellington, a world of cafes and culture and shopping. YHA Wellington was only a short drive on Wakefield Terrace, a stone’s throw from Te Papa and a slightly longer stone’s throw to the harbour.

The hostel was busy with guests coming and going and enjoying the hostel’s free wifi.

Six weeks later I sailed back to my island in the south. The weather was moodier than the sunshiny day of my first journey, but that did nothing to dampen the views. Because of that occasional rain, I appreciated the Interislander’s lounge where I plugged in my laptop and began to write about my adventures in island hopping.

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