36 people found this article useful

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.

Working Holiday Insurance


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.

Was this article useful? Useful Useless
Working Holiday New Zealand
Working Holiday Visa

Working Holiday Visa Online Application Guide – Part 1

Registering on Immigration NZ website. If you already read our article on [...]

Natural Attractions

10 Free Natural Spots Near Rotorua

Bubbling mud, mysterious forests, colourful lakes, hot pools… it’s all here within [...]

Adrenalin Activities

Adrenalin Activities in New Zealand

New Zealand is a country on steroids. Everything done here is done [...]

Itinerary Samples

The North Island Scenic State Highways

Time for a New Zealand road trip! So many different landscapes, so [...]

Popular searches: Budget, Free, Jobs, Travel Tips, Rotorua
Base Hostels
Hot on Backpacker Guide

What to Pack for a Gap Year in New Zealand: Predeparture Checklist

The packing mission. The working holiday/gap year/backpacking mission: pack a year’s worth […]

South Island Cities

Public Transport in Queenstown

How to get around in Queenstown. Getting around Queenstown is super easy […]

Things To Know

The New Zealand Seasons and Climate

What are the seasons and climate like in New Zealand? “4 seasons […]

FB Group
Join the group!
Join the group!

Ask questions to our writers, post notices, share with travellers, show pictures, meet other backpackers, ...

Join our Facebook group