On arrival in Queenstown, please make your own way to the designated hotel where we will spend the first night of the expedition. This evening there will be an informal get-together at the hotel for dinner; an excellent opportunity to meet fellow adventurers on your voyage and some of the expedition team.
Today after breakfast at the hotel restaurant, the morning is at your leisure to explore Queenstown before returning to the hotel for lunch and departing for the Port of Bluff to embark your ship. You will have time to settle into your cabin and familiarise yourself with the ship. Join the expedition team in the Observation Lounge and up on the Observation Deck as the Captain sets sail for adventure. The vessel will past Ruapuke Island, formerly a local Maori stronghold supporting a population of over 200 people.
Enjoy the next two days exploring the incredible wilderness of fiords in the south-west corner of the South Island. This is an area rich in history, majestic scenery, and abundant in wildlife. Fiordland was well known to local Maori, with the demi-god Tuteraki-whanoa being said to have used his adze, Te Hamo, to carve out the region’s fiords.
Captain Cook and his crew landed here on HMS Resolution in 1773, they were the first Europeans to visit Fiordland, subsequently spending five weeks in Dusky Sound. Cook’s records of his discovery and maps attracted sealers and whalers not long after they formed the first European settlements of New Zealand. Historically this region is very important and shaped the future of the country. Fiordland is the most remote section of New Zealand, as it is only accessible by sea.
The many waterfalls, streams, rivers, and fiords are enveloped with misty veils that come and go, revealing steep gradients of mountain peaks and sheltered valleys. The rugged terrain is covered in thickly forested floors by ferns, lichens, and mosses. Bottlenose Dolphins, Fiordland Crested Penguins, and Little Penguins are all residents of the fiords; so make sure to keep a sharp eye out for them.
Whilst here, the schedule offers plenty of flexibility to see as much as possible. Places on the list to visit include Doubtful Sound, Dusky Sound and Acheron Passage, Astronomer’s Point, and Pickersgill Harbour. The final plan will be determined by the weather. The Captain and Expedition Leader will work hard to make the best use of time here, in a region of New Zealand even few locals have visited. The isolation of Fiordland has been beneficial because its beauty remains unspoiled and its historic sites undisturbed.
New Zealand’s third island is well off the usual beaten tourist track. Stewart Island is a wonderfully tranquil place; the scenery of untouched bushland is stunning. Enjoy a morning exploring Ulva Island, which sits in the middle of Paterson Inlet, and is rich in history and wildlife, being a predator-free island from 1997 the bird song and wildlife is some of the best. In Paterson Inlet you will have time to explore the sandy beaches of Boulder Bay and West End Beach or just enjoy some time around Post Office Bay and Sydney Cove. Some of the wildlife you may get to see while walking the tracks on Ulva Island include Stewart Island Robin, Stewart Island Weka, South Island Kaka, Kereru (Wood Pigeon), Mohua (Yellowhead), Red-crowned Parakeet, Fantail, Bellbird and Tui.
This morning, sail into beautiful Otago Harbour. Watch closely for Northern Royal Albatross at the Tairoa Head Albatross Colony. From your berth at Port Chalmers, explore the famed, fashion-forward city of Dunedin, the Edinburgh of the south and its rich history as the gateway to Otago. Explore the scenic Otago Peninsula where sea lions rest and Yellow-eyed penguins can be spotted in one of their last strongholds where the beautiful farmed hills roll down towards white sand beaches. Alternatively venture towards the interior of Otago through the scenic Taieri Gorge.
The bustling port of Lyttelton is the maritime gateway to Canterbury and famously the setting for Sir Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners starring Michael J Fox. Travel along the shores of Lyttelton Harbour to the acclaimed gardens of Sir Miles Warren at Ohinetahi, before heading to the Port Hills with its commanding views across the city. Here, explore the Botanic Gardens and the bustling post-quake city on the rebuild with its distinctly English setting around the Avon River. You may also visit some of the region’s most acclaimed private gardens of the ‘Garden City’.
Alternatively, venture north to the acclaimed wine region of Waipara and discover what makes this region so well suited for the growing of Pinot Noir and Riesling. During your time in North Canterbury you will also visit one of the many long established sheep farming families.
This morning sail into the sheltered waters of the Marlborough Sounds, a beautiful labyrinth of waterways intersecting the northern shores of the South Island. Take the opportunity to explore a coastal trail through the lush regenerating forest and watch for native birds including Saddleback, Parakeets and Robins on one of the island nature reserves.
One of the best, yet seldom-visited ports of New Zealand, join your naturalists to discover the incredibly beautiful coastal scenery of the Abel Tasman National Park or take the opportunity to discover the regions culinary delights, artisan crafts and world-class wines.
The capital of New Zealand and an exceptional natural harbour, the vessel will be docked in the centre of the action from where you can easily explore the vibrant city on foot. Visit the cable car, explore the world renowned Zealandia nature reserve, discover the Botanic Gardens and visit Te Papa New Zealand’s national museum.
The Art Deco capital of New Zealand, and possibly the world, the post-quake city of Napier lies at the heart of the thriving Hawkes Bay. Immerse yourself in the Art Deco world of central Napier with its quaint shops and unrivalled architecture before venturing to the world-renowned wineries of Hawkes Bay famed for their exceptional Syrah and Chardonnay vintages. Alternatively join your naturalists on a visit to the exceptional Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony.
Despite being named “Poverty Bay” by Captain Cook, the region is endowed with an exceptional climate and rich soils meaning it is one of New Zealand’s most renowned fruit and vegetable growing area. A visit to Eastwoodhill Arboretum in the hills behind the town is not to be missed; the result of one man’s passion and dedication, this is now the National Arboretum. As we are in Ngati Porou country you will be traditionally welcomed by the iwi.
Great Barrier Island
This morning discover one of New Zealand’s hidden gems as you explore Great Barrier Island and the beautiful Port Fitzroy. Enjoy the opportunity to explore the sub-tropical forests that predominate here with stands of majestic Kauri tree and a verdant understory of ferns. Take a walk along one of the trails around the harbour for outstanding views or join your naturalists for a Zodiac exploration of one of the finest harbours in the north.
Bay of Islands
Spend the last day of your New Zealand discovery amongst some of the most beautiful coastal scenery to be found anywhere, as the name suggests Islands dot the bay where clear blue waters lap against golden sand beaches. It was here that much of New Zealand’s early history both Maori and European unfolded, including the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Visit the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi and discover the significance and stories surrounding the region.
This morning arrive into Auckland, the City of Sails, where the vessel will berth in the central city waterfront. Following breakfast disembark and head to the airport or continue your exploration of New Zealand.
Please note: In case of unexpected delays it is highly recommended not to book any onward travel until after midday.
Please note: During your voyage, circumstances may make it necessary or desirable to deviate from the proposed itinerary. This can include poor weather and opportunities for making unplanned excursions. Your Expedition Leader will keep you fully informed.