Day 11: Farewell Wellington and the North Island of New Zealand
I leaned back comfortably on the passenger seat when I heard the car trunk shut and double checked my seat belt whether it was fastened. Yohann took control of the steering wheel. Right before our family bat mobile left the hotel parking lot, I stole a quick sip of my steaming black coffee from a paper cup that the hotel staff prepared for our packed take-away breakfast.
It was early morning and we were all wondering how the Interislander Ferry ride will unfold. Maman, my mother-in-law made sure our packed breakfasts were there to keep us satiated throughout the trip. Yohann and I had a faint idea. We have already taken the ferry 10 years ago and a lot has surely changed since.
After cruising on the main highway, our navigator led us to enter a gate where we presented our printed ferry tickets. We queued and waited for our turn to load the car unto the platform and parking area of the ship.
We followed the rest of the passengers towards the upper deck and we were all pleased to discover that the ferry had so much to offer. There were lounges, cafeteria style food court, a restaurant with live music, comfortable sitting areas where one could just read away, a helipad, and open viewing decks. There was free Wi-fi. It is possible to upgrade to Interislander Plus - a more comfortable lounge style seating with the inclusion of meals and drinks. There are cabins should families prefer some privacy. We had no problem going for a regular class since it was a really short journey anyway.
We had our breakfast at the cafeteria style dining hall where we purchased a few more items.
My daughter joined the group of kids and parents for the magic show where they were treated to animal shaped balloons and free entertainment. Yohann and I took turns looking after her so that we could sight-see around the ship and take photos outdoors.
The journey from Wellington to Picton on the ferry was more than 3 hours (96 kilometers) of scenic views of Cook Strait. Captain Cook named it after him even though Abel Tasman visited it first thinking it was an inlet.
As soon as we arrived in Picton, I didn't recognize it. Here's a photo below that I have captured a decade ago. Flashback to a passage that I wrote in one of my travel journals published on my personal blog:
Date: 28th March 2007, Wednesday "From Picton to Wellington"*
"We left at 9 A.M. aboard Kiwi Experience Bus with a stop over for one of the Best Pies I've ever tasted! The trip from Kaikoura to Picton was 3 hours.
From Picton Port, we checked in our luggage for a ferry ride on the *Interislander to go to the North Island. The 3-hour ferry trip was spent writing this travel journal, watching Oprah in the TV room, sketching, and checking out the view outside once in a while. We sailed along Cook Strait through Queen Charlotte Sounds. We arrived in Wellington Port around past 4 P.M."
We didn't stop in Picton. As soon as we off-loaded the car from the ferry, we continued our road trip south bound along the picturesque Queen Charlotte Drive. It was past lunch time and we were all hungry. We all agreed to stop in one of the villages on the way for a hot meal.
Drive Through Marlborough Country
I had the cigarette soundtrack playing in my head all of a sudden. :) Marlborough Region is known for the maze-like waterways of Marlborough Sounds and the country's largest wine region known for its Sauvignon Blanc with Blenheim as its hub. A day walk on the 70 kilometer Queen Charlotte Track is highly popular as well as wine tours. It was a beautiful drive through vineyards. There was already a noticeable change of landscape and I had oohs and ahhs echoing in my head while everyone in the backseat started dozing off.
Welcome to Havelock - The Mussel Capital
We hopped out of the car for a much needed leg stretch. It was starting to feel like a proper summer, with blue skies overhead and pleasant European-like summer weather. We spent a long time deliberating where we were going to have lunch. This was always the biggest setback that caused friction throughout our road trip- where we were going to eat. My Asian palate was craving for something flavorful and exotic and my in-laws were more conservative and preferred to eat pretty much the same thing for they were careful of the budget.
Since I was really hungry, I was up for any cuisine as long as there was a pint of cold draft beer with it. Then I remembered, it was my turn to drive later, so hello coffee instead. We visited several restaurants and perused over their menus. Havelock Take-away Fish and Chips won the debate and we were all seated on the long picnic bench next to the pavement several minutes later munching away.
A heavy lunch called for a nice stroll outside towards Havelock Marina afterwards especially on a slightly overcast yet beautiful summer day. Havelock is known for Greenshell Mussels, sea kayaks and fishing around Pelorus and Kenepuru Sounds aboard water taxis or charter boats. We spotted a specialty mussels restaurant, The Mussel Pot not far from the marina with a gigantic pot of faux mussels on the roof.
Tant pis (too bad), we missed the opportunity of eating mussels here. Yohann was feeling sleepy (perhaps from the heavy meal haha) so I took over the steering wheel and drove down state highway 6 towards Motueka. The long journey called for another break.
Nelson City along Tasman Bay
The festive atmosphere of the New Year's drew us in and we were tempted to sit there for an early aperitif but we still had 47 kilometers of driving ahead, which would be equivalent to 40 minutes (me as the driver- say, less than an hour? haha). According to wiki, Nelson is the sunniest region in the south island. I guess my photos confirm that. It has a vibrant art scene which attracts many creative people and artists. We ended up just browsing and people watching until we were ready to leave.
After pushing the pedal to the metal for 45 minutes or so, we have finally reached our destination. Hello Motueka, a camp site and our home for the next 2 nights including the New Year's Eve. It was a definitely long day of travel and a much needed rest was due before our long hike to Abel Tasman the following day.
Check our travel video from 1:50 till the end which features the Interisland Ferry journey all the way to Motueka.
To be continued..