That 22 kilometre piece of water that separates the North and South Islands can be relentless, it can whip up a storm at a moment’s notice and does in fact have a reputation for being downright dangerous. I’ve been out there on a decent swell and my word it’s quite the test of character. But the Cook Strait is not just a scary stretch of water – in fact it plays a role in a “must-do” experience here in New Zealand. You’ve got to get from one island to the other by boat, you’ve got to come into windy Wellington and look at that cool cityscape from the water, and you certainly must see the beauty that is the gloriously calm and magical Marlborough Sounds. And, you must cross that Cook Strait!
I’ve been on the various Interislander ferries almost as much as I’ve had hot dinners. My Dad worked on the Arahura for many years and our main way to travel around the country was by car, so if we were heading to the North Island then it was on the ferry.
And, in 1996, at age 40, my Mum successfully swam the Cook Strait. This was a remarkable achievement not only because of the fact that she battled big swells, strong winds and changing tides (the Strait likes to do that you see), but this was her second attempt at crossing. A month prior, those same mean winds and swells and tides saw her pulled out with just 3 kilometres to go – it was decided she simply couldn’t make landfall. Another fun fact, at 16-years old, Mum paced (swum in support) with another swimmer, Perry Cameron. There are many things I strive to do to be more like my Mum, but I assure you this one ain’t in my bones! Oh yeah that’s another thing, Dad actually rowed a surf boat across it back in the day too! I’m still sticking to the boat.
Every time we go across on the Interislander, I always look back at fond memories I had as a little girl, eating a pottle of chips and following Dad around the boat. I also look out at that piece of water and each time am still blown away at what Mum achieved. Unreal.
The Interislander, and the Cook Strait crossing has a big part in our family history. But aside from that, it’s just a really cool trip. You get to see so much more of this impressive island meeting point than you can in a plane. Find a good seat, grab yourself a pottle of chips (still a sucker for them just like I was 30 years ago) and a nice cold beer and take in the epic middle chunk of New Zealand.
Oh yeah, and while you’re at it make sure you do the Picton-Christchurch roadie. Because a good portion of it is the Kaikoura coastline and everyone needs to see the beauty of that.
Disclosure: My last trip with The Interislander was a paid social media collaboration.
By Brodie Kane