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Insider's New Zealand: Milford Sound to Auckland

New Zealand Cruise

Summary : New Zealand adventure travel is invariably described as awe-inspiring—from the soaring mountains and glacier-carved waterways to islets teeming with seabirds, and flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth. Add to this Milford, Breaksea, and Doubtful Sound tours, visits to gracious, British-flavored cities, and a fascinating cultural mix of hospitable people eager to share their history and tradition—all the makings of a truly memorable journey. After dozens of expeditions to different parts of the country, this comprehensive New Zealand expedition combines favorite natural and cultural wonders, visiting remote villages, off the beaten track attractions, and natural areas that can only be reached by ship.

Activities : Birding, Culture


Prices from
$999,999,999 to $0

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Day 1 – 2
Depart USA

Board your independent flight to New Zealand, losing a day as you cross the International Date Line.

Day 3
Queenstown, New Zealand

Arrive in Queenstown and transfer to your hotel with the afternoon at leisure. Gather this evening for a welcome reception and dinner.

Day 4

Today choose one of three excursion options, designed to highlight Queenstown’s natural and cultural attributes. Journey through the dramatic Lord of the Rings landscapes of Central Otago and meet the winemakers of the world’s southernmost wine-producing region. Or, ride the Skyline Gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak, then take a thrilling jet boat ride on the famed Shotover Jet. Art lovers will enjoy visiting the private studios, gardens, and galleries of internationally renowned artists.

Day 5
Milford Sound / Embark Oceanic Discoverer

Depart Queenstown this morning for a scenic drive to Milford Sound where you are welcomed aboard the Oceanic Discoverer. Part of UNESCO World Heritage, the southwestern fjords are famed for their spectacular glacier-carved waterways and unique flora and fauna. Cruise the length of Milford Sound past soaring cliff faces and beneath powerful cascades. At its southern shore stands New Zealand’s fabled icon—Mitre Peak.

Day 6
Doubtful Sound

New Zealand’s deepest fjord is a nearly uninhabited wilderness of breathtaking beauty. During a day of expedition cruising watch for New Zealand fur seals, bottlenose dolphins, and the rare Fjordland crested penguins. Set out by Zodiac to explore remote coves where Captain Cook anchored his ship, the Resolution, while he mapped, named, and described the fjords during his intrepid 1773 voyage.

Day 7
Breaksea & Dusky Sounds

Breaksea and Dusky Sound’s luxuriant rain forests, wooded islands, and waterways are home to many bird species, including bellbirds, tuis, and the kereru, a large native wood pigeon. Explore this pristine marine environment by Zodiac and visit historic Astronomer’s Point, the place where Captain Cook’s astronomer surveyed the stars of the southern hemisphere.

Day 8
Stewart & Ulva Islands

Peaceful Stewart Island is home to fewer than 500 inhabitants. Explore the coastline and seal-populated bays before anchoring near Oban, where the proud community extends a warm and entertaining welcome. Local guides lend insight into the island’s unique environment and Maori history. Nearby Ulva Island is the southernmost bird sanctuary in the world and the only place where you can observe the kiwi in its natural habitat. Exquisite seasonal orchids bloom at this time of year and the rata forest is home to the kaka, a threatened native parrot. Tonight your ship follows the eastern coastline to Dunedin.

Day 9

Arrive in port this morning after cruising scenic Otago Harbor and choose one of two local discovery options. Take a drive to Taiaroa Head to visit the world-famous northern royal albatross colony; then, observe and photograph yellow-eyed penguins at close range. Or, join a local historian for a walk through the heart of enchanting Dunedin, viewing the distinct Edwardian and Victorian architectural styles of First Church, St. Paul Cathedral, and the Dunedin Railway Station.

Day 10

Discover the highlights of “The Garden City” and surrounding region on the excursion of your choice. Tour the neighborhoods of Christchurch followed by a private walking tour of the elegant Botanic Gardens and a visit to the renowned Canterbury Museum. Or, drive through the city center for a look at the remarkable ongoing earthquake recovery effort, then enjoy an exciting interactive experience at the International Antarctic Center. Or, explore the volcanic landscape of the nearby Bank Peninsula, and watch for the world’s rarest marine dolphin in the local waters.

