Passengers stuck on Interislander ferry to Picton reach dry land after 'hurricane' winds keep them at sea for 12 hours

Hundreds of passengers on an Interislander ferry are breathing a sigh of relief after it finally docked at Picton, 12 hours after it set off.

Gale force winds trapped 570 passengers on board the ferry. It left Wellington at 9am on Wednesday and didn't arrive in Picton and didn't reach dry land until 9pm.

The ferry was originally due to arrive at midday but high winds of 74km/h forced to circle in the Marlborough Sounds.

Part of the Picton ferry terminal was also damaged by the bad weather.

One passenger told Newshub the wind was so severe the captain compared it to a hurricane.

Another passenger, Des Coast, said the weather was unpredictable.

"It was blowing like a mad thing."

Interislander said in a statement the delays had affected later sailing.

"We are contacting all affected customers directly, and are targeting to clear the backlog of passengers and vehicles within 24-hours," the statement said. "We apologise for the inconvenience, however, the safety of our passengers and crew must be our number one priority."