Your guide to crossing Cook Strait in a campervan | Apollo NZ
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Hannah Klein
/ Categories: NZ blog

Your guide to crossing Cook Strait in a campervan.

Planning to book a campervan hire for a New Zealand road trip from one island to the other? In this handy guide, we’ve put together all the must-know details for a seamless adventure.

Everything you need to know about the Cook Strait Ferry crossing

New Zealand's North and South Islands each offer unique landscapes and experiences. The North Island boasts rolling hills, vibrant cities, and rich Māori culture. While the South Island invites adventure with its majestic mountains, pristine lakes, and unique attractions. The beauty of a New Zealand road trip is the seamless blend of these diverse experiences, made possible by crossing the Cook Strait.

When you travel by camper or motorhome, it couldn’t be easier – or more enjoyable. There’s no need to worry about flights, no need to find a carpark, you don’t even need to pack and unpack. Simply book your camper, and yourself, onboard either the Interislander or Bluebridge Ferry, then sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. 

The ferries arrive and depart from Wellington in the North Island and Picton in the South. And best of all, the scenery in between is simply incredible. From the sparkling bays of the Marlborough Sounds to the dynamic cityscape of Wellington Harbour, the journey is a showcase of contrasts. 


How long does it take to cross the Cook Strait?

Crossing the Cook Strait by ferry typically takes about 3.5 hours. It's a leisurely cruise that allows you time to relax and appreciate the changing landscapes. It's worth noting that the duration can vary slightly. Weather plays a pivotal role, so on some days, the crossing may take a bit longer. It's all part of the adventure when you're on a New Zealand road trip, where the journey is just as important as the destination.


How much does it cost to take a campervan on the ferry?

The cost of taking a motorhome or campervan on the ferry is subject to change and can vary based on the size of the vehicle and the season. The best way to get an exact price for the day you want to travel is to jump onto the booking page with either Bluebridge or the Interislander Ferry. Once you’ve entered your travel date, departure location, passengers, and vehicle size, you’ll be given the price and you can then pay online. You’ll also be given options to book extras such as private cabins or premium seating for added comfort during the crossing.

Both the Interislander and Bluebridge Ferry services offer competitive pricing. It’s always a good idea to check both websites for the latest deals and any seasonal offers that might be available. Booking in advance can also secure better rates, and there are sometimes discounts for round trips or off-peak travel times.


How to board the ferry in a campervan

Boarding the Cook Strait ferry with your camper is very straightforward. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the boarding process:

1. Check-in: Both the Interislander and Bluebridge ferries require you to check in at least one hour before departure. It’s a good idea to allow extra time to avoid any last-minute rushes, especially during peak travel seasons.

2. Vehicle preparation: Ensure your campervan is ready for boarding. This means securing all loose items inside the campervan. If you have a gas supply, it needs to be turned off before you board.

3. Boarding: Follow the signs to the vehicle check-in area where you’ll be directed to the appropriate lane to wait for boarding. Staff will guide you onto the ferry, where you’ll park your campervan in the designated area.

4. During the crossing: Once you’ve parked and locked your campervan, head up to the passenger decks. Here, you can purchase meals, find a comfortable spot to enjoy the journey, and simply take in the views.

5. Disembarking: As you approach your destination, announcements will be made to inform you to return to your campervan. Make sure you’re ready to drive off the ferry once it’s docked, following the crew's instructions.

Remember, the specifics can vary slightly between the Interislander and Bluebridge services, so it’s always best to check their websites for the most up-to-date information before your trip.


Things to do on the ferry

The journey across the Cook Strait isn't just a necessary part of your New Zealand travel itinerary; it's an opportunity to relax and enjoy the onboard amenities, and plan for your next few days. Here’s how you can make the most of your time on the ferry:

  • Dining: Both the Interislander and Bluebridge ferries offer a range of dining options. You can grab a bite to eat from the café, which serves hot and cold meals, snacks, and beverages. It's the perfect time to sit back with a coffee and let someone else do the driving!

  • Lounging: Find a comfortable seat in the lounge and catch up on the latest news or sports on the TV screens. It's a great way to unwind and enjoy a bit of entertainment as you sail.

