Story: Public transport

Page 6. Harbour ferries

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New Zealand’s islands are surrounded by ocean and before roads were built transport by water was important. In the 19th century large Māori waka (canoes) which plied the waterways gave way to ferries.

Ferry services operated in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch in 2016, providing a faster and more direct alternative to trains or buses.

Auckland harbour ferries

Ferry services have operated in Auckland since the first days of European settlement. The services operating in 2016 linked the central city to Auckland’s North Shore, running to destinations including Devonport, Bayswater, Birkenhead and Stanley Bay. Ferries also ran to Beachlands, Hobsonville and Whangaparāoa, and to Rangitoto, Waiheke and Rākino islands. The Devonport service was the longest running, having operated since 1860.

Wellington harbour ferries

The first ferry service introduced in Wellington was from the central city to Days Bay in 1893. This service ceased operating in 1948 due to low patronage. In 1989 a new service was established, with additional stops at Matiu (Somes Island) and Petone.

A ferry service also operated from Miramar, Seatoun and Karaka Bay to the city from 1901. Competition from tramways saw the service discontinued in 1913, but in 2006 a service to Seatoun was resumed as part of the Days Bay service.

Lyttelton ferries

Christchurch has had a ferry service running across Lyttelton Harbour to Diamond Harbour since 1888. It was upgraded in 2001, with a new vessel reducing trip times and increasing passenger numbers.

How to cite this page:

Adrian Humphris, 'Public transport - Harbour ferries', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/public-transport/page-6 (accessed 25 June 2019)

Story by Adrian Humphris, published 11 Mar 2010, reviewed & revised 11 Mar 2016