Interislander x Bluebridge – a comparison between the Cook Strait ferries

If you're going to take the ferry between Wellington and Picton in New Zealand, you'll need to choose one. Click to know all about both of the companies that offer the service: Bluebrigde and Interislander.

A pin to make life easier!

There are 2 companies running the ferries between the 2 main islands in NZ. We tried both and tell you the differences, the pros, and cons of each. If you’re traveling on a budget, then you’ll definitely use one of them to cross the sea.

We used Interislander to go from Wellington to Picton in May, and Bluebridge to go from Picton to Wellington in August. Both times with our car.

*In 2018, we crossed again – this time pulling a heavy trailer with all our belongings, from Wellington to Picton.


It was our first time on a huge ferry, and we were excited but also nervous. The weather was awful, the sea was wild and it was as windy as it could get.

We got at the terminal exactly one hour before the departure time, just as it said in our manual. There was a huge line of cars waiting to board the ferry. We waited for around 20 minutes in the car before driving it into the ferry. We parked our car in midst of trucks – huge trucks and it was a bit scary. Then we were asked to leave the car and go to the passenger area.

interislander ferry

Interislander, passenger floor – it’s huge, warm, and extremely comfortable, were not for the sickening wavy motion.

The ferry had 11 floors, it was massive. At the elevator, we saw that Zootopia and the Revenant were on and they were both in the theatres as well. We wanted to go and watch it, but they charged more than we pay at the regular cinema, so we skipped it. It was probably a good decision since half of the family felt really sick and the other half felt mildly sick.

The café didn’t have many options and neither of them looked very fresh – and it was the morning ferry. By the end of the trip, all the food had their prices reduced.

Jose and I started feeling really sick, so I took him to take a nap at one of the chairs – they had chairs that looked like airplane seats facing the windows and it was pretty cool and comfy. Looking at the horizon helps with seasickness, even though it’s not nearly enough. Angelo took the other kids to walk around the ferry and they found out the upper floors’ cafés served better food at better prices. The upper deck was closed due to the weather, but it’s usually open for viewing the Marlborough Sounds as the ferry approaches.

There are viewing decks on all floors, and the cold wind also helps a lot with seasickness.

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We – the super sick – decided then to walk a bit (since we couldn’t sleep), and my idea was to go to the bottom floor, where the cinema and the 2 storey playground are, but Coral saw a TV nearby and it was on Disney Channel or something like that, so she decided she’d stay right there. I had to stay with her as well, of course. It was better, less crowded, didn’t smell like food and I could go out to the deck to get some air and come back within a minute. Plus the chairs were a lot better.

When we reached Marlborough Sounds, the weather had cleared and we could see the fairytale-like scenery. I felt like we were in ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ (well, sorry if I only watch kids movies!). By then, besides a slight discomfort, I was feeling OK and Jose was 100% new.

When we reached Picton, we were told to get to the car and I was never happier to be in it. We were one of the first cars to leave the ferry and it was great.

All in all, the ferry was in good condition, offered a lot of things (even though not always accessible) and it was huge. I was scared of the fact that our car was in midst of trucks, but it ended up being a good thing since we were able to get out before anyone else.

The service was OK, but the food wasn’t.

The second time with Interislander (2018)

The last ferry we took was from Wellington to Picton. We were moving from the North Island to the South, so we were carrying all of our stuff.

We rode the oldest ferry, which was relatively smaller than the one mentioned above, but it was still in great condition.

The sea was calm and the weather was lovely, which meant no seasickness. At all.

My newest tip (tried once) to avoid seasickness is to eat. We entered the ferry and went straight to the café, where we ate fish & chips. A full meal, with mashed peas and all. I felt a bit queasy at the end of the trip, but it was nothing compared to the previous experiences.

There are two ferries in NZ between Wellington and Picton. Both are around the same price, and same quality. Click for more detailed info!

This was our ferry, arriving at the docks when we were in line waiting for it. Look at that blue sky! It was such a stroke of great luck to see it like that during winter!

We moved a few couches in a circle and sat all together, chatting and eating.

* this time a guy from Interislander came to hand Coral an activity book. And he added: ‘you can buy pencils from the shop’. Sure.

We used Interislander because it was cheaper than Bluebridge on that day, so make sure you check both if you’re traveling on a budget!!!


We were very tense about this trip because we didn’t have a good ferry trip before, but despite the clouds, there was no wind nor rain – good signs.

We arrived at the terminal 90 minutes before the loading time and we waited in the car for 100 minutes – we couldn’t get out of it and it was not cool. Each kid received a bag with an activity book, which helped them to wait.

bluebridge ferry

Bluebridge, the café seats. It was warm and comfortable, but a bit limiting.

We got on the ferry with the small cars. We had to park very close to the other cars, while people were leaving their cars, crossing and all that. Not a great feeling, even worse when we have 4 kids around. Once we left the car and crossed the parking lot, we were told to get to the 4th floor. The elevator carried a maximum of 4 people, so we took the stairs.

The 4th-floor layout was very much like the passenger floor on the Interislander, but that was the only floor available for all passengers that were not paying for a cabin upgrade.

The kids’ room was very small, overly crowded and offered nothing more than a few bean bags, small chairs and a TV with a movie on (it was Lion King) – but there was so much noise we couldn’t hear it.

The grown-up movie room, on the other hand, had very comfy seats. Unfortunately, we couldn’t just sit there (an old M rated movie was on), so we had to sit in the café. It had more food choices than the Interislander café, and the service was a bit better too.

Since the weather was better, I was able to stay outside on the deck, taking photos and watching the Sounds pass – so beautiful.

I slept as soon as the Sounds ended because of the seasickness, but nobody else felt sick (Angelo did, at the end of the trip).

Bluebridge was more contained, with only one floor to explore and some old but free movies. There wasn’t much space to sit on other than the café – unlike Interislander.

It isn’t a bad option if you have kids that don’t need much space, like mine.

Overall, a view on Interislander vs Bluebridge

interislander ferry

At the viewing deck of Interislander

The price is pretty similar between them. It depends on what kind of campaign they have going on, but it varies a lot on which is cheaper. What I can tell you is that the difference is really small and maybe not worth it.

If you like to wander around, don’t mind paying for a new movie, maybe the Interislander ferry is a better option.

If you’re happy with an old movie, a couch, and a nice coffee, Blubridge is for you. Bluebridge also offers cabins, with beds for those willing to pay, so if you wish to sleep on a bed, then this is it. It may be better for the super early or super late ferries.

Both companies offer discounts for those who buy online beforehand – which is what we do. It’s a cheaper option, but not the best. If we do this again in the future, we’d go on Bluebridge if the weather was bad and get a private cabin, and use Interislander on a good weather day, to have nice views all the way.

The trip takes around 4 hours, which may be a little too short for a nice sleep, but a little too long for those with little kids.

Below you can see our short video about the view from the ferries! Hope you enjoy it!

Have you traveled with any of them? What’s your opinion?

You can check out our Wellington post for more info and things to do in the capital of New Zealand

8 replies
  1. CG
    CG says:

    Fair review but you mix the use of the company names in the second part, making it hard to follow.

    I’d clarify which ship you mean to refer to in the second review because it doesn’t follow logically.

  2. Ex Regular ferry traveller
    Ex Regular ferry traveller says:

    We used to travel on the ferries regularly due to visiting family. Tip we learned was – they tend to put the play area on the most stable part of the ship. Often the back middle, so that’s a good place to be if it gets rocky. Kaitaki play area is bottom floor, zero views, but lots for kids to do and space for adults to stretch out and read. (The views had become less important than being comfy)


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