We’d been enjoying our time in New Zealand, but we were aware that we hadn’t even set foot on the South Island yet. With time running out on our road trip, we decided to head south, stop overnight in Wellington and then carry on to the South Island via the Interislander Ferry.
Now, the ferry is quite a big expense and it can be cheaper to fly. But we’d been told by many that the ferry trip itself is a New Zealand experience not to be missed. So, after a whirlwind tour of the main sights in Wellington, we were up before the crack of dawn (again) and in a queue to board the first ferry of the day.
With the van parked safely below deck, we clambered up to the freezing-cold top deck to wave goodbye to the North Island and take in the view as we set sail for the South.
When we spotted land again a three hours later, we were stunned at the dramatic change in scenery.
The water had become an invitingly clear turquoise-blue and emerald green islets rose up out of the sea, which sparkled in the morning sunlight. We were in Marlborough Sound.
Several times we spotted dolphins playing in the wake of the ferry, Dale saw a seal and I even glimpsed a penguin darting underneath the clear water as our boat approached.
We also passed several hidden sandy coves nestled in the islets and, when we eventually reached Picton, we wanted to get back out on the water right away and explore them with a rented sea kayak.
We’d used a kayak several times before, but the sea kayak was a bit different. Before, we’d always had two paddles and that was it. This time, we both had paddles but the person at the back also needed to use their feet to steer a rudder to help the vessel cut through the waves. With Dale at the helm and me in front looking out for obstacles ahead, we tucked ourselves into the boat and away we went!
What ensued was a hilarious (if somewhat trying) hour of ‘left, left, LEFT!’ ‘I am steering left!’ ‘…Oh, I mean right!’ CRUNCH!
Luckily we did get the hang of it and paddling around in the beautiful blue sea for an hour looking for more seals and penguins was a lot of fun. When we’d paddled as far away from the shore as we thought we could go, we turned and started heading back past the sandy alcoves and hidden beaches we’d found along the coast.
We were a little disappointed not to have spotted any of the marine life that we saw on our ferry ride, even though we’d enjoyed our afternoon on the water. Then, just as we were nearing the shore a dolphin came hurtling out of the water three metres away from us and crashed back into the water with a splash. We tried to follow it, but it was far faster than us and just as quickly as it appeared, it was gone.
After getting ourselves back on dry land, we set off along one of the most scenic (but bendy!) roads I think I will ever have the good fortune to drive along on the way to our next stops – Golden Bay and Abel Tasman National Park.
We had already begun to see why people always seem to gush about the South Island’s scenery – what we saw was certainly beautiful, and it was just the introduction…