Throughout the years, the Wellington to Picton ferry has become a right of passage for travelers crossing the Cook Strait in New Zealand. Flying may be the fastest option, but coasting through lush green mountains and islands is something you’ll never forget! Here’s everything to know about the Interislander NZ ferry and why it’s such a fun way to get between the North and South Islands.
6 Tips for the Wellington to Picton Ferry
1. Pre-Buy Your Wellington to Picton Ferry Tickets
The Interislander NZ ferry runs from Wellington city on the North Island to the small town of Picton in the South. In peak summer season it’s a good idea to book in advance especially if you’re bringing a car on board.
If you’re taking the afternoon Wellington to Picton ferry we recommend staying at least one night in town. The best way to book the Cook Strait ferry is to go online, or buy directly at the ticket office.
2. Interislander NZ vs. Bluebridge Ferry
There are two main New Zealand companies that run the Wellington to Picton ferry route. We took Bluebridge Ferry the first time because the other operator was sold out. The Interislander NZ Ferry offers the same route and we were able to use it on our return to the north island.
We paid $54 NZD in late May as passengers, but prices change with the time of year. The main decider between the two Cook Strait ferry companies will be availability and times they run. Below you’ll find the timetables for each boat which change seasonally.
3. Flying vs Taking the Wellington to Picton Ferry
This all depends on what type of experience you want! If you plan in advance the flight can actually be cheaper into a major city like Auckland, or Christchurch and Queenstown on the South Island.
This is also quicker than the Cook Strait ferry as it will only take 1.5 to 2 hours to fly depending on your destination. In addition, the views from the air are extremely scenic if you can score a window seat on a flight.
Even with all the advantages of flying, there’s something special about taking a boat through nature in between islands. We saw it firsthand on the Wellington to Picton ferry, and the views seemed to get better as we got closer to shore.
It was amazing gliding through the Cook Strait, and you can even see dolphins and whales at certain times of year! There’s plenty of indoor and outdoor seating with views of the ocean, or you can book a private room for as little as $30 NZD.
4. Wellington Picton Ferry With a Car
We drove onto the Wellington Picton ferry with our rental car. It was an easy process, but it did cost us an extra $75 NZD to bring our vehicle. Once you park your car you can move up onto the passenger area. They will then make an announcement to go back down when you get close to port.
Keep in mind there’s limited space for cars as there’s many bigger trucks on board bringing supplies between islands. There is also a rental car service available in Picton when you get off the ferry.
Cook Strait Ferry Tip: We were able to get a discount on the ferry through our rental car company. Make sure to ask about this when you’re booking your car!
5. The Famous Cook Strait Ferry Crossing
Our journey on the Cook Strait ferry was actually something we looked forward to for a long time. The previous summer we had spent island hopping through the Greek Cyclades, so we were excited to use this form of transportation again!
From the moment we took off on the Wellington to Picton ferry we knew were in for a fun ride. We started from the capital city of New Zealand, and watched as the high rises and financial buildings faded into the distance.
For the next 3 hours the Cook Strait Ferry traveled through the mountains, islands, and peninsulas, showing off the vast landscape of New Zealand. We tried to stay outside on the top of the boat most of the time keeping an eye out for whale spouts and jumping dolphins.
However, it was late May going into winter so it was a bit windy! Approaching the small port town of Picton was our favorite part of the New Zealand ferry, as it was such a great contrast from leaving the city of Wellington.
6. Spend the Day in Picton New Zealand
Once you arrive in Picton you’ll surely be ready to blast off and explore the South Island. Most visitors stay briefly overnight in town or just head straight out to other tourist hubs from here. We decided to spend an extra day in Picton and discovered that it has a lot of character and fun activities to enjoy!
There’s plenty of great hikes around the port, local bars, and restaurants to enjoy. Even if you’re traveling the opposite way as us from Picton to Wellington, it still can be fun spending some time in this small New Zealand town. Be sure to check out our blog below for all the best things to do in Picton!
Where To Stay In Picton New Zealand
Ultra Luxury – Escape To Picton Boutique Hotel – This boutique hotel is just steps from the main harbor and all the best things to do in Picton New Zealand. Escape to Picton is complete with beautiful bedding and furniture, and a world class restaurant on the first floor.
Fun Vacation – Picton Luxury Waterfront Quay Apartment – Looking for stunning waterfront views after all your Picton activities? Then this is the spot for you! In addition to each room having a balcony, they’re also complete with a kitchen and laundry facilities to use before you head off to explore New Zealand.
Hostel Life – Tombstone Motel, Lodge & Backpackers – Tombstone Motel offers both private rooms and shared dorms. Our favorite part about staying here was the common room, gym, and fresh baked scones in the morning! This accommodation is a 10 minute walk to town, but still close to all the best things to do in Picton New Zealand.
For more places to stay in Picton New Zealand you can explore the latest prices here!
Have any questions on Interislander NZ ferry or want to share your own experiences on the Wellington Picton ferry? Leave us a comment on the bottom of this post!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
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New Zealand Travel Planning
Jucy Van: The best way to explore New Zealand is with a Jucy camper! We spent over six weeks driving around the North and South Islands in a van and loved every moment.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide to find activities all over New Zealand! They have everything from a Milford Sound cruise with underwater observatory, to a Otago wine tour with gourmet wine & lunch, and even a Kaikoura whale watching cruise!
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