The Bare Traveller

Cook strait ferry from Picton to Wellington

When you visit New Zealand, you often have to take a ferry. In fact, the Wellington-Picton junction also known as crossing the Cook strait, is a possible segment of the route between the North and South Islands. 

Some questions may arise when traveling by boat between Picton and Wellington.

Picton Harbour, New Zealand

In this article, I will demonstrate why boarding a ferry between the north and south islands is the best option during a road trip in New Zealand.

So I will talk about ferry bookings, timetables and prices for the Picton to Wellington crossing. In the rest of this post, I will go into more detail about other practical questions to ask before catching a ferry in New Zealand.

Book a North-South Island crossing trip

If you want to book a ferry crossing between Wellington and Picton (or vice versa), I highly recommend you do it via DirectFerries. You can book your journey across Cook Strait here.

South Island to North Island crossing, New Zealand

Regardless of where you book it from, the price is quite the same (from Picton or from Wellington). Also, a round trip is cheaper than buying two single tickets (Away and return).

Inside Picton Harbour, New Zealand

DirectFerries allows you to compare and book crossings from Bluebridge and Interislander, the two operators on this route. There are only a few distinctions between the two.

Newer boats are available from Interislander Cook Strait for a slightly higher (if not the same) price. It’s entirely up to you to decide which company you want to use.

One of the differences between Interislander and BlueBridge is that the two companies arrive and depart from different terminals in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital.

Cook Strait ferry ticket prices

The cost of a ferry ticket between the North and South Islands (Wellington and Picton) is determined by the type of vehicle and the number of passengers. 

There is a rate for each vehicle type (vehicle plus one passenger) as well as a rate for each passenger.

Ferry from Picton to Wellington, New Zealand

Here’s an estimate of the cost of crossing the Cook strait by ferry:

  • Pedestrian price: around £35 
  • Approximately £120 for a classic saloon car and a passenger.
  • Price for a van and a passenger: About £145, depending on the dimensions of the van.
  • The cost for a camping car and a passenger varies depending on the size of the vehicle, but it is typically around 200 pounds.
  • If you’re travelling in a group of four and plan to take the ferry with a campervan, the total cost will be in the range of 200 to 300 pounds.

The price difference between Bluebridge and Interislander is very small and it really depends on availabilities and the season you are travelling. 

Ferry crossing duration between Picton and Wellington

Cook Strait ferry crossing times may vary slightly depending on weather conditions. The crossing takes on average around 3,5 hours.

Concerning the crossing frequency between North and South Island, InterIslander operates 7 crossings per week, whereas DirectFerries operates 14 crossing per week. 

Picton Wellington ferry timetable

The crossings timetable are quite close when the two companies operate on the same day.

Sailing times may vary. What you need to keep in mind is that times can change year on year depending on the season and the day of the week.

South Island coast Ferry from Picton to Wellington, New Zealand

You can find the updated timetable on the Interislander or Directferries websites. 

Also, crossings are spread throughout the day: You may find 1 early morning, another one in the morning, one in the afternoon or one in the evening.

The Crossing experience

Bare in mind that you will not be able to stay in your car, van, or mobile home during the crossing.

I recommend you head to the various relaxation areas reserved for passengers during the crossing once your vehicle has been parked on the boat. On-site dining is available.

Leaving picton, New Zealand

Let’s begin our journey in Wellington. You will be able to see the Pencarrow Head Lighthouse after a few minutes at sea and before leaving Wellington Bay.

This lighthouse marks the entrance, or exit, of Wellington Bay.

Inside the Ferry leaving picton, New Zealand

You will be able to see the Pencarrow Head Lighthouse after a few minutes at sea and before leaving Wellington Bay. This lighthouse marks the entrance, or exit, of Wellington Bay.

During the crossing, keep an eye on the horizon; if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of whales or migrating dolphins.

Crossing Cook Strait, New Zealand

The South Island is very close after few hours of crossing, and you will reach it from the Marlborough Sounds. 

You will cross these magnificent landscapes for long minutes, giving you a taste of what awaits you on the South Island. Get your camera out and happy shooting!

Crossing Cook Strait between Picton and Wellington, New Zealand

You will cross the Queen Charlotte Sound before arriving in Picton. There are also stunning landscapes. This location can also be discovered on land via several hikes, some of which are among the most beautiful on the South Island.

After 3,5 hours of crossing, you arrive at Picton. this lovely little town can be a starting point of your journey to explore the South Island. I highly recommend to drive to Nelson, a charming town only 2 hours drive away, as a first stop.

Final Thoughts

This New Zealand ferry guide is written to help you better understand how the crossing from Wellington to Picton works. 

As mentioned in this article, it doesn’t matter what company you use, unless you have a rental car you want to pick at arrival. In that case, I recommend yo book with the company that takes you to the right terminal. 

On top of the purely practical aspect of taking a ferry from Wellington to Picton (and vice versa), it’s also a nice way to explore what nature has to offer. The scenery is so beautiful. 

This is especially true in Picton, the arrival and departure port of New Zealand’s South Island.

If you have any question about your road trip in New Zealand, please do not hesitate to contact me.

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