The InterIslander Ferry: Crossing Cook Strait to Wellington, New Zealand

7 03 2013
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Looking down at the incoming ferry. Obviously ours is superior!

It is time to leave New Zealand’s South Island Behind and explore the North Island. We find it interesting how lots of visitors skip New Zealand’s North Island. It has volcanoes, Mount Doom, Auckland, incredible wineries, Australasia’s largest lake, quiet bays and beaches, and the warmest areas in the country – like the Bay of Islands! We took the Interislander Ferry from Picton to Wellington.

The weather forecast was still calling for an approaching Antarctic storm. I expected a full-fury crossing and was looking forward to it. But it was not to be. The crossing turned out to be uneventful, except for the last hour – winds built tossing the few private yachts that were out in Cook Strait making their way to Wellington.

This ferry takes a route from Picton, on the South Island, to Wellington. It takes us across the Cook Strait, which can be one of the world’s most treacherous seas. Tides and winds funnel through the two islands.

The ferry’s route takes it along fiords stretching to the northeast. I estimate the mountains to be 800 – 1,000 feet above the sea – slopes mercilessly ending into the water.

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The ferry is one of the biggest I’ve ever been on, with at least 10 decks. There are two bars, a cafeteria, top deck, a sleeping area with airliner seats, a private party area, a game area, a movie theater, and even an area where a magic show for kids is going on.

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Looking out to the Cook Strait

Tucked into the finger-like bays are harbors, each filled with sailboats. I’m impressed Kiwis take sailing seriously! I notice the tide is moving very fast.

So, if you were to kayak here knowing the tides and working with the current is a must.

Out in Cook Strait I am amazed that it is only blowing 15 knots. Not the ominous sea of lore!

But as we get within 4 miles of the North Island, the wind picks up tremendously. Skippers of private sailboats on their way to Wellington have their hands full managing their yacht’s’ position amongst the waves. Once we make the turn into Wellington, the wind builds even more. I’m on the top deck inside looking out a windshield and people going outside have to use all their strength to push the door open against the wind!

Wellington Harbor is beautiful, full of sailboat masts. We’ll be spending a day here tomorrow, but I bet it’s going to be a wet one!