“Slow down. You move too fast.” You got to make your vacation last! Remember that song? OK, at least the first two sentence. But in this fast paced world, vacations should be savored. And what better way to savor a trip thru New Zealand than to skip the flight between the North and South Islands and take the ferry. Yes, it is slower, but marine life, lush forests and the smell of the sea creates a more sensual experience than a view from a tiny window at 30,000 feet!
With epic views that might include dolphins jumping out of the water or seals enjoying the sun and salty air, you should pack your binoculars and keep your camera close by.
From the moment you board and receive a warm greeting from the lovely Kiwi staff, you discover your ferry trip will be as wonderful as reaching the final destination.
Spend some time on a viewing deck soaking up the vitamin sea and admiring the gorgeous New Zealand scenery with rolling hills, moody skies and a few seagulls flying above. You might also see penguins and other sea creatures in their native habitat, which is always a thrill. During certain times of the year, Humpback whale sightings are possible as they migrate through the Cook Strait. As you enter the Marlborough Sounds you pass by island and peninsulas that appear to be uninhabited covered in lush forests. The colors of the surrounding hills and the sea change color as light changes with the movement of the clouds and mist.
Although any time of the day is gorgeous, sunrise and sunset ferry rides can be especially memorable. If you are making a return trip, I highly recommend traveling at different times of the day for the mood can be beautifully contrasting. Getting up early to set sail by 5 am is worth it. Plus, you have fewer tourists onboard the earlier you book your ferry ticket.
The fresh sea air always makes everyone hungry and there are excellent dining services with fresh local food and drink, including a fine selection of NZ wine and beers. Indoors you can still enjoy the stunning sights through the massive floor-to-ceiling windows.
There’s plenty of space to move around or chill out as you are rocked gently during the scenic journey of the Marlborough Sounds and Cook Strait. Or you might like to enjoy the entertainment on board. The ferry is massive and exploring the different levels is all part of the adventure.
For families, there is something for everyone with games, movies, and activities for the kids and comfortable areas for parents to relax while keeping an eye on them. If the ship alone doesn’t keep the attention of children, the latest technology is installed throughout the ferry and wifi is available throughout the 92-kilometer journey. Some ferries even have a movie theatre so you can enjoy a movie with drinks and popcorn. The facilities on the Aratere, Kaitaki and Kaiarahi ferries are slightly different but equally fantastic.
Taking the time to travel via ferry is time well spent. You would never see some of the spectacular sights from a plane and there is something so romantic and charming about a sea voyage. Three hours is the perfect amount of time to gaze at some of the country’s most gorgeous scenery, indulge in some shopping, grab a delicious bite to eat, sip some vino and get ready to step off the boat refreshed and inspired. It is also convenient if you want to take your car and often more affordable than flying.
The only possible downside is rough weather which can mean a rocky trip (in extreme weather, the ferry may not sail). But most of the time, the weather is fine and the ferry carries happy travelers back and forth between the islands. Many say it is one of the most beautiful ferry trips in the world.
As you approach the pretty mainland in Picton or Wellington, you will say farewell to the ferry experience and start to get excited about more adventures that await. You can easily rent a car and continue your sightseeing. Then you might like to hike the Queen Charlotte Track and explore the wine country or Kaikoura Coast or check into a hotel to relax for a bit.
I am passionate about helping travelers have the best possible travel experiences and maximizing their precious vacation time. So drop me a line today to find out more about a NZ adventure, including the ferry!
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