A Super Scenic Cruise to the South Island
This is it! South Island, we’re coming to get you!
Final vehicle check-in for the ferry to Picton, South Island is at 7.30, so we are waiting in a queue of vehicles at the Wellington Interislander ferry terminal. Just as if nature wants us to have a warm welcome to the South Island, the sun is beaming brighter than we have seen in weeks! This is going to be a pretty stunning ferry cruise through Marlborough Sounds.
More than just transporting your camper across the Channel
Getting on the ferry with a beast of a campervan is not as nerve-racking as we imagined. There are plenty of workers helping us out, and obviously we are not the only ones bringing heavier vehicles to the South Island.
Parked up, let’s go and enjoy this ferry trip for what it really is: a scenic cruise. It just can’t be helped in New Zealand! Of course just transporting your car or camper from A to B is a journey through bush-covered mountains sticking out of the ocean, of course it is!
Worth waking up early for!
Paying just a little bit extra to take the cruise early morning, rather than in the hours of darkness, is definitely worth at least one way on the ferry across the Cook Strait (the body of water between the North Island and the South Island). We definitely consider the ferry journey between the islands as an activity in itself. But, in true BackpackerGuide.NZ style, we make our journey to Picton just that little bit more epic…
Interislander have been keen for us to do a few 360 images on their ferry, Kaiarahi, including… The Bridge! Awesome! We have never seen the room where all the operations happen in a large ship.
As expected, it looks like something from a sci-fi movie, more specifically, Star Trek, with all it’s nonsensical control panels and spinning chairs. Seriously, just take a look at this 360-degrees picture!
We may have taken advantage of this privileged moment…
Leaving the North Island
Anyway, back to the cruise. Leaving the Wellington Harbour gives us a whole new perspective of the city and how spread out it is. Small houses have prime positions on the side of forested hills. The further out we go, we get a stunning view of two lighthouses sitting isolated on the edge of Cape Palliser. One the other side of the harbour, a wind farm works away. We obviously feel like we understand those turbines and all their feelings now since standing underneath the giants in Manawatu’s Te Apiti Wind Farm.
Ok, let’s do it. Now we are feeling all sentimental about the first half of our trip in the North Island, let’s reminisce about the good times. We can’t believe how much New Zealand has offered us since Day 1 of New Zealand’s Biggest Gap Year! Here are our best bits:
Robin’s favourite North Island Phase #1 moments
- Black Water Rafting: Take an Inflatable Ring for the Time of its Life
- Horse Riding in the Rivers of Makoura
- Wandering Through the Enchanted Forest of Mt Taranaki
Laura’s favourite North Island phase #1 moments
- What’s “SUP” in Whangamata: Paddleboarding to Donut Island
- Walking in the Footsteps of Hobbits
- The Quest to Find Ghost Town on the Forgotten World Highway
Can’t keep away from the observation deck
In the distance, we can see the white peaks on the South Island. Oh my Gawwwwwd, we are so excited. It’s like Christmas!
We’ll be honest, we spent the majority of the time on the observation deck despite it being a bit windy. To get out of the wind for half an hour, we have a coffee in the ferry. Then out of the windows, we see more mountains… We have to get back out there!
To dock in Picton, the South Island’s ferry gateway, the ferry needs to navigate though the long and beautiful Marlborough Sounds. This is just typical of the South Island: mountains that are just that bit higher and more dramatic than its North Island counterparts.
On top of the ship
Although the observation deck provides two levels of perfect viewing, we are keen to get some video of the nose of the ferry coming into the Picton Harbour… Next thing we know, we have been given access to the top deck of the ship. You know, the place with all the radars and technical sh*t!
Again, we may go a bit crazy with the 360 images here. Just take a look at our cruise ship 360 selfie below…
A seal waves to us from the water, welcoming us to the South Island. (Clearly, that is what is was doing). Thank you seal, it’s great to be here!
Cruising into Epic-ton
That’s a cue to get back in the van and prepare to drive into Picton, or should we say, Epic-ton!
The epictonness starts with checking into one of New Zealand’s most unique backpacker hostels, the Tombstone Backpackers. It’s a morbid but totally necessary theme with the hostel being just across the road from a cemetery. But never fear, the whole place isn’t dressed up for Halloween! We do, however, love the coffin-shaped door and room keys with a skull keychain!
Bike ride around town
After being showed around by our welcoming host, Gary, we hop on some free-to-use bikes and cycle just the short way into Picton town centre for a look around.
Wow, we think we are going to like it here. The town has the beautiful Marlborough Sound views at its waterfront, with a pretty garden and harbour square to enjoy it from. We have a sit at the end of a jetty for a while watching some seals rolling around in the water up ahead. The water, by the way, is incredibly clear with a turquoise colour. We are not making this up! It might sound like paradise, because it is!
The rest of Picton is surrounded by forested peaks that we are keen to hike sometime soon. It makes an incredible backdrop when standing on the high street of the town, with its waterfront cafes and many eateries claiming to have the “best of” something in town. (Is that because you are the only place selling fried chicken in town)?
Tonight, we are sure to “rest in peace” in the Tombstone Backpackers. Tomorrow, we hit the waters and explore the Marlborough Sounds and all its hidden spots! See you then!
South Island, we're here!
South Island, we're here!
Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
South Island, we're here! Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Well, good job we can give you more! Heaps more! Check out these articles:
- Marlborough – Guide for Backpackers
- Ferry Between the North Island and South Island
- 9 Great Winery Tours in New Zealand
And don’t forget to follow us and all the pretty pictures of New Zealand on Instagram. We also post daily travel tips on Facebook. Finally, find us on HerePin to meet other travellers. Maybe we can do a hike together?
See you tomorrow!