Destinations, New Zealand, New Zealand, Road Trip

Cruising on the Interislander

2 Comments 03 February 2012

Cruising on the Interislander

Those traveling all of New Zealand, not just the North or South Island will have to cross the Cook Strait either by plane or boat. Facing the added expense of both options can be a bit concerning for travelers on a budget.

Luckily, Interislander makes the crossing more than just a mode of transportation, but also a great activity to add to the agenda. Passengers can expect jaw dropping views through the Marlborough Sounds, onboard food and entertainment, maybe even a few dolphins swimming beside the ship.

While on a recent ferry crossing with Interislander from Wellington to Picton, I said a few times, “Now this is how to travel.”


Interislander is set up similar to a cruise ship. It offers a few eateries, a bar, a movie theater, several lounges and viewing platforms, a children’s play area, a travel information center with a real live person on site to help book trips, VIP sections, even a lounge for truck drivers.

I boarded early in the morning and headed straight to the cafeteria for breakfast. At $12, the big breakfast was extremely reasonable considering how much airlines and ferries usually charge people for food these days. Expect your standard cafeteria food. Visit the cafe for better meals.

Big breakfast served on board. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

One of the ship’s dining areas. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

The only other purchase I made was an hour or 40MB of internet at $7. I would only purchase it to do a few little things online, but I found the connection extremely good considering we were out to sea and in the middle of nowhere most of the time.

The majority of my time on board was spent either napping on the ferry’s big, comfy lounge chairs or on the top deck checking out the views.


The top deck was definitely the place to be on the clear summer day I traveled. Views are absolutely stunning sailing through the Sounds with massive mountains cascading into blue and green waters.

I was even lucky enough to watch a pod of dolphins swimming and jumping beside the boat. The captain who first spotted them, made sure to announce it to everyone on board.

A view of the Sounds from inside the ferry. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

It seems like wildlife spottings are pretty common through the Marlborough Sounds too. All three times I’ve taken the ferry, each captain announced seeing dolphins. In fact, I’ve actually been on dolphin sighting tours that cost more than my Interislander ferry trip and didn’t give me nearly as good an experience.


A great interaction with the staff started as soon as we drove onto the ship. One of the staff members directing Ric where to park the car, pretended to be pulling us in on a rope while giving a massive smile. For me, it’s little things like this that always make a trip that much better.

From then on every member of the staff was extremely kind, even fun. The duty manager waited by the exit door bidding everyone farewell at the end of the journey.


Expect three to four hours for this trip. Those traveling with a car must arrive before final check in, which is usually about an hour before departure, but don’t worry about arriving much earlier than that, as you’ll just have to wait in line.

Ric having a nap during our trip. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon


People can book through their website, at a ticket counter or through an agent. A single adult ticket with no vehicle costs $NZ52-$NZ75. For two people traveling with a standard sized vehicle, the price is between $NZ215 and $NZ330 depending on what kind of ticket you purchase and time of travel. These prices seem to have stayed the same the few times I have checked.

The cheapest option is a web saver reservation and these are a lot cheaper so it’s beneficial to book as early as possible as only a limited number of these non-refundable reservations are available. Interislander also offers promotions which may be worth looking into.

Thanks to Interislander  for sponsoring our ferry crossing to the South Island. As always, all opinions are my own.

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  • Our Oyster

    Aw I never saw dolphins! But I was usually fast asleep whenever we took the ferry! lol

  • Bobbi Lee Hitchon

    haha yea I did a fair bit of sleeping on that ship as well. On our third crossing we didn’t really want to move, but we both saw dolphins right out our window. Really lucky.

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