AIS realtime marine data map. Allow a few seconds to appear, and note that not all areas of the Marlborough Sounds receive properly at the moment.
||Cook Strait Ferry Services
There are two ferry operators, providing services across Cook Strait, between Picton and Wellington.
The Interisland Line is ownd by Kiwirail (formerly New Zealand Railways or NZR), and began services in 1962. From the outset it has operated a series of specially-built RORO ships, capable of handling trains. Lately it has begun to use secondhand ships, including one with a bow-door. This was something NZR said they would never do, for safety reasons, given the nature of Cook Strait's often violent conditions, and the sinkings attributed to this kind of design in other parts of the world.
Strait Shipping, who operate the Bluebridge service, began operations in 1992 with a small freight-only ship called the Straitsman. It provided an alternative service that kept NZR honest, and in 2002 supplemented their business by introducing a passenger service as well. Although all their ships to date have been purchased used, they have been reliable and able to handle Cook Strait's conditions, as well as their opposition, in fact sometimes even better !
There have been some shortlived high-speed services, most notably Top-Cat and Interislander Lines 'Lynx'. These were Hamilton Jet-powered catamarans, spacious and amazingly fast, but restrictive speed limits introduced for the part of the route in the Marlborough Sounds, killed off their advantages.
Both operators generally require that you check-in 1 hour before the sailing, the crossing will then take 3.5 hours and one should allow another 30 minutes before you are off and on your way on the other side. (All up, around 5 hours.)
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