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.
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.
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.
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.
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.