Picton to Christchurch via Kaikoura – 3 Days
You can drive straight off the ferry and arrive in Christchurch seven and a half hours later if you travel directly via State Highway 1. But with so much on offer en route, it’s easy, and a lot of fun, to spend a few days enjoying the incredible variation in landscape and experiences at the top of the South Island.
Ferry crossings from Wellington can be utterly magical. With dolphins regularly joining the ferry in a playful game of chase and the verdant green hills of the Marlborough Sounds reaching down to the water’s edge, the three-and-a-half-hour ferry crossing itself is simply spectacular. In fact, it’s inspired many journalists to name the Interislander as “one of the most scenic ferry crossings in the world.” Crossings are at fixed times so you can expect to arrive at either lunch time, late afternoon or evening.
Especially if arriving later in the day, Blenheim is a great destination for your first night. It’s less than 30 kilometres away, around a 20-minute drive. If travelling by camper van, there are a number of incredible camping sites, where you can wake to the view of mirror-still waters and the call of native birds.
Whether you arrive in the afternoon or evening, food and wine will likely be at the top of your priority list in this region. The Festival in February each year is a great way to sample a big range of the region’s offerings but at any time of the year there is plenty to tempt your taste buds. Try a chocolate tasting at Makana Confections, or relax at Dodson Street, a Biergarten that boasts an international menu and the largest range of craft beers in New Zealand. There are a couple of small museums as well, but the highlight of the area is of course its vineyards. Sipping on a glass of world-renowned Sauvignon Blanc is a must do. Marlborough produces 75% of New Zealand’s wine and 85% of them are this quintessentially New Zealand tipple. You can pick up a Wine Trail map from any accommodation or i-SITE and then enjoy the varied and delicious tastings on offer.
Next stop is just under a two-hour drive away. With a thriving farmers market and excellent small museum, there is plenty to satisfy stomachs and minds, but it’s the great outdoors that is the crowning glory of this corner of New Zealand.
On land you can stroll the beach, take the coastal walkway to see the seal colony, and look out for the many bird species including 12 different types of Albatross in this birding hotspot. But it’s on the ocean where things really get lively. There are tours by boat to see large bird colonies, as well as arguably the most famous of Kaikoura’s attractions: dolphin and whale watching. While it’s relatively rare to see whales in the wild, Kaikoura is recognised as one of the best spots in the world to experience these magnificent creatures.
To keep this region in pristine condition, locals request that after an action packed day you can park up in one of the region’s designated camp sites or check out accommodation from luxury lodges to backpacker friendly digs.
Road to Christchurch
From Kaikoura to Christchurch is only a 2-and-a-half-hour drive along State highway 1. If, however, you didn’t get quite enough wine in Marlborough, there is also the option to stop along the way. Waipara Valley is just over an hour and a half from Kaikoura and boasts some incredible vineyards and more of those spectacular views. Enjoy your trip, but do remember to drink and drive responsibly. From all of us at ___mode, happy travels!