The Cook Strait crossing is said to be one of the world’s most scenic ferry journeys. Where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet, cruising through the Marlborough Sounds is a journey you don’t want to miss. It went above and beyond my expectations and I SAW A WHALE! There are lots of chances to see wildlife on the Cook Strait Crossing. Keep reading to find out what else you may encounter.
Here I am pictured above joking about being in sight of the South Island after spending 6 months on the North Island. If you look really closely you can just about see the outline of the mountains.
The Cook Strait Crossing: Wellington to Picton
The ferry journey across the Cook Strait will typically take between 3 – 3.5 hours. The two ferry services that operate are Bluebridge and Interislander. They are pretty similar, we chose Interislander because it worked out slightly cheaper for us. The price will depend on the number of people in your booking and if you are taking a vehicle with you.
The Interislander ferry we travelled on was really nice, it even had a cinema on board. Preferring to enjoy the journey and the scenery as much as possible, I chose not to watch the film myself. I had read prior to the journey that there are chances of seeing an array of wildlife whilst crossing the Cook Strait, and didn’t want to miss out. I was also nervous that I would be sea sick during the journey and thought being outside in the fresh air would be the best thing for me. The seas were super calm in fact and I thankfully felt fine for the whole journey!
I read online before we booked the ferry that wildlife sightings are not an uncommon occurrence. Seals and dolphins can often be seen swimming alongside the boat and sometimes blue penguins and whales too. I saw two out of the four during our trip, spotting a seal no more than 1 hour into the journey. After being outside for a while we came inside to warm up a bit before heading back out again. However, just before we were going to go back out there was an announcement that a whale had been spotted on the right hand side of the ferry.
Everyone on the boat grabbed their coats, cameras and phones as quickly as possible and ran to the window. I went outside to try and see it and get a photo without the glare of the window. I didn’t manage to get a photo but I did see it. It came back up and went back down in a total of about 3 seconds. I didn’t see its tail just its back but it was still amazing. To have seen something so rare and magnificent makes the ferry crossing so much more special for me.
We didn’t see any penguins or dolphins during the ferry crossing but I still count myself as one of the luckiest. It’s not a tour boat where you set out with the intention of finding whales or dolphins. Crossing the Cook Strait will simply get you from one island to the other. It was a real privilege to see a whale during the journey and one that I will never forget.
If your interested in seeing more wildlife in New Zealand, visit the Red Rocks fur seal colony in Wellington.
Read Next: Finding Fur Seals in Wellington, New Zealand
Travelling from Wellington to Picton, the second half of the Cook Strait crossing will be the most scenic. As you cruise into the Marlborough Sounds you will truly realise why this is famed as one of ‘New Zealand’s Great Journey’s’. Panoramic views of the sounds are a delight and each way you look is more beautiful than the last. The ferry crossing will provide you with your first taste of what’s on offer in Picton and the surrounding areas. A wonderful start to your time on New Zealand’s South Island. An early afternoon ferry crossing in the winter time will allow you to watch the sunset as you cruise through the Marlborough Sounds. A lovely way to end the journey.
If you have time whilst in Picton, you could do the Queen Charlotte multi-day hike which takes you through the Marlborough Sounds. Alternatively, a short day walk on the Snout Track will lead you to Queen Charlotte View. I did the latter myself and the views were incredible.
The Cook Strait crossing is a cruise like no other. With the chances of seeing wildlife on the way, why choose to travel any other way?