The Waiheke ferries have been operated by Fullers for over 20 years. Over those years many companies have attempted to compete with them on the Downtown-Matiatia ferry service. The last successful competitor was Pacific Ferries in the late ’90s who managed to last until about 2001. Since there have been a few smaller attempts to compete including Waiheke Navy in 2012 who lasted two months.
Explore Group announced in July that they would be operating a competitor to Fullers using two boats, D5 and Centurion. D5 is a triple deck catamaran similar to Fullers Wanderer and Centurion is a smaller 150 passenger ferry. Explore started their Ferry Service on the 25th October just in time for Labour Weekend.
The Explore Ferries are comfortable and modern, and include USB ports for charging mobile phones. In addition to twelve daily sailings, Explore are also operating six weekend sailings via Rangitoto and Motutapu. This makes it possible (and practical) for people who live on Waiheke to visit Rangitoto and Motutapu without having to go to Auckland first.
In addition to Explore, Sealink (who currently operate the car ferries from Half Moon Bay) have recently purchased the Pine Harbour Ferries, and are using them to provide a weekend express service from Matiatia to Downtown. This service uses smaller but faster boats that make the crossing to Auckland in 25-30 minutes.
I travelled on both new services and have made these two videos over the journeys.