The Cook Strait Ferry: Is it Worth it? | New Zealand

When people come and visit New Zealand, they have to do it in at least 2 parts, if not more. Being an island nation, New Zealand is split into several islands, and it depends how you’d like to get around as to what method of transport you use to get between the islands. Do you fly into one island, tour around, and fly to the next? Or do you hire a car and jump on a ferry and head over the Cook Strait?

Fly or Sail?

The time it takes to fly between islands will depend on your point A and point B, but unless you’re going from the top of the North Island to the Bottom of the South, then most flights around New Zealand take between 30-mins and 1 hour 15 minutes. It’s definitely faster to fly, and not only does it take out travel time, it cuts down on driving time. The view of the country is beautiful as you fly over it, and it’s an easy, mostly cheap, way to get around the country. However, if you’re planning on doing a lot of road tripping, perhaps hiring a car or a van, then taking the ferry is a fun way to go.

The ferry has to be done at least one. It’s about a 3 hour trip from Wellington Harbour, across the open ocean and into the Sounds at the top of the South Island. On a nice day, you can see both the bottom of the North Island and the top of the South as you make the crossing. If you’re lucky you might see a pod of dolphins.

picton ferry 4

Night Crossing

As well as the day trips,  you can book a night crossing, which I’ve done once in my life, and that was enough. We drove onto the ferry at about 2:45am for a 3:30am sailing. Unless you can sleep anywhere, I suggest avoiding the night crossing. We went straight for the most lounge-looking place on the boat we could find, and I managed to find a spot on the floor between chairs where I could lie down with the pillow I had brought with me. That was all fine, except when I eventually woke, I had a bruise the size of England on my hip and was freezing cold. Unless it was the busy time of year, then the night crossing wasn’t any cheaper than a day crossing, so it’s up to you whether that’s something you look into or not.

If you do decide to try a night crossing, head to the lounge parts of the boat as fast as possible so you get a comfortable seat for the duration of the trip. The bonus to going on a night crossing is that you’ll reach the sounds (if you’re heading south) at sunrise, and that’s a beautiful sight. Breakfast would then happen in the little harbour town of Picton, which has cafes, and a McDonalds.

picton ferry

Day Crossing

But in the day time, it has beautiful views right across the waters between the islands. If you’re not one for sitting in front of a pretty view, reading a book, then there are plenty of other things to do on the boat. The ferries have great levels of decking and viewing platforms, and they are clean, tidy, and easy to navigate, so wandering around is doable. There are play areas for the children, and some of the ferries have cinemas in them for those rainy crossings. They also have cafeteria’s, but they are very expensive and it’s best to bring your own snacks and meals.

picton ferry 5

Rough Crossings

While it’s a fantastic trip on a good day, on a bad day it’s atrocious. There was one crossing we did where the wind and rain was so bad that the ferry rocked and swayed both front to back and side to side. It was as if it were on a one of those rodeo bulls at the showgrounds. If you’ve got a weak stomach, then head to the back of the boat, where the rock and roll is less. If you’re like me and you can stand the movement, then you get the entire front of the boat to yourself. Rarely is it that bad though, and you’d be simply unlucky to get a really bad crossing like we had. Most of the crossing are a little rocky, but the open ocean isn’t a long part of the trip, so you’re in and out of the rocky waters quite quickly.

picton ferry 2

So is the Cook Strait Ferry worth it?

In my opinion, yes. Yes, it takes longer. Yes, you might have a rough crossing. Yes, you may throw up. But it will also be beautiful on a nice day, and if you have children then they will talk about ‘that one time we took the ferry in New Zealand’. It will be fun, and the possibility of seeing a pod of dolphins surely is enough reason.

Getting Around Tokyo | Japan

In 2015, 3 friends and I headed over for a week’s holiday in Tokyo. I know what you’re thinking – just a week!? – yes. Just a week. At the time, it was all we could afford, both financially, and work/time wise. But while we would all love to go back one day for a longer period of time, a week was a great amount of time to get a feel for the place, and find our feet. By the end of the week, we had used a variety of transport, and all were surprisingly easy.

tokyo city

Whether you’re heading overseas for the first time, or you’ve done it every year for 3 decades, heading somewhere where the language is not own can be a daunting experience, especially if it’s mixed with your first overseas trip, as it was for some of my friends. My first piece of advice is, much like if you were to travel the galaxy: Don’t Panic.

None of us knew Japanese, even though we had learnt a few phrases, and we did absolutely fine the entire week.

