New Zealand · Travel

Story time: Quail Island 

Quail Island sits in the middle of Lyttelton harbor. The first time we went to Lyttelton, Alec asked about it, and we said we’d like to go.

Over the three and a half months we spent in the Christchurch/Lyttelton area, we found out that few people had actually been.

“I haven’t made it over to quail island yet.”

“Oh yeah I want to go there someday!”

“I’ve always meant to go see it.”

But few who had actually gone. So we made it one of our top things to do before we left Christchurch.

We planned it for a sunny day, and roped our friend Gaby into coming with us.

There is only one ferry in and one ferry out each day. So when our day rolled around, we planned our stops for coffee and lunch items with just enough time to make it to the 10:30am take off time…. except we found out when we got there (at 10:25) that we got the time wrong. The ferry left at 10:20.

Well shoot.

There wasn’t another day we would be able to go. We asked the people at the dock if there was any other way to get to the island. He jokingly told us we could swim.

But Alec wasn’t done trying. He suggested that we go down to the docks and see if someone would give us a ride.

Just, hitch a ride on someone’s boat?

Psh. Like that would happen. I was unconvinced that this would be a productive use of our time, and suggested instead that we reroute our day to a different hike.

But we gave it a shot anyway, if only to appease Alec’s curiosity. He assured us that he would do all the talking.

When we got to the docks there was a sailboat being towed out of the water by a tractor. We wandered along the shore looking for any boats getting ready to head out. But there weren’t any. So we sat on a picnic table for a moment to decide what to do next. Alec saw a truck pulling in with a boat on it, and ran off to give it a shot.

While he was gone, Gaby and I talked about the chances of Alec’s scheme working…. we had just said how funny it would be if it DID work when we caught glimpse of Alec running back across the parking lot with a giant grin on his face…. and he gave us a thumbs up.

Whaaaaat? The three of us jogged back over to the boat- still on it’s trailer. Shook hands with Brad and thanked him for giving us a ride, and then loitered on the dock until they unloaded the boat into the water. Brad was accompanied by three little kiddos, and another couple.

Alec gave him some money for his trouble, and we jetted off to Quail Island. The whole ride Gaby, Alec & I kept looking at each other in amazement.


Halfway there we hit the hidden coral reef, which sounded a large and concerning thunk on the rudder of the boat. When we made it to the dock- Alec and Gaby hopped off the boat before the water pushed it away. Brad couldn’t reverse due to the knock on the coral reef. We had a poetic moment with the two of them standing on the dock as I floated gently away on the boat. After a bit of tricky maneuvering on Brad’s part, I made it to the dock…. and we were on Quail Island. We were pretty stoked. It was pretty rad.


Quail Island has served as a number of things over the years. Including an isolation camp for lepers, a boat graveyard, training ground for pack mules headed to Antarctica & a labor camp for prisoners. Crazy stuff!

For our return trip, we were able to catch the ferry going back.

We have no idea why more people don’t go. So if you’re in the Lyttelton area…. do it!

But maybe make it to the correct ferry time. Just in case Brad isn’t around that day 😉

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