Ferries in New Zealand

Far from the usual presumption that New Zealand is made up of only two islands, the North and South (or Te Ika-a-Māui and Te Waipounamu), New Zealand is actually made up of over 600 small islands.

While most of them are uninhabited and not part of the usual tourist hotspots, there are a plethora of various ferry services, water taxis, and Cook Strait ferries that take you between the more well-known island destinations.

Let’s take a look at the services New Zealand has to offer, and the top tips and tricks to know before you go.

Interislander Cook Strait Ferry

By far the most well-known ferry service in New Zealand, the Interislander Ferry travels between the North and South Island between Wellington and Picton, with multiple ferry crossings per day.

With the option of walk-on or drive-on, you can choose whether or not to take your own car or hire one (or use public transport) on the other side.

Top tip: Book well in advance to avoid paying high fares, and avoid travelling during peak holiday periods such as public holidays or school holidays.

Top tip #2: The Bluebridge Cook Strait Ferry also travels the same route, but it is more of a cargo freight than passenger ship. For a more exclusive passenger experience with a choice of food options and movie viewings, we recommend taking the Interislander.


Fullers ferry service connects the suburbs and towns of the Hauraki Gulf and Auckland

With 21 vessels transporting over 5.5 million passengers per year between Waiheke Island, Tiritiri Matangi Island, Rangitoto Island, Coromandel, Motutapu Island, Rotorua Island, Devonport, and Auckland City, Fullers ferries is a both a local mode of transport, as well as a popular tourist attraction and a great way to view all that this stunning area of New Zealand has to offer.

Top tip: In peak summer season, destinations like Waiheke Island are extremely popular. We recommend turning up at least 45 minutes in advance to avoid both the crowds and the chance of missing the sailing.

Stewart Island Ferry

This one-hour ferry crossing along the Foveaux Strait to Stewart Island takes you between the southland town of Bluff and Oban, the capital of Stewart Island.

The Stewart Island ferry takes approximately one hour, with two ferries crossing per day in each direction, increasing to three in the peak summer season.

Top tip: Keep a lookout for native New Zealand birds on your crossing, especially the majestic Mollymawk, otherwise known as the Albatross.

Water Taxis

Water Taxis are a popular way to get around New Zealand’s coastline, especially in places that are inaccessible by road.

The Marlborough Sounds, Abel Tasman National Park, the Bay of Islands, and Auckland are just some of the destinations which provide a plethora of water taxi services to meet a variety of needs.

Top tip: Make sure you check the water taxi timetable in advance, and make sure you arrive at the proposed destination before schedule - otherwise you could be in for a cold night in the bush!

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