Is the ferry crossing between islands in NZ rough?

Mar 31st, 2015, 04:36 PM
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Definitely worth doing, the scenery as you are going through the Marlborough Sounds is beautiful. It takes about an hour to get out of Wellington heads, about an hour in the open sea i.e. Cook strait, and then you hit the Marlborough Sounds, and that takes about an hour to go through them to Picton. Normally if it is rough it is only the middle hour that is bad.
nelsonian is offline  
Mar 31st, 2015, 04:39 PM
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I've visited NZ twice since I started this thread and I still haven't taken the ferry, so can't help with your specific question.

But, I just wanted to mention that if you're spending any quality time in Picton, you'll have plenty of options to see the Marlborough Sounds both from land and from boat. For example, the mail boat cruise and the water taxi to Ship Cove are ideal ways to see Marlborough Sounds up close and personal. Walking a section of the Queen Charlotte Sound or walking the Snout Track from Picton are also excellent choices as both have fabulous views of the sounds right below you. I've done all of these multiple times and I and highly recommend them.

So, my rationale is that if the approach to the Marlborough Sounds is the best bit of the cruise, and you're unsure about whether or not you want to take the ferry for whatever reason, why not just visit the sounds from Picton and get more bang for your buck?
Melnq8 is offline  
Apr 1st, 2015, 10:42 AM
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I booked my tickets for next February, flying into WLG. I won't be working on the itinerary for a few months but I'll either take the ferry or the plane.

If Picton and some other places north of Christchurch are worth visiting, compared to destinations to the south or west of Christchurch, I'll probably take the ferry. Otherwise, save time and fly from Wellington to Christchurch.

But Wellington itself seems worth visiting.
scrb11 is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2015, 02:26 PM
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So I have a rough itinerary, after 3 nights in Wellington, to go to the SI.

The ferry vs. plane question is still there.

I see the earliest ferries, on a Saturday, would be at 8 or 9 AM, with either company.

After a 3.5 hour ferry crossing, I would pick up a car and drive.

Besides the ferry, is Picton to Christchurch worth the 5-6 hour drive? Without stopping, I'd reach Christchurch around 6 PM.

I've heard that the coastline is beautiful and I understand Marlborough Sound is itself a destination.

But even though I will almost 3 weeks, most of it for the SI (Christchurch for a couple of days, then going to the West Coast, then down to Wanaka, Te Anau, Milford and Queenstown), the tentative itinerary that I'm working on would be to just drive through Picton and Kaikoura on the way to Christchurch.

Difference in transit time would be 1 hour flight vs 3.5 hour ferry crossing and then 6 hour drive. Even accounting for transfers to the airport and being at the airport early, the ferry and drive is over twice as long a journey.

Unless of course, I decide to allocate a stay around Kaikoura. However, I don't really have an interest in taking a whale watching tour and I'm generally trying to avoid one-night stays, especially after a long transit.

So the main question is whether the drive would be worth the time. I would certainly stop at spots but would not spend a lot of time at these stops.
scrb11 is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2015, 02:38 PM
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I think Kaikoura is worth an overnight. There is a nice walkway along the coast even without the whalewatch tour. Also nearby are some good wine tasting areas.

I also like Nelson and there are inexpensive buses and shuttles from Picton. So you can relax on that ride rather than rent the car in Picton.

Nelson you can rent a car after a days' rest and head to the west coast.
mlgb is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2015, 09:07 PM
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Hmm, if I go up to Nelson and then the West Coast, I'd be skipping Christchurch?

Northern part of the SI more interesting than Christchurch?

Also would miss driving over Arthur Pass towards Greymouth and Punakaiki, then the glaciers.
scrb11 is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2015, 03:30 AM
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Hi scrb - it is really difficult to do a SI itinerary that takes in Nelson and Abel Tasman, AND Kaikoura. one way to do would be to drive from Picton to Kaikoura, and stay the night there, and then the next day drive to Nelson. You could spend a day or two in the Marlborough sounds somewhere during this part of the trip, either when you first get to the SI or on the way to Nelson.

Then proceed via Punakaiki etc to the Glaciers, Wanaka, QT etc, finishing off in C/C.

The other way to do it would be to go from Picton to Nelson, stay there [or nearby to tour the Abel Tasman] then head for Kaikora via the Marlborough sounds, down to C/C. you could then drive across Arthur's Pass, and down the west coast, etc. flying out of QT.

but to make the most of that itinerary, you might want more than 3 weeks.
annhig is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2015, 08:15 PM
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Thanks. My flights to and from NZ are locked in (award ticket) so maybe Nelson and Abel Tasman are not in the cards for this trip.

