WELLINGTON – NELSON (Via Cook Strait & Picton)

Driver Information
New Zealand ItinerariesTravel distance is approximately 243kms (152 miles).
Allow at least 4.75 hours drive time (not including stops).
Part of The Treasured Pathway Route.

Today your self-drive tour takes you across the Cook Strait and onto the South Island of New Zealand. Arriving in Picton follow the scenic Queen Charlotte Drive route into Havelock and then inland to Nelson, at the top of the South Island.

There are two companies that operate ferry crossings of the Cook Strait for you and your rental vehicle, they are the Bluebridge and the Interislander, both have depots on the Wellington wharf. We strongly suggest you pre-book your ferry tickets during school holiday and peak summer periods to avoid missing out! As the ferry travels towards the South Island you will be able to enjoy the spectacular Marlborough Sounds before coming to port in Picton. From Picton you can enjoy the scenic drive that will take you into Nelson – famous for having the most sunshine hours in New Zealand!

Plan to stay for 2 nights in Nelson.

Some notable stops along the route to Nelson include:

New Zealand ItinerariesConsidered one of the most scenic ferry trips in the world, the journey across the Cook Strait between Wellington and Picton takes approximately 3 hours, however leave yourself plenty of time in case weather conditions permit a slower journey. Keep an eye out of dolphins that may join you for a brief visit on your boat trip.

The Ferry leaves the ocean strait and will start the meandering journey through the stunning Marlborough Sounds at the top of the South Island. Encompassing an impressive 20% of New Zealand’s total coastline, the Sounds consist of three sounds, being the Queen Charlotte Sound, Kenepuru Sound and the Pelorus Sound. Keep an eye out for seal colonies basking on the rocks and other water and bird life as you cruise the tranquil waters into Picton.

This is where the ferries arrive and depart for Wellington. Picton is a picturesque seaside township with some lovely cafes overlooking the harbour. A walk along High Street showcases the many art galleries and superior souvenir and craft shops. Picton is also the base for those that are hiking the Queen Charlotte Track.

Welcome to the Green Shell Mussel capital of the world! This historic little township is home to boutique art and craft galleries and delicious cafes. Take a ‘driver reviver’ and enjoy a stroll down to the Havelock marina for some great photo opportunities.

One of the last stands of river flat forest in Marlborough that offers visitors the opportunity to relax and enjoy refreshing forest and
river scenery. Located 18 kilometres west of Havelock, enjoy a gentle walk in many of the offered walking tracks, ranging from a 5 minute walk down to the river, to a variety of 30 minute strolls and 4 hour hikes. Don’t forget the camera!

Located in the top North West side of the South Island and boasting plenty of sunshine hours, Nelson is a popular summertime holiday destination thanks to the golden beaches of Abel Tasman National Park, Mapua, Mouteka and the urban centres of Nelson and Richmond.

Your itinerary includes 2 nights in the fabulous Nelson region and there is plenty of unique accommodation options to suit your budget and requirements, from luxury lodges to international hotels and quaint self-contained cottages and seafront motels.

Gourmet food lovers will delight in the array of sun-kissed fresh produce and succulent seafood on offer. Choose to dine among the vines, along the waterfront with fabulous views, at a country café, or in the heart of the city.

Highly recommended Nelson tourist attractions include…

Abel Tasman National Park – Renowned for beautiful golden beaches, sculptured granite cliffs of course the internationally renowned Abel Tasman Coast Track. There is plenty to see and do within the park, along with some fabulous accommodation options! From hour long to 5-day tramps plus sailing, boating and sea kayaking, this is a fabulous outdoor playground.

World of WearableArt and Classic Cars Museum – This Qualmark Endorsed Visitor Activity is truly a fabulous museum experience with a difference. The WOW Gallery showcases garments from New Zealand’s unique WearableArt Awards Show while the Classic Car Gallery features the best of automotive design from the 20th and 21st centuries.

The Nelson Market – Nelson’s Saturday market attracts day visitors from as far away as Blenheim! Literally hundreds of stalls showcase the best of local fresh veges, breads, fruit, cheeses, woodwork, gourmet foods, designer wear and crafts. Located in the Montgomery Square.

Art & Craft Tour – Nelson has a truly amazing arts community and you will be hard pressed to find unmatched diversity in both creativity and scenery. Take a half or full day Art & Craft Tour with Bay Tours Nelson to visit top studio potters and the famed Bead Gallery, touch luxurious soft knits, visit a glass gallery and plan an extra stop at the World of Wearable Art complex.

Pujjis Wellness Retreat – Enjoy the calming atmosphere and secluded natural surroundings located in the Maitai Valley. Soak in the hot tub overlooking the river, enjoy a massage, yoga, meditation, conscious communication or a cleansing and detox.

Seifrieds Vineyard Restaurant & Wine Cellar – Enjoy superb local wines and a delectable lunch in the sunny vineyard garden. Located in Redwood Road, Richmond, along with children’s playground and fabulous summertime dining, during the winter enjoy tasting Seifried’s range of delicious wines in the Wine Cellar.

New Zealand Itineraries: North Island Suggested Itineraries

Our modern self-drive travel Itineraries have routes specifically for the North Island as well as the South Island, ranging from 5 to 11 days, plus there are some travel routes that take in both the North and South Island’s. Our range of travel itineraries include information regarding travel distances and time to ensure that you can make the best of your time in New Zealand, no longer how short your visit!

  • 5 Day Itinerary: Auckland – Rotorua, Rotorua – Taupo, Taupo – Waitomo Caves and Waitomo Caves – Auckland
  • 6 Day Itinerary: Auckland – Coromandel, Coromandel – Whitianga, Whitianga – Tauranga, Tauranga – Rotorua and Rotorua – Auckland
  • 6 Day Itinerary (route 2): Auckland – Dargaville, Dargaville – Kaitaia, Kaitaia – Paihia, Paihia – Whangarei and Whangarei – Auckland
  • 7 Day Itinerary: Auckland – Whitianga, Whitianga – Tauranga, Tauranga – Rotorua, Rotorua – Taupo, Taupo – Napier and Napier – Wellington
  • 8 Day Itinerary: Wellington, Wellington – Masterton, Masterton – Wellington, Wellington – Nelson, Nelson – Blenheim and Blenheim – Christchurch
  • 9 Day Itinerary: Auckland – Coromandel, Coromandel – Whitianga, Whitianga – Tauranga, Tauranga – Gisborne, Gisborne – Napier, Napier – Taupo, Taupo – Rotorua, Rotorua – Waitomo Caves and Waitomo Caves – Auckland
  • 9 Day Itinerary (route 2): Auckland – Whangarei, Whangarei – Paihia, Paihia – Hokianga, Hokianga – Auckland, Auckland – Rotorua, Rotorua – Taupo, Taupo – Waitomo Caves and Waitomo Caves – Auckland
  • 11 Day Itinerary: Auckland – Whitianga, Whitianga – Tauranga, Tauranga – Rotorua, Rotorua – Gisborne, Gisborne – Napier, Napier Taupo Napier, Napier – Wellington, Wellington – New Plymouth, New Plymouth – Waitomo and Waitomo Caves – Auckland