Day 11

Just off the coast of this historic Maori settlement, cold and warm currents create a rich upwelling of nutrients, and marine mammals congregate year-round to feed here. Choose from two adventures today. Experience the local world of the Maori and their deep connection to the land and sea through storytelling, a traditional craft workshop, and a bushwalk. Or, board local whale watching vessels to search for pilot, blue, and southern right whales, and perhaps the world’s largest toothed predator—the giant sperm whale. Also keep watch for Hector’s dolphin, found only in the waters surrounding South Island.

Day 12

Situated on the northeast corner of the South Island, Picton is the gateway to the Marlborough Sounds, a labyrinth of waterways dotted by hundreds of jewel-like emerald islands. Choose to explore this enchanted region by sea or on land. Cruise among the islets with their placid bays and pristine coves and learn about local mussel cultivation—more than 200 green-lipped mussel farms thrive in the Sounds. Or, enjoy an authentic Kiwi sheep farm experience followed by a visit to a nearby winery for a tasting.

Day 13
At Sea

Relax onboard today as you sail through the Tory channel and continue up the eastern side of the North Island.

Day 14

When an earthquake and its subsequent fires destroyed much of Napier in 1931, the residents rebuilt it in the popular Art Deco style of the times, incorporating Maori motifs into the design. Surrounding the city are rolling hills covered in vineyards, which thrive in the Mediterranean-like climate. Excursion options include a tour of Napier’s Art Deco neighborhoods by vintage car, followed by a visit to a local winery; a daylong trip through the stunning wine country; or, a visit to a huge gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers with a stop at a local winery on the return.

Day 15
White Island

Whakaari, or White Island, is New Zealand’s only active marine volcano, its cone rising 1,055 feet above the Bay of Plenty. Discover the lunar-like crater landscape on a guided, easy hike and witness bubbling fumaroles, hissing steam vents, and bright yellow chimneys of sulphur crystals.

Day 16
Waiheke Island / Tiritiri Mantangi Island

This morning cruise to Waiheke Island for a guided walk through magical Connells Bay Sculpture Park. After lunch, visit Tiritiri Mantangi, which is among the most successful restoration projects in the world. Threatened and endangered bird and reptile species have been introduced to the island’s safe habitat, including the flightless takahe, one of the planet’s rarest avian species. On a guided walk, view and photograph an amazing array of birds, including saddleback, stitchbird, rifleman, and perhaps the beautiful kokako.

Day 17
Auckland / Disembark / USA

Disembark in Auckland this morning and discover the charms of this capital city and its bond to the ancient Maori culture on your choice of excursions. Enjoy the vibrant neighborhood of Ponsonby, bustling with cafés and “kiwiana,” local New Zealand craft shops. Or, visit the Auckland Museum, housing the world’s most extensive collection of Maori artifacts. Late this afternoon, transfer to the airport for your independent evening flight home, arriving in the U.S. on the same day.


This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips.com is not responsible for itinerary changes.

Accommodations in hotels and on board as outlined in the itinerary; all onboard meals and all group meals on ashore, including soft drinks, beer, and wine with lunch and dinner; arrival and departure transfers on group dates; services of the expedition staff, including lectures, briefings, slide/film shows; all group activities and excursions; landing and port fees; all gratuities; emergency medical coverage (maximum benefit per paying passenger of $25,000)*; evacuation coverage (maximum benefit per paying passenger of $100,000)*.

Not Included:
All air transportation; excess baggage charges; airport arrival and departure taxes; transfers for independent arrivals and departures; passport and/or visa fees; travel insurance; items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar charges, alcoholic beverages except as listed, email/Internet/fax/telephone charges.

*Emergency Medical & Evacuation Insurance:
Emergency medical coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $25,000 is included in the cost of this expedition, as well as evacuation coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $100,000. Insurance is underwritten by National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA. The policy will contain reductions, limitations, exclusions and termination provisions. All coverages may not be available in all states. Please note this coverage does not cover you against trip cancellation or for additional days of travel prior to and/or after the expedition trip dates. ExpeditionTrips strongly advises all clients to purchase travel insurance which includes trip cancellation and interruption coverage for the entire duration of your trip.

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