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NZ Road Trip: To North Island

NZ Road Trip: To North Island

Destination Details
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Drive Time

  • 8 hours (includes ferry crossing)

Christchurch to Wellington via Highway 1 and Interislander Ferry

This post is a part of our series on our road trip through New Zealand. New to this series? Check out our first post here.

After a nice break in Christchurch we were ready to hit the road again and head up to the North Island. We returned our campervan to Spaceship and picked up our relocation special from Jucy. After some annoyances with the pick up at Jucy we hit the road (more information here).

We only had 5 days to get across to the North Island, travel around, and then return the car in Auckland. It wasn’t much time, but it was easily the cheapest way to take this road trip (see more on the relocation specials here).

Today we would need to go from Christchurch, back through Kaikoura to Picton, where we would catch the ferry to Wellington on the North Island. Our ferry was to leave at about 4pm so we didn’t have much time (you need to get there an hour early if you are taking a car). For more on the ferry crossing visit our FYI New Zealand post.

Seal Pups at Ohau Stream and Waterfall Walkway

As usual, the drive north was beautiful, but this day was going to be made special by one thing: seal pups. While in Christchurch, our housemate mentioned that this time of year (early spring) you can stop at the Ohau waterfall where you can see seal pups up close and personal, playing in the pool of the waterfall. Apparently, the seal pups are brought here when they are very young and then left to learn to socialize and play like some kind of seal pup daycare. The waterfall is set away from the ocean in a safe location for the young seals.

As we pulled into the parking spot we weren’t sure if we were going to get to see the pups at all. We didn’t know if they had already moved out to the ocean or if they’d still be at the waterfall. As we hiked up the short path we realized how lucky we were. At the base of the waterfall ten seal pups were having the time of their lives just splashing around. You can get incredibly close to them because there are no barricades. Obviously they are wild animals, so you don’t want to attempt to touch them, but one could literally waddle right up to you. It took all of my energy not to jump in and swim with them. This was definitely one of the highlights of our New Zealand trip and an animal experience only comparable to hanging out with penguins on the beach in South Africa.

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    Lovely view across the sound in Picton

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    Looking over Picton

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    The Marlborough Sounds


Our next stop was Picton where we grabbed a late lunch downtown and just walked around a bit. Picton is a nice seaside town which is mostly used as the main port on the South Island. The town sits at the southern portion of the Marlborough Sounds; a beautiful region of mountain peaks surrounded by glacier carved waterways. It is from Picton that we caught the ferry north to Wellington.

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    Sailing out from Picton at dusk

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    The sun disappearing behind the hills

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    Another view from the front of the boat

Interislander Ferry Crossing

We got to the ferry about an hour early. Then we waited and waited and waited in our car to board the boat. The ferry had recently arrived and it seemed like the entire North Island was disembarking. We didn’t start boarding until the ferry was due to leave so we were a little behind schedule. We waited our turn and slowly drove onto the ferry where we were guided into our spot. We locked the car and went upstairs to grab seats with a view.

The ferry crossing takes approximately 3 hours. They are well prepared for a long journey with food options, a movie theater, and a bar to keep guests happy and occupied. We grabbed our spot and a bite to eat (the food wasn’t very good) and watched as the sun set over the sound. We were fortunate enough to have a very pleasant, smooth ride, but we were warned by our friends at KnochKnoch.com that things can get pretty rough, so keep that in mind if you are planning to make this trip.

About an hour after sunset we arrived in Wellington where we hopped back in our car and waited to disembark. This was much faster than our boarding and we were off in no time. Just a few minutes later we were at our AirBNB for the night. We didn’t get to see Wellington, but our host assured us it is a great city that is worth checking out. We only got a glimpse the next morning before heading north. No time to dilly-dally.

Keep an eye out for the rest of our posts in this series about our New Zealand Road Trip following us on Feedly.

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