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Lyttelton-Wellington ferries

Page 10 – Ferry tales

Here are some stories of travel on the Lyttelton–Wellington ferries. Have you got a ferry tale to add? If so, please email [email protected]

Gavin McLean

My first sea voyage was on the Maori to Wellington in 1971 as part of a school class trip. We saved like mad all year to raise the daunting sum of $10 for the train and ferry fare and the Wellington sightseeing bus, and we set out from Oamaru to Christchurch on the train.

I remember pulling away from the wharf in the dark and seeing all the fish illuminated in the water as the Maori cleared the roll-on roll-off berth, churning up the mud. Then it was time to feed the fish. It cut up rough along the North Canterbury coast and soon just about everyone – pupils and teachers (ha, ha!) – was filling his strawberry box and splashing the contents around the heads, which stank foully. It must have been bad because our steward went off duty sick. As insufferable then as I am now, I gloried in escaping mal de mer!

Keith Holyoake and schoolboys

Meeting Prime Minister Holyoake

Next morning, after the sweet tea and biscuits, we went up on deck and gaped at a harbour bristling with funnels and masts. Then we followed what must have been the standard one-day trip – a crap lunch at Day's Bay, Parliament, Todd Motors, the HMV record plant and the tatty inmates of Wellington's concrete prison for animals, the Municipal Zoo.

The highlight was unexpected. We had done the Parliamentary tour and were assembled in the car park waiting for our bus when a tall suited fellow materialised and started talking to us. It was the prime minister, Keith Holyoake! We were impressed, but our parents probably were not. Next year even an old duffer like Bill Laney was good enough to snatch the Oamaru seat from National.  

Sue Muer

I remember being woken up at some ungodly hour like 5.30 a.m. with a cup of strong tea, by a lady in a white uniform. There were a couple of plain biscuits as well, which were very welcome after you've been sick all night as much from the drinking in the bar as the rough seas. Then you shuffled out of the boat in the dark, caught the train into Lyttelton and got back to your flat before anyone had thought of waking up – about 7.00 a.m.!

I also remember when the students left for Christchurch at the start of the year and the parents were all there to wave them off and there were streamers and hooters, etc. – just like going off to war!

How to cite this page

Ferry tales, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated