According to Maori legend, the hero Maui went fishing one day and pulled up the North Island, and his canoe became the South Island. Ever since 1962, the Interislander Ferry has acted as the fishing line between canoe and fish, carrying passengers and their cars from Wellington to Picton and back again. After Christmas, I took the ferry over to Picton to meet back up with Liz for a few days (Picton is mostly west and only a little south of Wellington, because of the way the South Island skews to the left).
If you’re taking your car across, you check in quite early and get it loaded on board. If you’re just taking yourself, you can show up 45 minutes ahead of time and check your bag like you do at the airport. There are no assigned seats, and there don’t seem to be seats for everyone (at least on one of the boats I took; different models make up the fleet). I set myself up in one of the airplane-type seats, plugged in my computer, and got some writing done.
After a bit, I went out on the deck to watch the sunset as we sliced through the open ocean waters, and later I went back out to watch the craggy hills of the South Island rise up on either side of us. The outer decks are very basic; just a few benches line the inner ring, and smokers huddle against the cold by the railings.
Inside, there’s more comfort, with a bar, a pricy snack shop, a movie theater, and a children’s play area. On my second ferry trip, I found myself near a TV that played a five-minute ad about the history of the Interislander on a continuous loop for the entire journey. That was too much, but I did like the vintage posters for the ferry lining the halls as you disembark.
Once you get to Picton, it’s an easy walk down the main road to hostels, a bus pick-up, the rail station, etc. It looked harder to find your way to the city in Wellington, but happily for me, my Couchsurfing host picked me up when I arrived, so I didn’t have to figure it out.
Taking the Interislander ferry isn’t quite the sunny holiday frolic depicted in the ads, but it is a serene three hours out there on the water.