"You're On Your Own, Kid"
In my previous blog, we were coming to the end of the three and a half weeks group tour with us staying the night in Wellington for a one big party. After that, it would just be me left to roam the two main islands for 16 days before flying back to Australia. For today's blog, we've got a jam-packed 24 hours ahead of us as we return to the South Island and enjoy some hiking so I hope you've brought your boots with you!
We'll be catching the ferry, picking up our hire car from Picton (he's a "beauty") and squeeze in one of the recommended walks in Whites Bay as the social shock of being in a group for 24 days to being on my own took its toll. Let's go!
(Please read this on Travelfeed as there's an interactive map of this road, ferry and hiking trip so you can see what I did)
- ”You’re On Your Own, Kid”
- Ferry To The South Island
- Whites Bay Hiking
Once again, I didn't really see too much of Wellington as we got the ferry back late in the evening and there wasn't a chance to do too much other than check in to our hostel, do a bit of laundry (I definitely needed to!), meet the group for dinner and a final night out before hopping back across to the South Island early doors the next morning.
So here's a brief look at the accommodation, restaurant and night club we went to.
Accommodation - Nomads Capital Hostel
Nomads Captial Hostel is ideally located on Wakefield Street which is about a 5-10 minute walk from most major points of interest in Wellington. There's the Space Place Observatory, Botanical Gardens and the Cable Car to keep you busy for a few days and you're not far from the ferry port either.
If you don't mind a shared kitchen and communal area then the facilities are pretty decent for what you pay for - $23 NZD for one adult in a multi-bed (10) dorm seems reasonable. Free WiFi, laundry and luggage storage if needed are included.
Eating Out - Blend Cafe & Bar
Conveniently next door but one to the hostel is this fun cafe and bar called "Blend" - definitely ideal for backpackers and for our group of 18-30 somethings. Burgers are pretty decent and around $18 NZD and there's a good selection of drinks to get you "in the mood" for partying.
Bar/Nightclub - Danger Danger
I'd say I preferred the more electronic style music in Blend bar personally but if you're into your cheesy rock and pop songs, which, let's face it everyone is after a couple of drinks, then Danger Danger is your place. As their slogan on the website goes "Why the hell not?" - well, if you have to get up at 5am the next morning to catch your ferry, it may not have been so wise but I'm on the adventure of a lifetime so... why the hell not!
Ferry To The South Island
Booking A Ferry
There really isn't much difference between the two companies that run the ferries taking you across the islands. Both Interislander or Bluebridge Ferry Services leave from Wellington and arrive in Picton on the South Island or vice versa, although the Interislander has more crossings per day with 18 compared to 3 from Bluebridge.
I used Direct Ferries to book both my trips across as there are some good deals going on. In fact I got a VIP bracelet without realising on the return ferry and had what I thought was a free meal (obviously I must have paid for it but it was one of the cheapest options at the time) - the ferry will cost around $110 NZD return (May 2019).
Well, I have to say, I was feeling a little ropey after the previous night's endeavours and following a McDonald's hangover cure in the morning, I caught the earliest ferry across which was about 9am.
As I mentioned in a previous blog where we travelled across the Cook Strait, there is potential for a lot of rocky waves and some severe rolling to happen, aka "boatation". This time round, the ferry was delayed by 90 minutes due to the conditions and going out in the open bit of Cook Strait was ridiculous!
The boat must have been close to completely rolling over because I could see the chairs and tables move in the lounge area, a lot of crockery was falling down in the kitchens and a toilet seat was completely ripped off! I was trying to do some @yourtop3 work at the time and remember speaking with the team about this and how this boatation definitely blasted away the hangover from fear!
Thankfully though, we battled through and made it in to Marlborough Sound where calmer waters awaited us and you can start taking in the amazing sights without risk of getting thrown off!
We'll revisit Picton and the Marlborough Sounds in a bit more detail when I come back towards the end of my South Island adventure but if you're going to do some road trips, you need to rent a car!
Omega Car Hire
When researching things like this I usually look for what's the cheapest, most reliable and best reviewed company - you really don't want to get shafted after all. And after many hours of researching, I found out about Omega Car Rentals and ended up hiring a Nissan Tilda for 8 days with some basic insurance (think it was the Silver cover at the time) for less than $40 NZD per day - ended up at $308 NZD for this section of my trip.
