North to South overnight
Wellington has a wealth of things to do, writes Sara Litchfield
Iam in Wellington ready to wish the North Island goodbye and take the Bluebridge ferry over to the South Island - and I’m spoilt for choice for what to do before I leave. Wellington is a vibrant city with so much to entertain. In the morning, I decide to see it from a different perspective, and take a short, scenic flight by helicopter with Heliforce. They run exhilarating tours in the air, a different and delightful way to sample the area from above. It’s brilliant to see the city and its surroundings from a bird’s eye view, noting all the standout landmarks in miniature and appreciating the ocean on the doorstep. Now I’ve seen it from above, I sample Wellington from the ground and get walking. Lots of notable places are close at hand. The botanical gardens are beautiful and, as a café connoisseur, I spend some happy hours on Cuba Street, sampling some of the best-made coffee in the country, before heading to Wellington Zoo. The zoo is a wonderful place to see native wildlife brought here because they wouldn’t have survived in the outside world, like the courageous one-legged kiwi. I especially enjoy visiting the Little Blue Penguins at feeding time. These tiny but larger than life characters were also rescued and cared for by the vets here before making it their permanent home. I still have time later in the afternoon, and I head to the Te Papa museum, an absolute must-see. Right in the centre of the city, by the waterfront, the museum houses a massive collection of displays and artwork
that take you through the history, nature and culture of the country. My day drawing to a close, dinner is a no brainer. I’ve heard about the amazing menu at Shed 5 and have to go and sample it before I leave. Dining in the company of a beautiful view of Lambton Harbour, I order the market fish. Sourced and filleted by the in-house fishmonger, it’s the freshest and most delicious seafood you’ll enjoy anywhere. I head to Waterloo Quay for my Bluebridge ferry at 1am. The check-in is easy to find and well organized. I don’t have to wait long before embarking the Straitsman to take me away from the city and off to the South Island. The Straitsman is the newest ship to make the crossing. Built in 2005, it joined Bluebridge’s fleet in 2010. There is plenty of comfort for night owls aboard, with complimentary WiFi, a convenient café, and a canteen serving restaurant-quality food, all sourced in New Zealand. To relax, you can make your way to a quiet lounge or a family lounge, as well as a free movie lounge showing recent releases. The night scenery visible to the sides of the ship is haunting. There are also seats to nap in, situated beside the windows looking out at the night sea, but I’m very happy to retire to my cabin, with a soft bed and en suite bathroom, to rest for a few hours. I have no trouble falling asleep. It’s a smooth voyage and it seems in no time I hear the wake up call and go above to see the start of a stunning sunrise over the Strait. Sailing through the Marlborough Sounds, I’m so glad to have made the crossing by sea rather than air. We dock in Picton and I head to Blenheim, the gateway to wine country, with all the delights of the South Island to look forward to.