Taking a car on the Interislander™ Cook Strait Ferry

Planning a trip to Picton or Wellington? There’s no better way to travel than on the Interislander Cook Strait Ferry. Park your vehicle, pop upstairs and find time to soak in the views of the Wellington Harbour or Marlborough Sounds.

Interislander roadie feature 3

Taking the ferry across the Cook Strait is a great way to break up that long summer road trip. Travelling with your vehicle gives you freedom to drive straight on and off the ferry - and it can be more cost effective than flying.

Taking a car on the Ferry from Wellington to Picton

Near the head of the Queen Charlotte Sound is the picturesque township of Picton. Nestled in a natural harbour, this seaside town is the gateway to Marlborough and the Tasman district - and home to our South Island ferry terminal.

Kaitaki leaving Wellington Harbour

Leaving Wellington Harbour

Getting to Picton is easy when you travel on the Interislander Ferry. If you want to take your car on the ferry, you’ll need to get yourself to the Aotea Quay Interislander terminal. If you’re coming from Wellington city, you can get to the terminal via Aotea Quay. Or if you’re coming down from up north on SH1 or from the Hutt Valley on SH2, you’ll need to exit just before the two highways meet. Either way, keep an eye out for signs to our Wellington ferry terminal.

Interislander Wellington Ferry Terminal from above

Wellington Terminal

If you’re driving your car onto the ferry you should arrive at the vehicle check-in area of the terminal at least one hour before leaving. Having your booking details handy will speed things up too. The crew will then take your tickets and give you boarding passes, then when it’s time to board, our crew will let you know where to park up.

Getting off the other side in Picton is even easier – just follow our crew's instructions and you’ll be on the road in no time.

Travelling between Picton and Christchurch

The road between Picton and Christchurch was reopened in December 2017. The journey takes about 5.5 hours along State Highway 1. Or, you can take an alternate route via State Highway 63, 6, 65 and 7 through Lewis Pass.

To plan your journey and check what roads are open, check out the NZTA Plan your journey website here.

Taking a car on the ferry to from Picton to Wellington

Whether you’re heading to the Capital for a weekend, or venturing further North, taking your car across on the ferry is a great option. Wellington is a car friendly city (despite the hilly roads!) and is the gateway to the rest of the North Island.

The Picton ferry terminal can be found at 3 Auckland Street and is signposted on the roads. Again, you’ll want to arrive at the ferry terminal at least one hour before you leave and have your booking details ready.

Interislander Picton Ferry Terminal

Picton Ferry Terminal

If some of your group would like to board the ferry on foot, you’ll all need to check in at the passenger terminal (there’s a 30 minutes free parking zone outside). The driver must then drive back to the vehicle terminal to check in. When it’s time to board the ferry with your vehicle, just follow the marshal’s instructions to find your park

The Wellington terminal is a stone’s throw from the city centre. Just turn onto Aotea Quay and you can’t miss it. Or if you’re heading north, just follow the signs for SH1/SH2.

Boarding information 

After checking in for your car ferry service, you’ll need to follow the marshal’s directions to the Boarding Lane. Once you’re on board, turn off your headlights to avoid blinding our lovely marshals! Then once you’re parked up, there are a few things you need to check:

  1. that your handbrake is on
  2. that your car is iin park (or neutral for manual cars)
  3. that any alarms are off
  4. that your vehicle is locked
  5. if travelling with a pet, make sure they’re comfortable and have enough airflow
  6. if travelling in a Campervan, turn off any LPG or gas tanks

Once you’ve ticked all those boxes, you’re free to stroll upstairs and enjoy the hospitality of one of our many bars and restaurants or soak in the views from the ship’s decks.

Vehicle Check In Interislander

Packing a bag for the ferry journey

After you’ve parked up on the Interislander, you’ll need to leave your vehicle for the whole ride and won’t be able to return until you arrive. So it’s important to pack your essentials in small daypack to take with you. Here are a few things you can include to make your trip as comfortable as possible:

  • Warm clothing: The temperature can change quickly while crossing the Cook Strait, so bring warm, comfortable clothes just in case.
  • Hats and sunscreen: The New Zealand sun can be very strong, so bring a hat and sunscreen to protect your skin while sightseeing on deck.
  • Sunglasses: It may be cloudy when you arrive on the ferry, but pack your sunglasses just in case you need them.
  • Charging cables: You’ll find power outlets on board, so bring your charging cables to keep batteries topped up.
  • Medicines and seasickness remedies: If you need medication, please bring them with you in your day pack. Although we do sell sea sickness tablets on board, it’s worth researching which remedy will work best for you before we leave.
  • Books, games and activities: The journey across the Cook Strait is the perfect time to read a few chapters or play a hand of cards.

Dolphins with the Interislander Ferry

Driving your vehicle off the ferry

After sailing across the Cook Strait, those travelling with cars will be allowed back down to the vehicle area. There will be an announcement over the speaker system when it’s time for you to head down to your vehicle. Driving off the ferry is just as easy as driving on. Our crew will make sure you have a clear path onto the off-ramp and will help you navigate your way to the highway. 

Feeling nervous about driving on the ferry? We’ve been transporting cars across the Cook Strait since 1962 and have parked milk tankers, freight trains and more. Rest assured, our crew will help make things as easy as possible.

Driving onto the Interislander Ferry

Other vehicles you can transport on the ferry

While most of the vehicles transported on the Interislander are cars and vans, motorbikes are also welcome aboard. Motorbikes need to be fastened, so remember to bring tie-downs with you. 

If you’re travelling as a foot-passenger with a bicycle, you should lock your bike on the racks outside the passenger terminal and then head inside to check-in. Picton and Wellington have different boarding procedures, as do the different ships, so be sure to mention at check-in that you have a bicycle and we'll let you know what to do next.

Booking your vehicle on the Interislander Ferry

There are three Interislander ferries, all of which have fantastic facilities for small kids, big kids and everything in between. If you’re travelling with young’uns, sailing on the Kaitaki is your best bet, as it has a dedicated Under 10s deck on board. If you’re looking forward to taking in all the sights and sounds of the Cook Strait then the many viewing areas of Aratere could be for you. Or maybe you just want to kick back on the Kaiarahi - the newest ferry in our fleet.

Aratere viewing deck at sunset

Whether you’re travelling between the North and South Islands for a holiday, sporting event or because of a move, the Interislander Ferry is a great way to get you and your vehicle across the strait, rested, relaxed and ready for your next journey.


Vehicle check in Snippet

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