Monday, January 2, 2012


The drive along the north-east coast of the South Island was beautiful in the morning light. The clouds of the last few days were clearing and the road winds along with hills on one side and a steep drop to the ocean on the other. We paused at Ohau Point to see (and smell!) the seals far, far below on the rocks just above the surf. There were even a few younger pups there - very exciting! One of them seemed to be chasing a seagull, and kept getting disappointed when it flew away.

We were due in Picton an hour before our ferry departed at 1:10pm. Since we arrived about an hour and a half early we went into the centre of town and Laetitia checked out The Dog Box, a quilt and craft shop on the main street (friendly, decent prices even without the 20% off on the day we were there). We also drove a short way up Queen Charlotte Drive to the lookout and enjoyed the views out across the sound and back over the port to the town. We could see our large ferry docked and waiting. There was quite a lot of boat traffic in the sound.

When the time came we drove onto the ferry, parked as directed and went upstairs. It’s quite a large boat with several lounges, caf├ęs and bars. We started on the sun deck on the roof, but moved down to the recliner lounge after a while when the wind got too cold for us. The crossing takes about three hours and the scenery is spectacular, especially in the sounds and the harbours at both ends.

When we reached Wellington we drove off the ferry and tried to find our hotel. It turns out there are two Mercure hotels and of course we went to the wrong one first! (Fortunately the other was only a couple of blocks away.) We think we were in the older one; our room was comfy enough for a small motel room but the building had a kind of old and tired feel to it.

Looking for dinner we walked down to and then along Cuba Street. The Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurant was unfortunately closed, however we did find a handful of other options and decided on a simple (and cheap!) meal from a Turkish kebab shop.

The next morning after checking out we drove into town to see the Old St Paul’s Church. When the new cathedral was built (which we also paused to have a look at - only the outside unfortunately, as it was closed since it was a public holiday) the old building was no longer needed as a parish church. It became dilapidated and was going to be demolished, but there were big protests at the idea, so instead the government bought the building and it was restored. It’s quite plain on the outside, but inside the timberwork in the ceiling and the stained glass windows are really beautiful.

And then we drove away to the north up Highway 1.

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