Four of the best New Zealand ferry crossings

In a New Zealand summer, there’s nothing better than feeling a cooling sea breeze on your face. Building one of its ferry crossings into your itinerary is a piece of cake. Often it’s unnecessary to book in advance, leaving you free to be spontaneous and hop on and off as the mood takes you. Here are our picks for the four best New Zealand ferry crossings.

Cook Straits

The Interislander ferry, one of the best New Zealand ferry crossings
The Interislander

The big one is undoubtedly the Cook Straits crossing, linking North Island and South Island. Several ferry companies bridge the watery gap, but the longest running is the Interislander. Sailing between Wellington and Picton, the ferry is one of New Zealand’s most iconic tourism experiences. It’s also easy to combine it with two of the country’s great rail journeys, the Coastal Pacific and the Northern Explorer. Combine the three and you can travel from Auckland all the way to Christchurch, enjoying some of New Zealand’s best scenery from the comfort of your seat.


Onetangi Beach on Waiheke Island, served by the ferry from Auckland
Onetangi Beach

Waiheke Island is served by regular ferries from Auckland’s centrally located ferry terminal. Operated by Fullers360, the crossing takes just 45 minutes, leaving you plenty of time to explore this delightful island. Sample its wine at one of the many vineyards, or visit the pristine sandy beaches of Onetangi, Oneroa Bay or Little Oneroa. Make time to visit the cafes, boutiques and art galleries in Oneroa, Ostend or Surfdale before you board the ferry back to the mainland.


Ferries waiting to depart Aukland
Ferries waiting to depart Aukland

Another of Fullers360’s offerings, also departing from the Auckland ferry terminal, is the boat to historic Devonport. It’s just a 15 minute ride across the water. Take one of the regular Explorer tours to the top of Mount Victoria, the tallest volcanic cone in the area. You’ll also be able to visit North Head, a 19th century artillery battery. Fabulous beaches at Cheltenham and Narrow Neck afford breathtaking views across the Gulf towards Rangitoto Island. There’s a ferry to Rangitoto, too, if you’re tempted.

Stewart Island

Sign showing how far other islands and cities are from New Zealand
You can still head south from South Island.

High-speed catamarans take an hour to travel between Bluff and Stewart Island across the Foveaux Strait. This South Island gem is one of the best New Zealand ferry crossings for wildlife spotting, and you can be sure to spot a plethora of seabirds as you make your way between the two. Listen as the commentary draws your attention to mollymawks (albatross) soaring overhead, Dog Island Lighthouse (New Zealand’s tallest), and Mount Anglem, the highest point on Stewart Island.

About JuliaHammond


Julia Hammond is a Geography teacher turned travel writer with a passion for places. Winning Mail Travel's Deep South competition was the catalyst to write for a diverse range of publications including Bradt's Bus Pass Britain Rides Again. She’s written Kindle guides to Cape Town, Peru and London for Unanchor and advice on Savannah for Wanderlust. When not travelling, she can be found at home in Essex planning her next trip, her two golden retrievers curled up at her feet.

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