How To Make the Most of Your Cook Strait Crossing

Life is about the journey, not the destination. Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, there’s no shortage of things to do aboard the Interislander ferry. Treated as a ‘rite of passage’ by many, Kiwi and international visitors have been enjoying the crossing for nearly 60 years. Dating back to 1962, the Interislander sailed its maiden journey on 13th August 1962 with the Aramoana. Since that day, a lot has changed for the Interislander ferry to reach celebrity status amongst Kiwi culture.

Knowing what is on offer before your travel can help ensure you get the most out of your Cook Strait crossing.

Kaitaki Leaving Wellington LK6212 3840x3840

What is there to see on the Interislander?
The beautiful Cook Strait crossing has a lot to offer you no matter what time of the year you travel. Some of the major sights of the journey that should not be missed include: 

  • Queen Charlotte Sound 
  • Dieffenbach Point 
  • Tory Channel 
  • East Head and West Head 
  • Wellington Harbour 

Be on the lookout for some of these sites along your journey and if you’re looking to keep some memories,  ask the staff where the most photogenetic spots are located aboard.

What is there to do on the Interislander?
Each ferry offers slightly different entertainment for the whole family to enjoy while you cross the Cook Strait. From blockbuster films with all the best treats, a quiet place to sit back and enjoy that book you’ve been wanting to get stuck in, or an outdoor space to take in the breathtaking scenery. 

A visit to one of the cinemas aboard would be a great way to pass the time. Both the Aratere and Kaitaki feature a mini theatre, in fact, the Kaitaki has two. Tickets are sold at the on-board shop where you can also pick up popcorn and a fizzy drink for that authentic movie experience. This is best suited for the whole family and single passengers alike. Be sure to ask the friendly staff aboard the ferry which films are showing on your sailing or listen out for the on-board announcement. 

Travelling with young children? They can shake out that excess energy in our playing areas. Each Interislander ferry has a dedicated children’s area, with a playground area on the Aratere, and a children’s playroom on the Kaitaki that has a whole deck devoted to fun, with a full soft play climbing frame and crawling mat for babies our playgrounds are best suited for any child with adult supervision. Not to mention they are all free spaces, so why not take advantage. 

If you find yourself travelling during the summer holidays on the Kaitaki, then why not stop by and experience the wizardry of our Magic show. Running for over 30 years, this show has become a generational must for families crossing the Cook Strait. It is best suited for any passenger who with a creative imagination and fun for the whole family. Best of all, it's free of charge. 

Licensed Bar
For those who are looking to enjoy a cold beverage during the journey then our licensed bars on board are a warm and welcoming environment to relax in. If you are travelling on the Kaitaki then visit the Local Heros Bar,or if you are onboard the Aratere then pop into the bar towards the rear of the ship. As a bonus, there is complimentary SKY TV available in all the licensed bar areas. If it’s footie or cricket you are trying to catch, or some other sporting event then please ask one of the friendly customer service staff if they can put it on for you. 

Down Time
Maybe it’s some downtime that you are after. Park up at one of the many seating areas onboard and sink into a good book, or simply take in the scenery and people watching. The Aratere has a few good places such as the Panoramic Lounge, Sun Lounge, the Family Lounge or the Quiet Lounge. The Kaitaki also has a few relaxing places to unwind such as the Lookout Atrium, Queen Charlotte Lounge or the cozy Hector’s Lounge at the front of the ship on level 7. 

Live Bands
Live music is a great way to enjoy crossing as well. Often there are Bands on Board, which offer up some family suitable entertainment. Located in the Local Hero’s Bar area there is a cozy corner to enjoy some of the best live music Aotearoa New Zealand has to offer. This service is not currently on offer but should be back again soon. So, watch this space. 

What is there to eat on the Interislander?
What’s travelling or going on a trip without the food and snacks to match? The Interislander has something to suit your craving along the journey.

  • Featuring locally sourced Fish and plant-based options on alI
    Interislander ferries. 
  • There is sure to be something for every taste. 
  • Budget-Friendly Menu’s 
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner are available depending on the time of day. 
  • Snacks are available (even fresh oven-baked scones)

Dine at the restaurant
Grab a hot meal from the Aratere Food Courtor if you are sailing on the Kaitaki there are similar options available at the Ocean View Eatery. Imagine sitting down and enjoying locally sourced Fish and Chips or a creamy Butter Chicken while taking in the beautiful scenery the crossing has to offer. One thing is for certain, it will be a meal you’ll never forget. 

Fill up at the cafe

If you’re after a quick food or beverage option then on board the Kaitaki is Hector’s Café; a modern, elegant café modelled on the classic Kiwi café-bar style. Check out a sample menu for Hector’s Café for some classic Kiwi cuisine. We’ve also got some of the best coffee around Aotearoa made by highly skilled baristas on all our ferries. 