Tokyo is a big city. With a population of 8.5 million, coming from little ol’ New Zealand where our entire population is just over 4 million, it was a little overwhelming thinking we’d be trying to sight-see and adventure in among these people’s busy lives. But after the first day or two we felt confident heading out into the city with our map and our Lonely Planet Guide to Tokyo.

Airport Shuttle Bus

After taking the 10+ hour flight from Auckland direct to Narita International Airport, flying Air New Zealand, we landed and went in search of our pre-booked airport shuttle bus, which would take us to the hotel. Considering this was the very first time any of us had been to Japan, and this was our first obstacle, it was conquered incredibly quickly, simply, and without any stress.

If it’s your first time in Tokyo, then I highly recommend buying a airport shuttle bus ticket before you arrive. After you get off a long haul flight the last thing you want to do is try and get to your hotel in the dead of night (or early morning!) without knowing the language or culture, or what to expect. Once we found the right desk associated with our bus, we gave them our pre-booked bus ticket numbers which were on the itinerary, and they told us exactly where to go and what to do, in English.

We had to wait about 20 minutes for the correct bus that was heading to Shinjuku, where we were staying, but it once we were safely on the bus, it was a nice drive through the city night lights to the hotel. The shuttle bus driver was helpful, and spoke some English too, and every stop was clearly labeled, and read aloud over speaker. Our first mission, complete.

bus and taxi

Tour Bus

A tour isn’t for everyone. Some people just like to go and wander and do their own thing, and there is nothing wrong with that at all. But if a tour is your thing, again, book ahead of time. We did a tour to Mt Fuji and Hakone on the first day we were there, and it was an amazing experience. The tour bus was just like the shuttle bus: comfortable and clean.

It was a little confusing getting to the tour bus, as one bus picked us up from the hotel, which we thought was the tour bus, but it only took us about 10 minutes down the road to where the tour bus depot was. The people on our bus went their separate ways, to the tours they were going on, and we went and found our Mt Fuji tour guide. Be aware that this might happen, but don’t panic if it does. Just go along with it, and when in doubt, ask someone.

The tour bus was a great way to a) get to Mt Fuji and Hakone, b) meet people, as you spend all day on and off the bus with them, c) learn some Japanese and Japanese culture from the tour guide, and d) see some of the country side along the way.

mt fuji

Train Lines

In Tokyo there are many different private train lines, and which one you use depends on where you’d like to get to. If you’re getting around the city then then JR line and the Subway (Toei and Metro lines) are your go-tos. Much like the London Underground system, the train lines have routes that go both ways, and depending on your platform will mean you end up going in the right direction or the wrong one. But you’ll simply get to the end of the line and turn around and come back, or, as it is in some cases, loop back around.

train tracks

While the train system seemed terrifying at first, once you realise that all the stations have their names written in the Latin/English alphabet, then you can’t go too badly wrong. Each line within the city has a different colour, and you can follow those on the ground in the stations. Each platform is clearly labelled with the routes on pillars next to the tracks. And each station is read aloud on the train. After the first time on the train, we were naturals.

Just know that if you do get stuck, you can find the information desk and ask politely. They might only have a little English, but the English they do have will be helpful. There are also people on the platforms, so you can confirm with them that you’re in the right place.

Taxis

We only ended up using the taxi once while we were there, and it was just in a dire situation – one of our group had a heavy cold at the time and needed to spend the rest of the day back at the hotel. She took the taxi back to the hotel from about 3 suburbs over. It went smoothly. We gave the taxi driver the exact name of the hotel, and he nodded and off they went. The taxi was more expensive than the train or subway, but it was good to know that they were easy enough to use if need be.

pedestrian crossing

Walking

We were staying in Shinjuku, which is not only one of the most populated city areas, but also shopping central. While we spent a good day there we didn’t nearly see everything, but we did get to several different food places for our evening meals. From Shinjuku station we were able to catch all the trains to the other suburbs and to Disney Land, but we found that a lot of the things we wanted to check out were within walking distance.

Planning a route helps, especially if it’s your first day out walking around, but as long as you know where the main streets are and the general direction you need to head back in, then it’s pretty safe to go wandering from your route if you spy something interesting. We planned a route that went through Yoyogi Park, down to Shibuya station, through Harajuku. We diverged from it a bit here and there, but weren’t too worried about losing our way. People will help you out if you get stuck.

pedestrian crossing 2


It may be big, it may be daunting, but Tokyo was one of the easiest places to navigate. Everything is easy to see, easy to figure out – even in a second language – and when in doubt, ask someone. While none of us had been to Japan, and the others had never been to Asia before, it was an incredibly easy week of exploring, and I highly recommend it.