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New Zealand (Day 10): Travel Day to Wellington and a Brush with New Zealand Law Enforcement

Summary: On this travel day, we enjoyed a ride on the interisland ferry across the Cook Straight where we were dropped right into Wellington, New Zealand's capital city. Before dark, we strolled the downtown area and caught a view above the City by taking the Wellington Cable Car. All of this happened after our brush with the law. See blog below.

Traveling to Wellington via Interisland Ferry. You can fly from Nelson to Wellington very easily but we decided to try a more scenic route of taking the interisland ferry out of Picton. The ferry ride is 3.5 hours in length, with check-in beginning an hour before departure. The Ferry offers casual dining on board, wi-fi, and a play area for kids. The day we went was especially windy so we spend almost the whole time inside.

Getting there and a brush with the law. We booked an 11:00 a.m. ferry and learned, after-the-fact, that this was a bit too ambitious. The problem was the logistics of getting from Nelson to Picton under our current reservation system. We recommend either using a car rental company that allows you to drop off in Picton or booking a later ferry.


For us, we had a tricky situation that went a little like this: drive from AirBnB to Nelson airport to drop off car at rental car company that doesn't go to Picton. Wait until 7:30 a.m. (opening time) for another rental car company to open that does allow one-way drop off at Picton...and wait...and wait...until it finally opens about 20 minutes later. Then, hit the road for a supposed-to-be 2 hour drive turned 2.5 hour drive due to road construction. In the middle of this nail-biting effort to not miss the ferry, get pulled over by the NZ police for going just 5 miles over the speed limit (Americans will understand why this was surprising!). While waiting for said police to come to the car, quickly google, "How to pay a traffic fine in New Zealand?" while simultaneously telling driver-spouse, "I told you that you were going too fast." Next, tell the friendly Kiwi that you're trying to make the 11:00 a.m. Picton ferry, only to be told in a great Kiwi accent, "oh you're never going to make that." Continue traveling on the road, without a ticket - thanks to the kind police offer - and arrive at the car rental drop-off just in time to run to the terminal and catch the ferry. So, unless you want this stressful, albeit memorable, experience, we suggest planning better than we did!


Wellington. This capital city of New Zealand reminded us of a mini version of San Francisco, California, the closest major city from our hometown. Just like SF, Wellington is situated on a Bay, with a European settlement history dating to the mid-1800s. Wellington features hills, museums, art, seafood restaurants, wind, cable cars, and even earthquakes, just like SF. In many respects, it felt like home.

Evening in Wellington. By the time we finished our ferry trip, checked into our AirBnB and headed back downtown, we had just a few hours left in the day. We explored the downtown area on foot, then headed up the Wellington Cable Car to see the City from above.

Up top, we went through the Cable Car Museum right before it closed, and then explored the Wellington Botanic Garden by foot, before heading back down the cable car for dinner.

Dinner by the Bay. Before turning in for the night, we enjoyed a seafood dinner. As one might expect, there are many seafood options in this other City by the Bay.

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