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 (Including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and the capital city, Canberra) 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, 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. As I wrote “Is it Worth Shipping a Car to New Zealand from Australia“, you can load your car onto a ship for a week-long passage to New Zealand, but you can’t accompany it.

Is there a boat to New Zealand from Australia?

Taking a passenger boat to New Zealand from Australia was common until the 1960s. Now, much less so. 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 are happy to take a bit longer to travel by sea from Australia to New Zealand.

How long is a cruise from Australia to New Zealand?

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

Options include:

  • An 8-day one-way trip from Sydney to Auckland (≈$2000);
  • A 13-day round-trip from Sydney via multiple stops in New Zealand, before returning (≈$3000);
  • A 15-day one-way trip from Sydney to Auckland (≈$9000).

These are just some of the larger, frequent services. You may be able to find a short, cheaper cruise that does not include additional tourist stops and/or activities. Some of the major operators include Princess, Carnival, Viking and P&O Cruises.

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 alongside cargo en route to Australasia and Asia for half the price of an organised cruise. This type of travel (known as ‘freighter travel’) has been affected by the pandemic though, with Freighter Travel NZ‘s site stating that they are not likely running again until 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.

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

Hire a Boat/Sail

Experienced sailors can hire a boat to travel from Australia to New Zealand but this is not an option for beginners due to distance and challenges regarding water conditions. Costs and duration vary widely.

If you want to sail from Australia to New Zealand, you might find this guide from Improve Sailing helpful.

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 but join as many groups/forums as you can and find who is leaving from your location.

Kayak from Australia to New Zealand

Theoretically, you can kayak from Australia to New Zealand, but only a handful have ever done so successfully. Only recommended for the truly adventurous!

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

FAQ

Can you travel to New Zealand by sea?

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

Experienced sailors/yacht crew could hire a boat or be part of a crew, but both need experience. From what I’ve read, The Tasman Sea is not an easy body of water to cross. Stay safe and only consider non-cruise travel if you understand the challenges and risks involved.

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

COVID-19

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

Visa

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 the expensive sea travel from Australia to New Zealand, instead choosing to take the short 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?

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 a good option for those who are happy to take a week or more to travel slowly to NZ. 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 travelling to New Zealand by sea before you know it.

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