How to Get to South Island New Zealand

Getting to the South Island of New Zealand is a dream come true for travellers seeking awe-inspiring landscapes and thrilling adventures. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip for many people who have to cover long distances to get to New Zealand. People who are already on New Zealand’s North Island will take a ferry to South Island. However, we have other ways of getting to the South Island. If you’re wondering how to get to South Island New Zealand, please keep reading as we explore the various transportation options available.

Two men looking at Marlborough Sounds view from ferry.

How To Get To South Island New Zealand from Other Countries

For international travellers, flying is the most convenient way to reach the South Island. Several major airports provide direct flights to New Zealand, though you will find more flights arrive at North Island airports.

Therefore, when planning your trip to New Zealand, it’s essential to consider the airports that cater to international flights on the South Island. Start by working out where on the South Island you want to visit and then how to get to South Island.   

Christchurch International Airport (CHC)

Christchurch International Airport, located in the largest city on the South Island, is the key entry point to the South Island. It offers numerous international flights, connecting travellers from all around the globe.

Upon arrival, you’ll find many transport options available for getting around the South Island. 

Queenstown International Airport (ZQN)

Nestled in the heart of the South Island, Queenstown International Airport welcomes visitors with its stunning alpine backdrop. The airport serves as a gateway to the adventure-filled region, known for its breathtaking landscapes and adrenaline-pumping activities.

Travellers can easily access popular destinations such as Queenstown, Wanaka, and Fiordland from this well-connected airport.

Dunedin International Airport (DUD)

Dunedin International Airport, situated in the vibrant city of Dunedin, also serves as an entry point to the South Island. With its unique blend of heritage and natural beauty, Dunedin attracts tourists from far and wide.

Dunedin airport provides easy access to explore the southern wonders of New Zealand.

Once you work out how to get to South Island New Zealand, check out transport options for travelling around the South Island. Read Next – Transport NZ: Travelling Around New Zealand.

How To Get From North To South Island New Zealand   

If you find yourself already in New Zealand, perhaps exploring the North Island, or you live on the North Island, domestic flights offer a convenient option. 

Two airlines operate regular flights between the islands, ensuring a quick trip. Also, charter flights are available between certain regions, such as the Chatham Islands, with airlines like Air Chathams.

Popular airlines Air New Zealand and Jetstar offer domestic flights connecting major and regional airports on the North Island, like Auckland, Wellington, Rotorua, Napier, Palmerston North and Hamilton, to the South Island airports mentioned earlier. 

Additionally, the South Island has domestic airports in Blenheim, Nelson, Picton, Hokitika, Takaka, Invercargill and Timaru.

These domestic flights provide a quick and cheap (if you book in advance or during a sale) way to get to the South Island.

Wondering where to go on the South Island? No worries, we got you! Read our specially curated New Zealand South Island Bucket List – South Island Must Do next!

Ferry to South Island   

For a more scenic and leisurely experience, travelling to the South Island by ferry is an excellent choice. 

The Interislander and Bluebridge Ferry are the two operators offering regular sailings from the North Island to South Island. Both ferries run several crossings daily and connect Wellington on the North Island with Picton on the South Island.

Onboard facilities such as comfortable seating, cafes, and panoramic viewing decks ensure an enjoyable crossing.

We love this trip as it sails across the Cook Strait and through the panoramic Marlborough Sounds. Even though it takes 3 hours to cross, plus an hour waiting time to board, we would choose a ferry any day over flying.

The ferry to the South Island is the best thing about getting to the South Island. Read Ferry to the South Island New Zealand for New Zealand North to South Island ferry information.

Marlborough Sounds

Exploring South Island on Cruise Ships

If you’re an avid cruise enthusiast and wondering how to get to South Island New Zealand, you’ll be pleased to hear numerous cruise lines include South Island destinations in their itineraries. They allow you to explore the stunning coastal wonders and vibrant cities of New Zealand at a leisurely pace.

Cruise ships often dock at popular ports such as Dunedin, Akaroa, and Fiordland, providing an opportunity to immerse yourself in the unique natural beauty of these regions. 

With a wide range of shore excursions available, you can customize your experience to suit your interests.

Find out all the cool things about New Zealand and what it is known for. Read next – What is New Zealand Famous For?

Can you drive to South Island New Zealand?

As it’s an island, besides flying in or the ferry, there are no other options for arriving on the South Island. However, if you’re self-driving, you can take your car or rental on the ferry from the North Island to the South Island. 

For those who enjoy the freedom of the open road, a self-drive adventure is a fantastic way to reach the South Island. You can drive from various locations on the North Island to catch a ferry. 

Taking a ferry to the South Island is a breeze. You can easily park your car on board the ferry and then just relax and enjoy the scenic views during the crossing.

Once you reach Picton, the ferry terminal on the South Island, you can hop into your car and hit the road for your onward journey or discover the cool things to do in Picton.

Additionally, buses and trains also connect with the ferry. 

Read More about self-driving in Self Drive New Zealand South Island: Driving Essentials.

Frequently Asked Questions on How to Get to South Island New Zealand

How long is ferry from New Zealand North to South Island?

The ferry takes around 3.5 hours. Make sure to allow a one-hour minimum for boarding.

How do you get from North to South Island in NZ?

There are only two options to get from North to South Island NZ. 

You can either take a flight from the North Island to the South Island or opt for the ferry to travel between the two islands.

Where do you fly into for South Island?

If you are arriving from another country, you will arrive at one of the international airports on the South Island – Christchurch, Queenstown, or Dunedin. 

If you want to know how to get from North to South Island New Zealand, the South Island has domestic airports in Blenheim, Nelson, Picton, Hokitika, Takaka, Invercargill and Timaru.

Travel to South Island New Zealand   

Reaching the South Island of New Zealand is an adventure in itself. Whether you prefer the convenience of air travel, the scenic charm of ferry crossings, the leisurely pace of cruise ships, or the unique experiences offered by alternative transportation options, there are several ways to embark on this remarkable journey. So start planning your itinerary, and get ready to explore the wonders of the South Island.

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