Day 82: Transit to the South Island
Tuesday, January 30, 2024 10:27 pm
Location: Picton / Tasman Picton Holiday Park (1748.4 km)

Today, I left Wellington by ferry. Leaving the North Island behind, I traveled to Picton on the South Island, the next step towards Bluff on the Te Araroa.

We were a bit slow getting up, between just getting up late, and needing to finish packing our packs. But once we were done, we carried on the same way we began our other three days in Wellington, breakfast at Urban on Manners.

Eventually, CareFree had to catch a bus to the airport to fly back to Auckland, and I needed to head to the train station to meet up with Peter and Susanna to catch the bus to the Interislander ferry terminal.

We were plenty early for the bus, which showed up and got us to the terminal on-time. Check-in went pretty quickly, though Peter and Susanna had to show proof they had a booking at the Tasman Holiday Park in Picton (where we are staying tonight) in order to get the discount code we’d used when booking. (I dunno why they didn’t ask me for proof, but I wasn’t about to ask them about it.)

While waiting to board the ship, a familiar hiker (whom I saw on the bus, but couldn’t quite place) said hi. It was “Dash”, whom I’d met several times on the Continental Divide Trail, most notably in Pinedale, WY, and then again several times in New Mexico. We very briefly caught up.

Our ship, a large car ferry, left right on-time. As its engines powered up and the deck started rumbling as the ship pulled away from the dock, many car alarms went off. One of them continued to go off for at least three next hour; I guess it took the owners a while to realize the racket it was making.

Departing Wellington
Departing WellingtonGoodbye, North Island!

It took us about half an hour from when we departed to when we exited Wellington Harbour and entered the Cook Strait, the body of water that separates the North and South Islands. It is noted for being a highly dangerous body of water due to unique tidal interactions that result in a very fast current. However, our transit was quite smooth.

Once we entered the Cook Strait, it was possible to see the South Island, though haze made it faint for a while. As we drew nearer, the South Island became larger and more clear.

A Hazy South Island
A Hazy South Island

Once near the South Island, we passed through the Tory Channel, between the South Island and Arapaoa Island.

Entrance to Tory Channel
Entrance to Tory ChannelSome rugged rocks greet us as we enter the Tory Chsnnel, separating the South Island from Arapaoa Island.

Once past Arapaoa, which used to be part of three South Island before sea levels rose, we entered the Queen Charlotte Sound, taking that the rest of way to Picton. The Queen Charlotte Sound will be the primary backdrop for views for the next couple of days, as the TA starts the South Island following the Queen Charlotte Track.

Entering the Queen Charlotte Sound
Entering the Queen Charlotte Sound

The ferry trip to Picton took a little more than three and a half hours. After a long ramp down from the boat and then a longish walk to the terminal building, we collected our bags from an airport-like luggage belt.


Hannah was there to greet us. It was nice to catch up, since we hadn’t seen her in a while. She’s in the middle of a two-week break, after having seriously sprained her ankle and pulled ligaments while hiking the section south of Palmerston North. (Her route’s been a bit complicated due to bouncing back and forth from trying to hit the Tararua Range with a good weather window, but she ultimately gave up on attempting the Tararuas due to the injury.)

Picton Harbor
Picton Harbor

Peter, Susanna, and I walked through Picton’s marina to the holiday park we’d booked tenting at, setting up on the grass next to a couple of car campers, both of which very quickly offered to move their cars a little if it would give us more space. (We were fine with the space we had, after moving the picnic table a little.)

I didn’t bother with a shower today since I hadn’t really done anything to work up a sweat. The kitchen was nice, of course, to save us most of a day’s worth of fuel usage. (We didn’t use their stoves, but we did take advantage of the hot water dispenser.)

Tomorrow begins the first day of hiking on the South Island. We take a water taxi up to Ship Cove, and start hiking the Queen Charlotte Track. Everything I’ve heard about the QCT is that it’s a joy to hike, so, after a bit of a rough end to the North Island, I’m looking forward to something nice!