Travel tips

Prepare for your Interislander journey across the Cook Strait and beyond with this shortlist of essential travel tips.

The essentials

Pack a day-pack with your travel essentials

Backpacks and large bags must be checked-in and vehicles are not accessible during the sailing. Therefore, we recommend you pack a little bag, handbag or day-pack with all your travel essentials.

  • Medicine: please make sure you bring along all your required medication with you in your day pack.
  • Sea sickness remedies: you might want to investigate your options for medicinal remedies prior to sailing, although we do sell tablets on-board in the shop.
  • Sunscreen: even if it’s overcast, the New Zealand sun is very strong and can burn you in less than half-an-hour.  
  • Sunglasses: there's nothing more annoying than leaving your sunglasses behind because it’s cloudy and then suddenly needing them.
  • Interislander Travel Tips NZ Wall Socket Power leads: we have plenty of power point outlets on-board, so bring your charging cables along to keep your devices charged up so you're ready for the next part of the journey after you disembark.
    • If you are using international charging cables, make sure you have the right power plug/ adapter. If you do forget, our on-board shop also sells travel adapters.

Capturing the moment

  • Camera: make sure your camera is fully charged and you have enough memory on your device to capture the memories of your journey.
  • Phone: Bring your fish lens and your wide angle and make sure your phone is charged enough so you don’t miss out on capturing those perfect moments to share with your family and friends.

Remember to share with #findtimeInterislander.

Interislander Travel Tips Photography

Will we see any wildlife?

Dolphins and Albatross are frequent travelling companions of Interislander in the Cook Strait. So make sure you head out to the viewing decks during your sailing to travel and get a glimpse of our friends. On the odd occasion you might even be able to capture a photo a pod of whales or some penguins swimming by.

Is there specific clothing I should wear?

  • Jacket/jumper: the weather is often completely different on either side of the Strait. It can also be breezy at sea. So remember to take a jacket or jumper with you on-board.
  • Footwear: please ensure that all members of your party are wearing footwear.

What about smoking and alcohol on board?

  • For the comfort of all passengers, all indoor passenger areas and most of the outdoor viewing decks are designated non-smoking. Smoking is only permitted on certain designated outside decks. Please refer to the on-board map or ask our helpful on-board crew where these areas are.
  • Due to our liquor licence, you can only consume alcohol that has been purchased on-board and the purchased alcohol must stay on-board. 

How should I leave my vehicle?

  • For your own comfort and the comfort of other passengers, please make sure you have turned off your car alarm before you leave your vehicle to go on-board the passenger decks. As the motion of the sea can sometimes trigger of some car alarms.
  • Please make sure you have turned off your car lights to ensure your battery does not go flat and you can safely carry on with your journey at the end of the sailing. 

South Island Road News

Is the South Island Closed?

The earthquake of November 2016 has affected only a very small area of the South Island. So it is important that we spread the news that the vast majority of South Island is completely unaffected by the earthquake and is open for business as usual. If anything, this year could be considered a good time to travel to the South Island, as it is likely to be less busy. So please continue to support our South Island businesses by making the journey south. 

Are there alternative driving routes following the earthquake?

Whilst it's business as usual for most businesses, there is one persisting problem - State Highway 1 remains closed north of Kaikoura. There are of course alternative routes around the South Island and depending on where you are headed, you may not even be disrupted.

However, those intending to travel to Christchurch from Picton should plan for a significantly longer journey. This isn't terrible news - after all, the scenic route is very scenic, especially if going via Greymouth. However, it is important to be prepared for the road ahead and make the necessary provisions. 

There are three alternative routes to Christchurch: 

  • Picton > Blenheim > Christchurch: minimum of 7.5 hours. Follow SH1 to Blenheim, then SH63 to St Arnaud, SH6 to Murchison, SH65 to Lewis Pass, SH7 to Waipara and SH1 to Christchurch. Staying overnight in St Arnuad or Murchison is advised.
  • Picton > Nelson > Christchurch: minimum of 8.5 hours. Follow SH1 towards Blenheim and take SH62 to cut across to SH6. Follow SH6 all the way through Nelson, Murchison and on to Lewis Pass, then follow SH7 down to Christchurch. Nelson and Murchison are good places to stay en-route.
  • Picton > Greymouth > Christchurch: minimum of 10 hours. Follow SH1 towards Blenheim and take SH62 to cut across to SH6. Follow SH6 all the way to Greymouth and then follow SH73 across to Christchurch. Nelson and Greymouth are good places to stay en-route. 

Interislander Travel Tips AA Advisory Map South Island Travel

How do I get to Kaikoura?

The Inland Kaikoura Road (Route 70) is now open again and State Highway 1 south of Kaikoura is now open with limited daytime access (6am to 8pm). The last vehicles will be admitted to travel along SH1 south from Peketa at 7.30pm. Vehicles travelling north from Christchurch are advised to leave the city by 5.30pm to ensure they get through to Kaikoura before the road closes at Oaro at 7.15pm.

Many businesses in Kaikoura are now open and the harbour will be dredged to allow Whalewatch and Dolphin Encounters to resume their normal services as soon as possible. Here are the key contacts for Kaikoura:

How can I make the most of the journey?

If you have time to spend an extra night en-route, then travelling across to the West Coast and back via Greymouth will deliver you some amazing views along the way. Taking the scenic route around the South Island is often a very good thing! However, please ensure you don't overdo it. Driving long distances in New Zealand can be fatiguing. The roads are windy and can unexpectedly narrow. At night the roads are unlit and can be particularly tiring. So try and arrange to stay overnight somewhere en-route and make the most of the diverted journey. 

Worried about the weather?

What happens in bad weather?

Typically, strong winds and gales from the north are nothing to worry about will simply make the beautiful scenery a bit more dramatic. The water will remain calm, but our outdoor decks might be closed. However, a strong wind from the south, known as a Southerly, can cause significant swells.

Interislander ships are large and feature stabilisers, so we will sail in very uncomfortable weather. However, there are times when we will delay or cancel sailings as it is unsafe to go out there. If we anticipate extreme weather, then we will get in touch and notify you. Your decision to sail on the day lies entirely with you and providing you notify us before Check-In, you are welcome to defer to a later sailing.

Where do I find out the sea forecast?

If you want to get a forecast for your journey then it is best use the swellmap.co.nz service instead of a weather forecast. This will tell you the expected wave heights. Upwards of three metres is considered to be uncomfortable. Anything less than that is fair weather sailing!

Can I change my sailing because of the weather?

Yes. The decision to sail is up to you and you can always defer your sailing free of charge. So, if you want to delay and go on a sunny day, then that's fine.

When you change sailing, you can only change for one that is of equivalent or lesser value free of charge. If you wish to move to a more expensive sailing, then you will simply need to pay the difference. There are no surcharges or penalties.