I guess my choice would be either to ferry and then drive toward C/C, probably overnighting in Kaikoura.

Or fly from Wellington to C/C.

It sounds like there are several attractions worth one's time up on the northern part of the SI though.

Hmm, beautiful pictures of a peninsula set against snow-capped mountains in the background in Google Images.

Though maybe there wouldn't be much snow in February?
scrb11 is offline  
Oct 24th, 2015, 01:10 AM
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Though maybe there wouldn't be much snow in February?>>

I don't have personal experience of NZ in Feb but maybe on the very tops and on the glaciers of course, but the problem is that they are retreating every year.

There is nothing to stop you doing both as I explained above; from memory it's about a 2 hour drive from Picton to Nelson, so you would be there by late afternoon, after catching the early ferry. That, &/or staying in the Marlborough sounds for a night or two, actually makes more sense than a long drive to C/C. Whatever you decide on up there, I definitely recommend staying at least 2 nights in each place; the driving is hard work and you need time to recover and explore.

you could then go to Kaikora, and proceed from there to C/C.

You don't say where you are flying out of. That might make a difference to the routing.
annhig is offline  
Oct 24th, 2015, 11:08 AM
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Flying into WLG and the back to the US from AKL.

But I have a ticket for ZQN to AKL to spend a couple of nights in Auckland before leaving NZ.
scrb11 is offline  
Oct 24th, 2015, 05:53 PM
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scrb11 -

Perhaps its just me, but I've no idea what your current itinerary is and am therefore, having trouble making recommendations.

It might be helpful (for me anyway) if you post your full proposed itinerary and/or start a new thread.
Melnq8 is offline  
Oct 24th, 2015, 10:48 PM
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Still working on it. General idea is to spend a few days in Wellington and then proceed to the Southern Island.

Have to admit, I thought the Marlborough and Kaikoura areas were just to transit through, to get to Christchurch where I'd do a lot of the driving, to the West Coast, then down to Wanaka, Te Anau, Milford Sound, Queenstown.

But it sounds like the northern part of the island may be worth a couple of nights on its own. Of course that means taking a night from the other part of the itinerary.
scrb11 is offline  
Oct 25th, 2015, 03:32 AM
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But it sounds like the northern part of the island may be worth a couple of nights on its own. Of course that means taking a night from the other part of the itinerary.>>

sorry scrb - that is indeed the problem that we all face. there just isn't a sensible route round the SI that covers everything you would want to see.

why not start your own thread a post a tentative itinerary?
annhig is offline  
Oct 25th, 2015, 08:40 AM
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Unfortunately many first time visitors think the same, and they miss quite a lot.

I adore the Marlborough Sounds and in all my visits have never run out of things to do there.

Kaikoura is pleasant enough, not a personal favorite, but a great place to see NZ fur seals, take in some nice tracks and coastal scenery. The main draw is the whale watching trips, which as a landlubber, I've never been tempted to do.

As an alternative to driving down to Christchurch, you can drive from Abel Tasman/Picton area across to Murchison and down the West Coast that way. Lots of coastal scenery through there, but an exhausting drive as very winding an narrow. You could overnight in Punakaiki before pushing on down the coast to the glaciers, Wanaka, Queenstown and Fiordland.

The recurring problem with visiting NZ is time. You need plenty of time. It's very difficult to see the north of the SI and the south of the SI in less than three weeks, unless you want to live in your car. Let alone the NI.
Melnq8 is offline  
Feb 25th, 2016, 07:50 PM
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Well I book the Bluebridge ferry, in part due to advice on this forum.

But it was very windy and overcast in Wellington Harbor for the 8 AM departure.

Took some pictures anyways but wondered if crossing the Strait was going to be rougher.

There were some moments but it didn't last two long.

And by the time it reached the Marlborough Sound, about the last hour before reaching Picton, the sun was breaking out and brought out the gorgeous colors of the landscape and water.

Lot of beautiful sights, glad I did it instead of flying across.
scrb11 is offline  
Feb 25th, 2016, 10:49 PM
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I'm glad you did. It is a lovely trip. We grew up in Nelson and took the ferry all the time to visit my aunty in Wellington. There was one rough trip when I was a kid and I think I was on the 1986 trip that a previous poster mentioned. It was so rough you could not walk around the ship. But all the other times it has been great. The untouched beaches and bush of the Sounds are lovely.
tasmangirl is offline  
Feb 26th, 2016, 06:34 AM
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Glad it worked out scrb11. Looking forward to that full trip report
Melnq8 is offline  
Feb 27th, 2016, 04:37 AM
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Sometimes it's diabolical, sometimes it's not. We have crossed in 30m seas, and in calm conditions. It is what it is.
mareeS55 is offline  

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