  • Scenic views: Step out onto the deck to take in the breathtaking views. Keep your camera at the ready for those Instagram-worthy shots, especially as you pass through the stunning Marlborough Sounds. If you're lucky, you might spot dolphins frolicking in the water.

  • Additional activities: Both ferries are equipped with children's play areas, making it a stress-free journey for those travelling with little ones. Some services also offer cinemas where you can catch a film during the crossing.

  • Facilities: Expect clean and accessible facilities on board, including restrooms and baby-changing areas. For those seeking a bit more luxury, premium lounges are available, offering a quieter space where you can 


The best things to do in Wellington

Wellington is New Zealand’s capital and a city where the vibrancy of urban life meets the charm of coastal beauty. Here's a deeper dive into some of the great things to do in Wellington.

Image: Graeme Murray


Visit Te Papa

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is more than a museum; it's a vibrant storytelling hub where the narratives of New Zealand unfold. Interactive and innovative exhibits like 'Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War' bring history to life with emotional impact. At the same time, 'Ngā Taniwha o Rūpapa | Dinosaurs of Patagonia' offers a journey back in time. 


Wander the Waterfront

Wellington's waterfront is dotted with cafes and restaurants where you can indulge in the local culinary scene. For a unique experience, grab a gelato and rent a crocodile bike to explore the area. The waterfront is also home to various art installations and street performers, adding to the lively atmosphere.


Check out Zealandia

Located in the heart of the city, Zealandia is a groundbreaking conservation project. This lush ecosanctuary has reintroduced several of New Zealand's native species back into the wild. The sanctuary offers guided tours that provide insight into New Zealand's unique flora and fauna and the importance of preserving it.


Ride the Cable Car

The Wellington Cable Car is an iconic part of the city's landscape, offering panoramic views as it climbs from the city centre to the suburb of Kelburn. At the top, you're greeted by the Wellington Botanic Garden and the Space Place at Carter Observatory, which makes for an excellent continuation of your exploration.


Visit the Botanic Gardens

The Wellington Botanic Garden is a 25-hectare protected space that features native forest, colourful floral displays, and specialty gardens. Explore the Begonia House, take a leisurely walk through the Lady Norwood Rose Garden, or simply find a quiet spot to relax and enjoy the natural surroundings.

READ MORE: 15 top things to do in Wellington


Stay at Wellington TOP 10

After a day of sightseeing, Wellington TOP 10 Holiday Park is the perfect place to park your campervan and unwind. The park's location provides easy access to Wellington's top attractions while offering a peaceful retreat at the end of the day.


The best things to do in Picton

The picturesque coastal town of Picton is the gateway to the stunning Marlborough Sounds. Known for its maritime heritage and as a launching point for adventures in the Sounds, Picton offers a variety of attractions:

Image: Miles Holden


Visit Picton Heritage and Whaling Museum

This fascinating museum offers a glimpse into Picton's past, showcasing its whaling history and maritime heritage. Visitors can learn about the town's role in the whaling industry and explore exhibits that highlight local history.


Explore Kaipupu Sanctuary

A short boat ride from Picton, Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary is a community-led conservation project. It provides a haven for native birds and is an excellent spot for a short walk to enjoy the sounds of New Zealand's birdlife.


Hike or bike Queen Charlotte Track

The Queen Charlotte Track is a premier New Zealand trail, offering 70 km of breathtaking views across the Marlborough Sounds. This well-maintained track winds through lush coastal forest, around coves, and over ridges, providing a spectacular outdoor experience for both hikers and mountain bikers.


Have fish and chips at Picton Memorial Park

For a relaxing evening, treat yourself to the quintessential Kiwi experience of fish and chips on the beach. Pick up some takeaways, then head down to the waterfront at Picton Memorial Park and enjoy taking in the beautiful scenery of the Picton Harbour. 


Park up at Picton Campervan Park

Just a two-minute drive from the ferry terminal, Picton Campervan Park provides excellent facilities and a convenient location to rest before exploring the Marlborough region or catching the ferry.

READ MORE: 15 great things to do in the South Island


Ready for your ferry adventure?

Are you ready to experience the best of both islands, in the best way possible? Book your Apollo campervan online today and set the wheels in motion for a journey filled with discovery, freedom, and the open road.


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