Interislander - Cook Strait Ferries


Arahura was purpose-built for the New Zealand Railways Corporation in 1983 replacing the Aramoana and Aranui.

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The history of Arahura

Arahura was designed when the times that the distance road transport could operate was limited by regulation. Within a few short years, those restrictions had disappeared and the whole nature of the transport industry changed

The Arahura was designed to operate at a higher service speed than the previous ferries on the route, while reducing waves that would affect nearby beaches and the Queen Charlotte Sounds environment. It decreased the crossing time by 20 minutes.

Bigger, faster and more comfortable than the predecessors and it included innovations such as a heli-pad, sophisticated navigational aids and stabiliser fins to making crossings smoother.

Onboard facilities included a good selection of bars and restuarants, a video game lounge, movie theatre, theatre screening videos for tourists and even a "Pot of Gold fruit machine room".

Arahura had a lot of adventures:

  • In 1986, it helped rescue passengers from the the sinking Russian cruise liner Mikhail Lermontov. 
  • On September 1987, Arahura snapped it's moorings and floated free, straddling Kings and Glasgow wharves in Wellington.
  • In 2014, Arahura made its 50,000th Cook Strait crossing.


The return of the Arahura lifebuoy 

The team at Wellington Interislander Terminal received a mystery package recently. Inside was an Arahura lifebuoy that had been adopted in the early 2000's during a scheduled crossing.

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The mystery package.

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The Arahura lifebuoy in all its glory!

The letter

The letter reads "Hello, this is something I have wanted to do for sometime - return this life ring to its rightful owner. Took possession of this life ring on a ferry crossing in the early 2000s and I'm sorry. Please restore this to the owner on my behalf".

The team are very happy to have this fantastic piece of our history back, and there are no hard feelings with the former owner!

The lifebuoy is displayed at our Wellington Terminal - so make sure you keep an eye out for this amazing slice of history.

Arahura postcard


After 32 years of service, an incredible 52,000 crossings, almost 5 million kilometres carrying over four million passengers, Arahura completed its final sailing across Cook Strait on 31 July 2015. It was replaced by the Kaiarahi.

For many who travelled on the Arahura, it remains their favourite Interislander.

Tell us your Interislander story

Most Kiwis have a memory of a trip on the Interislander or maybe you or your whanau worked on the ferries. We are keen to hear your stories. We will add each to the ship pages so they reflect the connections people have to each of the ferries. Photos are greatfully received as well.

You can email us your story at