Personally, I just wanted the cheapest car and this did it for me... except it didn't have any technology in it and the stereo didn't exactly work so I kinda drove in silence for much of the time which is OK as the views were amazing (and I had some amazing conversations with myself)! We would end up driving 3,328km together... wow! So, ladies and gentlemen, meet "Kefin the Silver":
Village Bakery - Lunch
A bit of memory hunting here as just behind where I took the photo above was where I had the "last lunch" with the adventure tour group at the Village Bakery. My recommendation would be to get there early because all their good lunches are quickly gone and you're left with the least favourable items, which will cost around $5 NZD. But you will need a recharge and I only know of this place - although there is the High Street with some cafes further up.
You'll no doubt need to have a toilet stop and thankfully there's a pretty entertaining loo just up the road from the bakery. Cross over the High Street to the other side and start walking left, you'll see it - the ExeLoo!
Calming music, a soothing voice and instructions on how to not get too engrossed as you do your business, lest the doors automatically open after 10 minutes (you don't want to be caught with your pants down) and you'll basically be right as rain to carry on our epic day trip. We still have a hike to do remember!
Whites Bay Hiking
OK Kefin, let's shake a leg and see what you're made of!
First things first, getting out of Picton. You want to head south on Highway 1 until you get to Tuamarina (15 minutes/18km drive) - take a left (heading East) and then follow the signs or if you have SatNav/Google Maps then you can just follow it pretty much there (check the interactive map at the beginning of this post).
Now, don't be alarmed, there is a very steep and wiggly stretch of road coming up after Rarangi. No match for Kefin though! I would say that if it's raining or is wet on the road, take care along here as there are rock faces exposed and may even fall down. Don't speed along either, it's just not sexy or cool!
I ended up parking at the Whites Bay Campground which was empty and I assume it's OK to park there for a few hours, just make sure you have a couple of bucks handy in case there's a fee.
Black Jack Trail
Once you've donned your hiking boots, it's well worth checking out what trails are around on the nearby information board and how much time you have - another good resource is the Department of Conservation website. If you've followed in my footsteps, then it's likely that you're only going to have time to really take in the Black Jack Trail which is about a 90 minute hike. However, there are longer ones available as shown by the information board.
Once you cross the river, you enter the forest, which becomes a dense, steep and quite a lonely place if you've been travelling with 14 other people to suddenly being on your own. Emotions the day after a night out were also pretty high and I can say with a high degree of probability that a lot of the water in that river crossing were my own tears!
However, now I got that out my system, it gave me a chance to carry on and reach the top of this little climb to some spectacular views of Te Whanganui (Port Underwood), the Cook Strait and Cape Campbell from a viewpoint known as a "bluff", which is the name given to a "broad rounded cliff".
As you make your way back down the path to the left, you will be back in the forest again but look out for any openings in the trees as you'll get some great glimpses of Whites Bay and Cloudy Bay behind it.
Whites Bay Cable Station
There's a site of interest that's worth having a "hmm" moment over and that's the Cable Station. In fact, judging by the information plaque that accompanies it, there's some historic significance to this building and you can walk up to the building to investigate further but it was closed when I was there - here's what's written on the board:
From this Bay on 26th August 1866 the first telegraph link was established between the North and South Islands when a cable was landed from Lyall Bay near Wellington. Between 1867 and 1873 station staff operated from the adjacent building, supporting a small settlement. The station retained an operator - linesman until 1895. The building was restored by the NZHPT in 1977.
Our final part of this epic day trip involves getting back in the car and heading south towards Blenheim but before we get on the flat roads after Rarangi, take your time driving along the windy roads near Whites Bay because there are chances to pull over and enjoy the views of "Cloudy Bay" overlooking Rarangi as the sun sets. You can see it lights up the bay with a beautiful orange tinge.
And that's a wrap for today folks! Well done, you've earned your rest, get some pasta in and be ready for a colossal road trip tomorrow as we head further south and go deep in to the mountains!
Distance travelled today with Kefin: 58.8km
Total distance travelled with Kefin: 58.8km