It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I now have more than enough material after last weekend’s trip to the South Island. I finally got the chance to take the ferry across to Picton to do one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks,” the Queen Charlotte Track. We had Friday off work for Waitangi Day, so I took off just after noon on Thursday and headed towards the ferry terminal.
Although the North and South Islands aren’t all that far apart at the Cook Strait’s narrowest point (14 miles), the ferry has to travel west and through Queen Charlotte Sound to reach Picton from Wellington, which ends up being about 60 miles. Here’s a screenshot to give you an idea of the journey.
And here’s the lovely Bluebridge Ferry.
The whole trip takes about four hours, and I couldn’t wait to get some great views of the Wellington coast and South Island sounds on this gorgeous day.
They ask you to check in at least an hour before the ferry departs, but of course we had to wait around for a good 45 minutes before we got the go-ahead to board. I quickly scoped out a spot to sit, although all the window seats were taken by people who had parked cars onboard earlier. Even while in port, the views of Wellington were great.
We started to move, and I immediately made my way to the outside decks so I could get some good city shots.
After leaving downtown Wellington behind us, we passed Oriental Bay and Mount Victoria.
My favorite part of the ferry was the giant smiley face that serves as the helicopter landing pad.
As we headed further out towards the Cook Strait, I got a great view of parts of Wellington I haven’t yet had the chance to visit, like the Miramar Peninsula. I’ve only been to Weta, but the peninsula itself is pretty large and has some great coastal walks.
I’ll definitely be exploring more of Miramar soon.
On the opposite side of the ferry deck, there were great views of Eastbourne and the Pencarrow Lighthouse.
Soon after, we turned west and passed Lyall Bay and the hills where I often go hiking, before heading into the choppier waters of the Cook Strait.
I spent the middle part of the crossing reading and listening to some podcasts, since the ferry goes pretty slow and the view didn’t change all that much. I nodded off for a bit, but soon awoke and realized we were entering the South Island sounds. Of course, I promptly rushed back outside with my camera in hand.
As this was the closest I’d been to the South Island in over six years, I was pretty excited. It’s amazing how different the scenery is just across the Strait.
I definitely wasn’t complaining about the slow speed of the ferry through Queen Charlotte Sound, as it gave me all the time in the world to check out the views on all sides.
JUST LOOK AT THAT WATER.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was seeing a lot of the ridges I’d be hiking along the Queen Charlotte Track over the next few days. As we neared Picton, the scenery got increasingly impressive.
I can understand why this is often called one of the best ferry crossings in the world. I took some cool ferries in Greece, but there wasn’t all that much to see until we neared the islands. The Cook Strait crossing offers stunning scenery for a good half of the voyage.
We slowed as we closed in on Picton, but the scenery didn’t let up.
We passed a cruise ship, one I’ve seen in Wellington from my office window many times, as we made our way into town.
Finally, Picton came into view as we turned towards the port.
The town itself is pretty small, since it primarily functions as a stopover for people heading south or traveling the sounds. It really is a beautiful spot all on its own, though.
I took a couple more shots of the amazing turquoise water that the ferry churned up as we prepared to dock.
As soon as we unloaded, I headed to my wonderful hostel for the night, Tombstone Backpackers. It’s right near a cemetery, so they got clever with the name. I met some other travelers and cooked a great steak dinner that we enjoyed on the trellised outdoor patio. Yum! Fuel for my journey to start the Queen Charlotte Track bright and early the following morning. Much more to come on that, so stay tuned!