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Ferry Between the North Island and South Island

A ferry ride between Wellington and Picton is the best way to get between the North and South Island when travelling New Zealand by road.

There’s lots to see on the 3–3h30min journey along Wellington Harbour, Cook Strait, Marlborough Sounds, Queen Charlotte Sound and Picton, and vice versa. You can’t even take a ferry trip in New Zealand without wanting to take some pictures.

Who takes you across Cook Strait?

There are two main ferry companies: Interislander and Bluebridge.

How long is the journey?

Generally 3 hours but this is subject to change depending on the weather.

How many ferries travel a day?

Up to 5 ferries usually starting 2.30am to 8.00pm.

What departure time should I choose?

You can save money by taking the ferry by night but the journey is well worth the extra dollars so make sure that one of your crossings is done by day for a breathtaking cruise.

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Booking your tickets

Both Interislander and Bluebridge regularly sell out of tickets, especially in summer, so the sooner you book the better. They both offer different fare types, the cheaper option being non-refundable and the rest giving a full or partial refund. Tickets can be booked online through the company websites.


Walk-on Passengers

Being a walk-on passenger is the cheapest way to cross Cook Straight, due to not having the extra charge for a vehicle. Make sure to check into the terminal at Picton or Wellington at least 30 minutes before your departure time. 2 luggage items weighing up to 30kg each can be checked in. Any excess baggage such as sporting equipment is a small fee.


By car or campervan

Taking a vehicle means you need to check-in at the vehicle check-in at least 1 hour before departure time. It also means you have to pay extra.


Ferry price guide for backpackers

  • Backpacker – NZ$50-NZ$70
  • Backpacker + bike – NZ$111
  • Backpacker + car – NZ111-NZ$174
  • Backpacker + small campervan – NZ$174
  • Backpacker + large campervan – NZ$243

Why taking a ferry between the North and South Island is awesome.

  • On a clear day, you must go to the observation deck for some amazing introductory scenery for the North Island/South Island.
  • Sailing the seas and stretching your legs will feel like heaven after a long road trip.

Another cool way to travel from the North Island to the South Island is by flying. Check out our article on domestic flights in New Zealand.

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