How to drive from Wellington to Kaikoura

From this country’s ‘best little capital’ to a town famous for whale watching and wildlife, your journey will take you across the Cook Strait and through the striking Marlborough Sounds on a relaxed and remarkable trip.

Wellington to Picton
 98 km (61 miles)
Approximately 3 hours
Road Conditions: By Sea

Wellington was recently named the world’s ‘best little capital’, and taking a small visit you will see why. This city is small, yet cultured and completely full of character. Nestled perfectly between the harbour and the hills, the downtown vicinity is the perfect for explorations on foot. Enjoy the local café scene, restaurants, museums and of course Te Papa, the museum. Wellington is a very arty city, and theatre, dance and musicals are its specialities. Being New Zealand’s capital, Wellington is steeped in political history.

The passage across Cook Strait and through the Marlborough Sounds is one of the most picturesque ferry trips in the world. The fast ferry makes the trip in just over 2 hours, the cruise-style ferry takes about 3. Both types of vessel can transport vehicles. Highlights along the way include the Red Rocks seal colony, Tory Channel, Cook’s Lookout and the stunning coves of the sounds.

The picturesque seaside town of Picton is the South Island base for the ferry service that links the North and South islands of New Zealand. It’s also the gateway to the marine, forest and island attractions of the Marlborough Sounds. Interesting and unique walks and small museums will keep you amused while you’re here.

Picton to Blenheim
 28 km (18 miles)
Approximately 0.5 hour
Road Conditions: State Highway

Next take a short drive to Blenheim, a route that takes you across the Wairau Plains and past vineyards and wineries. If you’re taking the trip at a leisurely place, stop at one of the golf courses along the way.

Blenheim is the heart of wine-growing Marlborough. You’ll find a good selection of cafes, restaurants, pubs, shops and golf courses. Character accommodation is another Blenheim speciality, with everything from homestays to boutique hotels. There are more than 20 wineries within driving distance of the town, and nearly all of them welcome visitors, so stop off and have a tour through the charming vines.

Blenheim to Kaikoura
 129 km (81 miles)
Approximately 1.75 hour
Road Conditions: State Highway

Take State Highway 1 for a cruisy journey through coastal foothills, and then out to the picturesque Awatere Valley. You’ll find charming little authentic crafts in the township of Seddon. Take an interesting stop at the Lake Grassmere salt works and see how the ponds turn coral pink in the late summer. After you leave the small township of Ward, the road turns into the awesome beauty of the Pacific Coast, and just north of this the Ure River is a road that leads to the winding, walking trails of the Sawcut Gorge.

Do you fancy a bit of crayfish? Then Kaikoura is the place to head, as well as the perfect place for wildlife experiences. Jump on a whale tour that could have you seeing Southern Right Whales, Humpbacks, Orcas and Dolphins. There is also a fur seal colony on Ohau Point, which houses big seabirds as well as the colony.