Insider's New Zealand

Milford Sound to Auckland Aboard the Oceanic Discoverer

Insider's New Zealand route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $12,980  
Length: 17 days
Arrive: Queenstown, New Zealand
Depart: Auckland, New Zealand
Lodging: 2 nights hotels, 12 nights aboard a 65-passenger expedition vessel
Meals: All meals included aboard ship and with the group ashore, including house wine, beer or soft drinks with lunch and dinner onboard
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Small Ship Cruising, Walking, Wildlife & Natural History
Trip Level: 12-day cruise, cultural explorations and walking tours, excursions by Zodiac


  • Photograph legendary Milford, Doubtful, Breaksea, and Dusky sounds
  • Attend a performance highlighting the Maori culture
  • Choose from a variety of activities, from wine tasting and whale watching to active hikes and biking tours
  • Search for wildlife on Zodiac cruises and nature walks
  • Step ashore on White Island, where you can explore the inner crater of New Zealand’s only active volcano
  • Visit privately-owned Waiheke Island to view the fascinating sculpture park at Connells Bay

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Departure Notes

Once you have signed up on the trip, we send a complete packing list, relevant health information, and required travel documents.

The delights of New Zealand are invariably described as awe-inspiring—from soaring mountains and glacier-carved waterways to islets teeming with seabirds, and flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth. Add in explorations of Milford, Breaksea, and Doubtful Sounds, visits to gracious, British-flavored cities, and a fascinating cultural mix of hospitable people eager to share their history and tradition, and you've got the makings of a truly memorable journey. This comprehensive New Zealand expedition aboard the 65-guest Oceanic Discoverer combines our favorite natural and cultural wonders, visiting remote villages, off the beaten track attractions, and natural areas that can only be reached by ship.


Days 1-3, February 4-6, 2015
Fly to Queenstown, New Zealand

Fly to Queenstown, losing a day as we cross the International Date Line. Arrive in Queenstown and transfer to the hotel with the afternoon at leisure. In the evening, we gather for a welcome reception and dinner.

Day 4, February 7

Today we can 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, February 8
Milford Sound / Embark

We depart Queenstown for a scenic drive to Milford Sound where we are welcomed aboard the Oceanic Discoverer. Part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, 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, February 9
Doubtful Sound

New Zealand’s deepest fjord is a nearly uninhabited wilderness of breathtaking beauty. During a day of expedition cruising, we watch for New Zealand fur seals, bottlenose dolphins, and the rare Fjordland crested penguins, then 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, February 10
Breaksea and Dusky Sounds

Breaksea and Dusky Sounds' luxuriant rainforests, wooded islands, and waterways are home to many bird species, including bellbirds, tuis, and the kereru, a large native wood pigeon. We 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, February 11
Stewart and Ulva Islands

Peaceful Stewart Island is home to fewer than 500 inhabitants. We 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 our ship follows the eastern coastline to Dunedin.

Day 9, February 12

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, February 13

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 Centre. The third option is to explore the volcanic landscape of the nearby Bank Peninsula, and watch for the world’s rarest marine dolphin in the local waters.

Day 11, February 14

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, February 15

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. We can 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.

Days 13-14, February 16-17
At Sea / Napier

After a day at sea sailing through the Tory channel and up the eastern side of the North Island, we arrive in Napier. When an earthquake and its subsequent fires destroyed much of this town 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, February 18
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 an easy guided hike and witness bubbling fumaroles, hissing steam vents, and bright yellow chimneys of sulphur crystals.

Day 16, February 19
Waiheke Island / Tiritiri Mantangi Island

This morning we 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, February 20
Auckland / Disembark

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 homeward-bound flights.

Note: This cruise is not an exclusive Wilderness Travel departure. The itinerary, lecturers, and other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the ship operator.

2015 Cruise Collection Brochure

We’ve searched the world to find the finest small ships and most active adventures, from Greenland to New Zealand to the great rivers of Europe.

Download our online digital brochure to view on your computer or mobile device, or as a PDF! Or request a printed copy to be sent by mail, or by calling 800-368-2794.

What the Trip is Like

This trip is rated 1, Easy, but requires a moderate level of activity. You will need to get into and out of Zodiacs for excursions ashore and walk, unaided, over sometimes rough terrain, including unpaved trails that may be muddy with exposed rocks and roots.

Explanation of Trip Levels



Feb 4-20, 2015

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2015

Cruise Rates by Cabin Category
Per person, double occupancy

CategoriesCruise Price
Category 1 $12,980
Category 2 $13,580
Category 3 $14,480
Category 4 $14,980
Category 5 $15,980
Single Category 2: $16,980
Single Category 4: $18,580

Trip Payment Schedule*

At time of reservation: 25% of trip cost
130 days prior to departure: Balance

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule*

Minimum fee: $750 per person
180-120 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
119-60 days prior to departure: 50% of trip cost
59 days or less: 100% of trip cost

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.

Deck Plan


Cabin Descriptions

  • Category 1 staterooms are 195 sq. ft. and feature two portholes.
  • Category 2 staterooms are 195 sq. ft. and feature two small windows.
  • Category 3 staterooms are 160 sq. ft. and feature a large window.
  • Category 4 staterooms are 195 sq. ft. and feature a large window.
  • Category 5 staterooms are 195 sq. ft. and feature a large window.


Trip Cost Includes:

  • All gratuities
  • Accommodations in hotel and on board the Oceanic Discoverer as outlined in the itinerary
  • All meals included aboard ship and with the group ashore, including house wine, beer or soft drinks with lunch and dinner onboard
  • 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
  • $50,000 of medical expense coverage and $75,000 in emergency evacuation insurance

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

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 other than listed above, e-mail/Internet/fax/telephone charges.

Oceanic Discoverer

Launched in 2005, the 65-guest Oceanic Discoverer's small size is perfect for regional exploration. She carries Zodiacs, a glass-bottom boat, and a powerful aluminum excursion boat that can carry all guests during excursions. A spacious lounge, equipped with two large plasma TV screens, is a wonderful venue for lectures by onboard naturalist-guides. The dining room features the finest fresh seafood of the region and a comprehensive selection of Australian and New Zealand wines. All staterooms feature ocean views, two twin beds or a double bed, a sitting area, a well-appointed en suite bathroom, large closets, desk, and individually controlled air-conditioning.