We stayed in Picton, New Zealand the night of our ferry trip between the North and South Islands. We didn’t really do anything in Picton, but our stay at Fat Cod Backpackers was pretty awesome! From there we headed to Nelson to meet up with our friend along a very picturesque route. Our brief visit in Nelson allowed us to take a quick hike to the center of New Zealand. However it was an awesome town, and we wish we could’ve stayed longer. Abel Tasman National Park which is close to Nelson is definitely on our list of things to do next time we go to New Zealand. From Nelson we headed to Greymouth to spend the night. All quick visits, but it was the travel in between that was the highlight!
How to Get There
We took the Interislander Ferry from Wellington to Picton. The boat ride for a small standard car costs about $143 NZ for a small standard car, a full sized camper van will cost $75 NZ extra. Make sure you book ahead because they do fill up. We booked a later one so we could see the sunset as we travelled between the two islands, and it was a pretty great view! The ferry had restaurants and cafeterias, as well as a movie theatre ($13 NZ) and bar to pass the time. The trip takes just under 4 hours.
Getting to Nelson from Picton without stopping will take about 2 hours. We spent an extra 45 mins taking in the sights along the way, and going for short hikes.
The shortest route from Nelson to Greymouth takes about 3 hours 45 mins, but we took the scenic route along the coast, which added an extra half hour drive, plus we stopped along the way to enjoy the amazing coastal views.
Where to Stay
- Fat Cod Backpackers – A cool spot in Picton which felt more like a communal house than a backpacker dorm. There were a bunch of private and dorm rooms all surrounding a large common area in the middle. We didn’t get to stay long, but it definitely gave off a fun vibe. The rooms were nice and clean, and they provided free wifi and parking. We let them know we were arriving late so they had hidden our room key in an envelope outside, with a nice note welcoming us to the hostel. What amazing service! You can book online here.
What to Do
- Queen Charlotte Scenic Drive – When we google maps’d how to get from Picton to Nelson, we were given two options that would take approximately the same amount of time. The highway route was very roundabout, but had straighter roads, whereas Queen Charlotte was more direct with windier roads along the sounds and bays of the north shore of South Island. Being the adventurous people that we are, we took the winding scenic route and were not disappointed. We were treated to amazing views of the sounds and drove through little towns on the way. We stopped a ton to take pictures, and once to take a little hike to the edge of an amazing viewpoint.
- Hike to Center of New Zealand – In Nelson there is a decent sized hill that provides a great hike, awesome views of the city, and also happens to be the middle of the whole country. At the start of the hike you pass through a field where the first ever New Zealand rugby game occurred. Once you hike up the hill (takes about 20-30 mins) you’re treated to amazing views of Nelson below, and the bay it surrounds. There’s also a monument marking the spot stating it is the center of New Zealand. Great little day activity!
- Great Coast Road – We took the scenic route again on the way to Greymouth, and took the Great Coast Road instead of the direct highway to the town. It added about 30 mins of driving time, not including the extra time it took stopping at the isolated beaches to take pictures. It was cloudy and foggy, but that just added to the beautiful and mysterious aesthetic of the completely untouched beaches and coastline. It felt like we were the only people who had ever been there.
What to Eat
- Lambretta’s – We had lunch in downtown Nelson, which is an awesome spot to walk around and enjoy an afternoon. Lambretta’s was relatively well priced and hit the spot after our hike to the center of New Zealand. There are lots of spots to grab a bite in the downtown, so take your pick!