The North and South isands of New Zealand are separated by Cook Strait and the preferred means of travel between them is by ferry of which there are two main lines: the Interislander or the Bluebridge. But these are not your typical ferries, these are cargo ships transporting cars, people and trucking supplies. A run between islands takes a little over three hours.
— unless you are on the Crystal Serenity, which only takes two cocktails, a round of music trivia, dinner, show, followed by more cocktails… wow! We’re here already?
When people think of cruise ships coming into port, they think of cityscape backdrops or lush tropical islands and crystal clear waters— and indeed there are, but when you arrive in Picton on the southern island in NZ, it’s business first. Logging is still a major export. Every log you see here is labeled and it’s origin and destination can be tracked.
Still, these coves and bays are tranquil and picturesque. New Zealand is stunningly beautiful and pictures cannot quite capture the feel of the air, the floral smell of its land or the warmth from its people. If the ship never left here (LOL… inside joke and a possibility) I would be content to live here.
Picton itself has a population of 4,350 and it appears to be the starting point for exploring the South Island. You notice immediately that business casual has been shed and replaced by hiking and backpacking gear. Here you can stock up on supplies— they have a darling hardware store in town, where locals gather at the register and you can eavesdrop and catch up on local happenings in town. But there is plenty to do: have a meal, admire the art in the galleries, visit an aquarium, and other marine related museums, gather up some souvenirs, rent a kayak or just walk town. The public space along the waterfront is beautiful and lying on the chartreuse grass lawn under a palm, it’s easy to think you are in the tropical Pacific islands and not closer to Antarctica than you actually are.
In town, I could not help but notice the string of BMW Adventure bikes— The GS series. Normally these bikes are loaded down with camping gear, tools and parts, spare tires, etc., but I talked to one of the riders who explained to me that this group travels the world and BMW handles all the logistics of travel— getting their bikes from one destination to another. They have two chase vehicles: one for service; one medical van. The riders are mostly German, Dutch and Spanish. They started in the north island and will travel the entire South Island. I forgot to ask them them where they were going after that.
After a full day, loaded down with gifts, it was time to head back to ship and be on our way — our next port is Akaroa, NZ