Travel By Sea From Australia to New Zealand Ferry, Boat or Cruise?

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To travel by sea from Australia to New Zealand, you’ll need to cross the Tasman Sea. Image: CIA via Wikimedia Commons

Are you considering sea travel from Australia to New Zealand?
Want to know if there is an Australia to New Zealand Ferry?

The trans-Tasman trip is longer and more expensive than flying but if you want to take to the ocean, this is what you need to consider before travelling to New Zealand by ferry, boat or cruise.

Australia’s East Coast and New Zealand’s West Coast (Including the capital city, Auckland) are separated by a large body of water called the Tasman Sea (Māori: Te Tai-o-Rēhua). The shortest distance between Australia and New Zealand (from Sydney and Auckland) is ≈1,339 miles (or ≈2,156 kilometres).

It is not possible to swim across ‘the ditch’, despite many tongue-in-cheek forum posts online!

Is There An Australia To New Zealand Ferry?

No, there is no Australia to New Zealand ferry for passengers at this time. There are other options, though.

Passenger boat travel to New Zealand from Australia was common until the 1960s. Now, with regular flights, there isn’t enough demand. As I wrote about in this post, more vehicles than people make the journey.

Yet, there are still ways to travel by sea between Australia to New Zealand, including cruise and cargo ships, private boats and sailboats.

Let’s explore each of these in more detail.

A cruise ship leaves Sydney Harbour. Could you be aboard? Photo by David Dibert/Pexels

How To Travel To New Zealand By Sea

Cruise Ship

Cruises are a great option for those who want a slower, scenic route by sea from Australia to New Zealand. Just like hotels, they range from 2.5 to 5 stars, with luxury cruises including everything from theatre productions, gourmet dining and even ice-skating rinks! Operators include Princess, Carnival, Viking and P&O Cruises.

Searching on Cruise Critic, the cheapest cruise was an 11-day round trip from Sydney, stopping at Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington, among others – for $963 AUD. I found an 8-day one-way trip from Sydney to Auckland for ≈$2000 AUD and a 15-day one-way trip from Sydney to Auckland for ≈$9000 AUD. You may be able to find a short, cheaper cruise without additional tourist stops. Consider Repositioning Cruises, one-way trips where cruise ships move from one destination to another in the off-season.

Cruise Critic is a ‘…complete guide to cruises, cruise lines and exclusive cruise deals. Over 150000+ cruise reviews, ship ratings and the largest cruise forum‘. Check them out and compare prices.

Cruise Critic

How Long Is A Cruise From Australia To New Zealand?

A cruise from Australia to New Zealand takes, on average, 7-14 days.

Many cruises stop at a number of destinations along Australia’s East Coast and the New Zealand coastline. You can choose to only travel one way, alighting in NZ, or stay on board for the return journey. Just be aware that if you book a round trip (called a ‘closed loop’) from Australia to New Zealand, you cannot leave the ship and disembark in New Zealand without making this arrangement beforehand, so mention this (“I want to travel one-way ONLY”) when booking.

Cargo ships sometimes take passengers to New Zealand from Australia. Photo by Sascha Hormel/Pexels

Cargo Ship/Merchant Ship/Freighter Voyage Travel

An alternative to a cruise is to travel with a cargo, merchant (or ‘freighter’) ship.

You will travel alongside cargo en route to Australasia and Asia, for approximately half the price of an organised passenger cruise. This type of travel, known as freighter travel, has been negatively affected by the pandemic and is still not to pre-pandemic travel levels of operation, with Freighter Travel NZ stating that they are still not running in 2023.

Some companies still have passenger services listed, including a 5-day journey between Brisbane – Auckland (and onto China) for ≈$1000 AUD (Including meals/cabin) departing every 7 weeks, but I can’t confirm this 100%.

Travelling to New Zealand from Australia this way may become increasingly common again in the next few years.

Sail/Hire a Boat/Yacht

Experienced sailors can hire a boat to travel from Australia to New Zealand.

Sailing alone is not an option for beginners due to distance and challenges regarding water conditions. If you’re really keen – you can hire a captain for the journey. Costs and duration vary widely but expect to spend $1000 AUD or more per day for your own sailing captain, according to quotes. If you want to sail from Australia to New Zealand yourself, you might find this guide from Improve Sailing helpful.

Sailo…make boat rentals easy and accessible to everyone, [with] 30,000+ [boats and yachts] in over 700 locations worldwide.” Check them out and compare prices.

Be Part of a Yacht/Sailing Crew

Experienced sailors can work or volunteer to be part of a sailing crew. Aussie & Kiwi Yacht Crew list crewing opportunities. To maximise your chances, join as many online groups/forums as you can and ask around to find out who is leaving from your location. You may need to be flexible with your dates and departure location.

While sailing from Australia to New Zealand isn’t easy, it is possible for an experienced crew. Photo by George Desipris/Pexels

Kayak from Australia to New Zealand

Theoretically, you can kayak from Australia to New Zealand, but only a handful have ever done so successfully. Some who tried, sadly, didn’t make it. Only recommended for the truly adventurous and prepared.


Can you travel to New Zealand by sea?

As you’ve seen, yes, you can travel to New Zealand by sea but it is slower and more expensive than flying. Economy flights cost between $300 – $1000 AUD one way, while sea travel starts from ≈$1000-2000 AUD.

There are also a few considerations before travelling to New Zealand by sea:


According to the New Zealand Government (as of 2022), “New Zealand’s maritime border is fully open“, but check the Unite Against COVID-19 website for more information regarding vaccination requirements.


See the Unite Against COVID-19 website for more information regarding visa requirements, which are different depending on the type of vessel that you arrive on: Cruise Ship, Commercial Vehicle or Recreational Vessels, Yachts and Small Craft.

How to travel from Australia to New Zealand?

Most travellers avoid expensive sea travel from Australia to New Zealand, choosing to take a flight from the East Coast cities of Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne (flights from Adelaide, Darwin and Perth are also available).

How long is a direct flight to New Zealand?

A direct flight from Sydney, Australia to Auckland, New Zealand is approximately 3 hours.

Is sea travel from Australia to New Zealand a good idea?

If you’re looking for a scenic alternative to flying, sea travel may just be for you.

Cargo/Freight travel has been restricted during the pandemic but if you can still find a provider, this is a different option for those who don’t want to fly.

Cruises from Australia to New Zealand are good for those who are happy to take a week or more to travel slowly. Depending on the cruise, you may be able to stop in multiple ports and/or participate in activities along the way.

Sailing there yourself (solo or as part of a crew) is really only an option for experienced sailors or those who are willing to take the time to learn. While not a common choice, if you are really determined to travel by sea to New Zealand – there is significant private sea traffic in both directions – but this is not readily advertised. You would need to research further into requirements and costs.

Now you know a bit more about how to travel by sea to New Zealand from Australia, you can compare and consider your options… and you never know, you might be admiring the blue horizon before you know it.

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