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Tips for Travelling Between the North and South Island of New Zealand

Milforfd Sound and Mitre Peak in Fjordland, NZ

New Zealand is the ultimate road-trip destination, with easy travelling distances between centres and attractions. The only problem to seeing the whole country in one trip is geography. New Zealand has two main islands - North Island and the South Island, which are separated by the Cook Strait. VroomVroomVroom shares some tips on how you can travel from one island to another.

How to get between islands in New Zealand

An airplane parked at Airport terminal in NZ

There is no bridge or tunnel between the islands so your options are to fly or take the ferry. When planning your itinerary, you'll need to factor in the main regions you want to cover, and the time frame available. If you are in a hurry, the best option is by air. The cities of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin are considered the main trunk, and will always be the most affordable way to fly between islands. If you have time, travelling on the inter-island ferry is highly recommended. It is rated as one of the world's most scenic ferry journeys; it's 92 kilometres, and takes around three hours.

Flight options from North Island and South Island

  • If you are coming from another country, you will most probably arrive at Auckland Airport in North Island. However, you can also choose to fly to Christchurch, Dunedin, or Queenstown in the South Island, and then travel from south to north.
  • If you want to travel from North Island to South Island, fly from Wellington Airport to either Nelson Airport or Blenheim Airport. The flight duration typically lasts 35 minutes and 25 minutes respectively.
  • To save your dollars, you can fly to Christchurch, and rent a car going to Queenstown Airport. The supply of rental cars is greater in Christchurch than it is in Dunedin or Queenstown. The most direct route will take you five and a half hours.
  • Another good option for the South Island is Nelson Airport; it is serviced by Air New Zealand, the national carrier, but also low-cost airline Jetstar. This makes it one of the most affordable airports in the South Island to transit through.
Lovely view of the snow-capped mountains in the Fjords, NZ

Ferry from North Island and South Island

  • Travel between the 'coolest little capital' city of Wellington, and the scenic town of Picton, with its access to the Marlborough Sounds. There are two ferry companies to choose from: Interislander Ferry and Bluebridge Cook Strait Ferry.
  • It takes between 3 and 3.5 hours to go from the North Island to the South Island with a ferry.
  • Take note that rental cars are not allowed on the ferry so you need to drop off your vehicle either at Wellington or Picton before boarding the ferry. There are five suppliers with different policies for interisland travel so click here for more information.
  • Some suppliers allow you to book from North Island to South Island (minimum of 3 days) depending on your travel details. Once a booking is confirmed, you may give us a call of your ferry details with a reference number and our customer care team will contact the supplier and arrange your second leg booking.

So many choices! Whether you choose to travel by air or by sea, you are guaranteed of a great adventure. Make sure you have the ideal vehicle at the best price booked through VroomVroomVroom. If you need help in booking a car hire in cities near the airport and ferry terminal, contact us either via phone, email or live chat. Did you find our tips on travelling between North Island and South Island useful? If you have other advice, please share them in the comment box below.