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South Island Trip: Wellington to Kaikoura

Written by Cathy Siegismund

March 2002

We had reservations on the InterIslander at 09:30. The large vehicle and passenger ferry that runs between the North and South Islands across Cook Strait.

Route from Wellington to Kaikoura

Cook Strait can be a very rough stretch of water that often closes the ferries down. While we were on the South Island, the ferries were closed twice by weather, once by high winds and 8-meter seas in the Strait.

We were lucky, however, and woke to a beautiful sunny calm morning to cross Cook Strait on the InterIslander ferry.

Leaving Wellington




Photos from the InterIslander Cook Strait crossing

The InterIslander arrives in Picton, a small town at the head of the Marlborough Sounds.

InterIslander at the dock in Picton

Town of Picton

From Picton, we took a scenic drive to Havelock. This took us on a very twisty road, but it did have fantastic views of the Sounds. The Marlborough Sounds have many small bays and towns to explore and would offer great cruising. The Marlborough Sounds are beautiful, and a place we would like to take the boat next summer.




Marlborough Sounds

We had decided to stop in Havelock, the "Green-Lipped Mussel Capital of the World", for lunch. Havelock is a small town, with mussels being the prime industry.

We stopped at the Mussel Boys for a fantastic lunch of New Zealand green-lipped mussels.

Mussel Boys

After lunch, we continued our drive down the east coast of the South Island toward Kaikoura. The roads in the North Island are not exactly like I-5, but the roads on South Island are even more challenging, with lots of turns, fewer passing lanes, and one lane bridges.

We even found a one-lane bridge, which had cars on the lower level and trains on the upper.

Car and rail bridge

East coast of South Island, north of Kaikoura

We arrived in Kaikoura in the early evening. Kaikoura was once just a small fishing village, which in Maori means "Eat Crayfish" or lobster. Since the mid-eighties, Kaikoura has developed into Mecca for sea life seekers. There are whale watches by boat, helicopter and plane, where you have the opportunity to see orcas and sperm whales. There's diving, wild dolphin swims, seal swims, and a fur seal colony.

Since many of the more poplar tourist activities require advance booking, we visited the fur seal colony, played some golf, and enjoyed the small the town for a couple of days.


Kaikoura Lookout Panorama (243 KB download, Java required)

See the Kaikoura Photo Gallery for more pictures of Kaikoura and the fur seal colony.

We would have liked to spend more time in Kaikoura, but I had to get to Hamner Springs. I had signed up for a 9-day horse trek which would take up from Hamner Springs back to Kaikoura

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