Interislander - Cook Strait Ferries


Kaitaki is the largest ferry on the Cook Strait route since joining the Interislander fleet in 2005. 

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The Atrium 

It has an unusual feature with a glass atrium facing the stern of the ship. On a sunny day you can imagine you are on a cruise ship heading to exotic destinations - not that Picton isn't exotic! You'll also get a fantastic view of the infamous 'Roaring 40's' in Cook Strait in stormy conditions. 

The ship of many names...

Kaitaki had a busy career before coming to New Zealand:

  • 1995 - It was built for Irish Ferries and was called the Isle of Innisfree, operating on the Holyhead to Dublin route. 
  • 1997 - Moved to the Rosslare to Pembroke Dock service
  • 2001 - Replaced by the Ulysses, laid-up in Le Havre and made available for sale or charter
  • 2002 - Chartered by P&O Portsmouth and sent for a refit. It was renamed the Pride of Cherbourg. Extra cabins were added and it started on the Portsmouth to Cherbourg route. There was another refit in 2004.
  • 2004 - P & O Ferries closed all most of its Portsmouth services and it was charter to Stena Roro and headed to the Baltic. There was another name change to Stena Challenger. It sailed the Kariskrona (Sweden) to Gdynia (Poland) route.
  • 2005 - Sub-chartered (leased) to KiwiRail and renamed the Challenger with Kaitaki beneath it for the trip to New Zealand
  • 2007 - Challenger was removed and it just become Kaitaki. Kaitaki continued to be leased until KiwiRail purchased it in May 2017

The Atrium offering amazing views on Kaitaki

Magic Onboard

Nigel Kennedy has been a regular feature on the Kaitaki since 2005, and other other ferries going back over 30 years. Each Christmas holidays Nigel, often joined by Mr Funny Bunny, entertains kids (of all ages). In fact, he often meets parents that saw his show when they were young. Nigel will be back in December 2022. 


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Nigel with the Kaitaki crew

Kaitaki Statistics:

Meaning of the name: Challenger - literal translation of the name it sailed under when leased by Kiwirail.

Built: Van der Giessen de Noord Shipyards, the Netherlands

Specs: 22,365 gross tonnes, 181 metres long

Carrying capacity: 1650 passengers / 1780 lane metres freight / 600 cars

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