One of the easiest and more beautiful ways to get between the North and South Islands of New Zealand is by ferry. There are two major ferry services between the islands, the BlueBridge Ferry and the Interislander Ferry. Both were similarly priced with the BlueBridge being slightly less expensive with an adult fare between $51 and $73 New Zealand Dollars (NZD) depending on fare type. You can travel with an automobile between islands as well and that will cost you between $169 and $245. As with most travel related services, book early to get the best fare.
Our car rental included ferry transport on the Interislander Ferry. If you are renting a car or caravan, check for these specials because many do offer free transport on the ferry for your vehicle otherwise, it can be quite expensive to bring your car. Prices quoted were valid at the time of publication, but please verify any changes directly with the websites linked above.
The North Island Interisland Ferry terminal is located a little bit outside of downtown Wellington whereas the BlueBridge was right downtown just outside the doors of the Wellington Downtown Backpackers and the train terminal. It was very easy to queue up our car at the Interislander terminal as it was well marked with directions.
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After boarding the car you make your way up on to the upper decks. There are 2 or 3 boats used by Interislander with different layouts. HELPFUL HINT: Check to see which boat you will be on to find the best place to sit for the 3-hour tour. We were on the Arahura and found a great location on deck 4 at the front of the boat in the bar and food area. Great chairs, televisions, and a beautiful view out of the front of the boat with an outside deck just steps away. The boat plans are located on the websites of each ferry company.
On the Interislander you will find a food court and bar service which has snacks available. We saw several people with their own packed lunches which would save quite a bit of money as the food was a little pricey as expected on the ferry. Just a note, you cannot consume your own alcohol on board the ferry since it is a licensed bar service.
There are great areas for kids and families and even an onboard cinema to help pass the time should you not want to watch the beautiful scenery outside!
The trip itself was quite nice. As you leave Wellington you get a great view of the downtown area and the surround inlets. Shortly after that you move into the open water between the two islands where it can get a little choppy. On the day we went over there were some pretty hefty winds and waves but still the ride was smooth enough for us to walk around on the boat without issue.
As you enter the sound on the South Island you really get a glimpse into some beautiful landscapes. This is the time to grab a spot outside because the remainder of the trip will be a beautiful one! We did not see any marine life, but understand it is common to see seals and dolphin in the water playing in the ferries waves.
Departing the ferry in Picton was very organized and even though we exited near the back of the bunch it was still not more than 15 minutes after we arrived at the dock.
We had decided to spend a few days in Picton because it looked like a great place to start out tour of the South Islands. We stayed at the Villa Backpackers Lodge which was a minute drive from the ferry terminal.