It was the main New Zealand transport route long before the arrival of trains and cars, and now a commuter ferry service is set to launch on the Waikato River offering Hamilton workers an alternative way to travel in and out of the city.

The 8km cruise from the Pukete jetty, to the CBD will take between 30 minutes and 50 minutes - depending on if you are travelling upstream or downstream - but there is no congestion, no traffic lights and no worries about finding a car park in the city.

Also, you can relax in the on-board cafe with a coffee on your morning commute or with a beer or wine as you head home in the evening.

"We want the Waikato River to become the main highway again," says Darren Mills, the man behind the new ferry service, due to begin in August.


Mills operates the cruise company Waikato River Explorer and is the former manager of the river boat Waipa Delta.

The ferry service will run on a six-month trial to see if the passenger demand is there for it to continue.

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"Some of the comments we have had from people is the trip is too long and the bus takes exactly the same time, but the bus has 27 stops and there is no cafe and bar on board," Mills says

"The trip takes about 50 minutes from Pukete to the CBD, but on the way back it is quicker as the river flows north so only about half an hour on the way home."

Mills says the Waikato Regional Council, which looks after Hamilton's bus network has been very supportive of the project and is close to finalising a subsidy to enable the trial to run.

He says Hamilton City Council is assisting the service with facilities at Pukete jetty such as better lighting on the pedestrian bridge. The jetty is under the pedestrian bridge across the river which links Flagstaff with Totara Drive in Pukete.

If you cycle to the jetty you can also take your bike aboard the ferry Kiwi Cat into the city

Darren Mills, who operates the Waikato River Explorer, said it is time for the Waikato River to be a main transport route in the Waikato again. Photo / Tom Rowland
Darren Mills, who operates the Waikato River Explorer, said it is time for the Waikato River to be a main transport route in the Waikato again. Photo / Tom Rowland

The CBD jetty is on the river path behind the Waikato Museum in Victoria St.


The price per return run will be $15 casual. A monthly pass works out at $10 per return trip.

The departure times are yet to be set, but the service is expected to leave from Pukete around 7.30am, and the depart from the city will be 5.20pm arriving at 5:50pm.

"We have room to take up to eight bicycles on the boat as well so people can cycle down, catch the boat and then depart and cycle off to work again," Mills said.

Mills says the service won't be able to run beyond the trial period unless enough people are interested. So far more than a dozen people have an expressed an interest.

"If we get enough interest, we may be able to bring an extra vessel onto the service and operate up to four trips daily."

He hopes in the future he will be able to operate a commuter service from north and south Hamilton, and further in the future he said that his service is being considered as a transport option for the Peacocke and Te Awa Lakes developments.


If the service is successful, it would mean that the Hamilton to Auckland corridor would have forms of transportation in both road, rail and on the river once again.