Traveling from New Zealand’s North Island to the South Island can be done either via air or sea. Both will provide you with stunning landscapes and flying of course gets you to your destination faster. However, it all happens so fast you don’t feel like you are knee-deep in the travel pool just yet. If you have time to spare, why not immerse yourself in the journey and take a ferry ride across Cook Strait?
A ferry journey does not mean a cramped, dark and cold experience. Bluebridge Cook Strait Ferry has two very classy ferries at your service that will provide you with comfort and delicious food onboard your epic journey.
Preparations before boarding
At the ferry terminal, after loading your bags, you will each be given a wooden token as your ticket. There is plenty of seating in the passengers’ waiting room, a vending machine and restrooms. In addition there is also free Wi-Fi.
If you want to stock up on food, drinks and other small items, the Bluebridge ferry terminal is located just across the road from Wellington’s railway station where a branch of New World supermarket is located. The supermarket opens from 6AM daily (7Am on Sundays), making it a perfect short stop before the morning ferry trip. Stocking up on travel sickness medicine might be a good idea if you are worried about getting seasick, although the ferries travel through sheltered waters for most part of the journey.
Cosy and stylish interior
Bluebridge has two running ferries, the Strait Feronia and the Straitsman. Both have similar facilities, with some differences in the interior design.
Boarding is done through the ferry’s car deck. Passengers go up a few flights of stairs and into the cosy passengers’ lounge. Spacious, bright and cosy, the passenger lounge area is divided into three separate areas: a smaller seating area, a quiet room and a larger seating area with a café, serving warm food and drinks. For those who want extra privacy or a bed to nap in, private cabins can be booked. They are located above the passenger seating area. Like the ferry terminal, there is free Wi-Fi onboard as well as a small area where passengers can charge their phones and electronic devices. The seating in both ferries is extremely comfortable and you can pick anywhere to sit; first come first served.
Sailing, Sights and Sounds
There are plenty of windows for you to sit back and enjoy the view outside, but you also have the option to step outside for photographic opportunities. The view is breathtaking as soon the ferry navigates from Wellington Harbour to Fitzroy Bay. Cliffs and small mountains line along both sides of the ferry.
Passing through the Cook Strait, the South Island is faintly visible in the horizon. Once the ferry approaches Marlborough Sounds, you should definitely step out onto the viewing deck. Emerald green waters and lush green trees line up the shores of the Sounds. The Marlborough Sounds is well known for its marine wildlife and soon enough you are bound to spot a few sea birds, maybe even seals and dolphins.
You should definitely dress your warmest if you intend to stay outside on the viewing deck for a while. Even on warm days, moving ferries can generate quite a lot of headwind or it will most likely get very windy when you are out in the open waters.
The whole journey from Wellington to Picton takes about three hours and a half.
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Once you arrive at Picton, there is a shuttle bus service that will take you to the Bluebridge ferry terminal in order for you to retrieve your luggage. From there, another shuttle bus will take you into the small town. Depending on what your plans are, you can either spend some time in Picton or continue your journey. If you need to rent a car, you can ask the shuttle bus driver to notify you of a bus stop that is located near several car rentals.
More time to spare? Picton’s EcoWorld Aquarium will offer you a great introduction to some of the local marine species, as well as lizards and the rare red-crowned parakeets. The aquarium also has a rehabilitation centre for rescued little blue penguins.
If you want to try food made from delicious local sea products, you should not miss out on Café Cortado. The menu ranges from European and South American fusion food, as well as local dishes like lamb shanks. The restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Spaghetti Vongole and Beer Battered Blue Cod are highly recommended.
Why take the ferry
Travelling by ferry from Wellington will give you plenty of space to relax while you watch the changing views outside and in addition the service onboard is great. However, it is recommended that you set sail during daylight rather than at night; it is a lot of fun to stand on the viewing deck while trying to spot marine wildlife. You can always go back into the lounge for warmth and recharge before venturing out onto the deck again.
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