Pack your own food
Sometimes it can be a good idea to pack your own snacks for the journey. A great go-to is that favourite bag of trail mix; packed full of nuts, dried fruits and maybe some chocolate to keep your energy levels up. 

What should you pack for your Cook Strait crossing? 
Weather is a tricky thing to predict, especially at the Cook Strait crossing. It could be sunny and still one minute and then nek minute it's turned and the wind kicked up several knots. So, it’s best to be prepared for every weather scenario. It’s important to note that you are not able to visit your vehicle during the crossing unless you’ve brought a pet along, so best to check the weather before you sail. Before heading to your seat, make sure you’ve grabbed items like that cozy woolly jumper, some sunnies, sunscreen books, and any medicines so you can travel worry-free. 

When is the best time to cross the Cook Strait?
There is no avoiding the inevitable, sometimes crossing the Cook Strait can be a little rough. Interislander ferries are large enough ships that a lot of the sea swells are absorbed so you don't move around too much, which is great for those of us lacking in the sea legs department. If you’re wanting to avoid all the crowds of peak season, it is wise to avoid travelling during those times. Peak season tends to follow the school holidays from December to February. You’re often more likely to have calmer weather during the warmer months but the best chance of seeing marine life is from June to November when the weather is a bit cooler. For the latest information including marine and weather conditions please visit Traveller Information page

How to avoid getting seasick

What causes us to get seasick? According to the National Ocean Servicevice, seasickness results from a conflict of the inner ear and the erratic motion of a vessel. It’s a very unpleasant feeling but there are ways we can combat this conflict. Try the following to combat the queasy feeling.

  • Sensible eating 
  • good hydration 
  • moving around to keep busy 
  • being on the deck with the fresh air 

Those tips will help ease the side effects of seasickness. If these are not enough for you, there are over the counter medications that are available from your local pharmacy. Ultimately don’t be embarrassed if you get seasick, it happens to well-seasoned sea travellers, fishers, sailors and marine scientists alike. 

Which is the best InterIslander ferry for you?
There are currently two passenger service ferries in the Interislander fleet, and one vessel dedicated to freight services only. The Aratere and the Kaitaki are available for both passengers with vehicles and those who walk onboard, but occasionally there are freight services as it is crucial to help maintain the supply chain between the North and South islands. Both the Aratere and the Kaitaki have their own identities if you will, with the Kaitaki known as the fleet favourite. Visit Our ferries to compare our ferries and find the best one for you. 


With three separate viewing decks, including one on the bow, there is no better Cook Strait ferry for soaking up the atmospheric Marlborough Sounds - especially on a sunny day! The Aratere first joined the Interislander fleet in 1998, and then underwent a major remodelling where they added a new section of the ship in 2011. This allowed the passenger count to increase from 350 to over 600 passengers.

Fun fact: In late 2009 the Aratere celebrated its 20,000 crossing and had travelled over 2 million kilometres.


With two restaurants, a sports bar, shop, several lounges and a deck dedicated to children, Kaitaki is designed to entertain. Take a look on board at everything on offer! Built in 1995, the Kaitaki had an eventful life before reaching the waters of the Cook Strait. It first joined the Interislander fleet in 2007 on a lease and then later purchased by KiwiRail in 2017. As the largest ferry operating in Aotearoa, the Kaitaki can hold up to 1350 passengers and those who travel with their vehicle do not have to turn around to disembark, as the front and rear of the ship open to allow for easy access.

Travel the Cook Strait in luxury 
If you enjoy the finer things in life, there are ways to cross the Cook Strait with a bit more luxury and privacy. Then the Plus Lounge and new Queen Charlotte Lounges are the perfect places for you to spend your journey. 

Join the Plus Lounge

For a more refined journey across the Strait, book a seat in our Interislander Plus lounge. Interislander Plus includes:

  • Food and Drinks - including wines and beers
  • Quiet
  • Child-free environment
  • Newspapers & Magazines
  • Sky television
  • Free Wi-Fi 

To reserve your place in the Interislander Plus lounge, simply add it to your booking or purchase tickets from the on-board shop for $80/pp or $30 for the Queen Charlotte Lounge. If you’re still wanting more information, please check out this Stuff review of our Plus Lounge to help you decide.

Book a cabin
Our cabins are a great space for young families to sleep. Each cabin is four-berth, with two beds and two bunks, and a private ensuite bathroom with shower. Cabins are few in number and high in demand, so it’s best to try and reserve one in advance if you are interested. The price of privacy is worth it, and if you have spare money in the travel budget then it's definitely worth the extra spend.

Ready to book your Cook Strait crossing?
Researching everything that’s on offer to you on an Interislander ferry in advance will ensure that you make the most of your Cook Strait crossing. Each ferry has its own strengths, so be sure to pick the best-suited ferry for your family. Now that you have all the information to make the most of your journey it’s time to book your next crossing.