The Cook Strait

The Cook Strait separates the North Island from the South, and can be a wild and rough passage.

We drove straight through from Rotorua southward to Wellington, at the southern tip of the North Island; although it was a cloudy and drizzly day I did get some nice photos. We stopped to meet an old friend for dinner, in the little town of Featherston a bit north of Wellington. Read on for our ferry ride across the Cook Strait.

New Zealand Cook Strait. The ferry is big and actually rather comfortable.

We had booked a ride on the mid-day ferry, so we spent the morning at the outstanding Te Papa museum in Wellington.  I was deeply impressed, as it is an incredibly creative interactive museum about the culture, environment, and wildlife of New Zealand. We marveled at the Giant Squid on display – the largest in the world.  We watched movies of volcanic eruptions.  We walked across the huge New Zealand map on the floor, and the walls showed photos from the places where we stepped.  We used touchscreens to take snapshots of ourselves and ‘push’ them to a huge wall display, where we could use wands to drag the images around. We rode a simulated undersea submarine to visit the undersea volcanic vents.  We viewed exhibits about the way humans have changed the landscape over hundreds of years.  Very cool.

The Cook Strait separates the North and South Islands [location].  Although the two islands are only 14 miles apart at their closest points, the ports are not near those points. The ferry takes over three hours, out of Wellington harbor, across the strait, and then winding through the fjords and islands of the Marlborough region. 

New Zealand Cook Strait. The ports are farther apart than the shortest land distance.

As noted on that wikipedia page, “New Zealand’s position directly athwart the roaring forties means that the strait funnels westerly winds and deflects them into northerlies. Due to this the Cook Strait is regarded as one of the most dangerous and unpredictable waters in the world.”  I was a little worried about the winter weather, but we had smooth sailing through a cloudy day. 

New Zealand Cook Strait. The water is glacial blue.

It is a beautiful place, begging for a kayak and a few weeks of free time.  Most of my photos are of the Tory Channel or Queen Charlotte Sound, like that above.


This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2021, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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