With vast open spaces filled with stunning rugged landscapes and a temperate climate, New Zealand is a land of rare natural beauty and contrasts, with steep-sided fjords, geysers and boiling mud, coastal rainforests, snow-capped mountains, rolling green pasture lands, often spectacular geothermal and volcanic activity, enchanting sandy bays and coves, fast-flowing rivers and a variety of birdlife. By contrast, in the cities, towns and villages you can experience that unique combination of New World and British heritage, see some of the most splendid gardens in the Southern Hemisphere, visit world famous vineyards, encounter fascinating wildlife and meet the friendly people. This coastal-hugging voyage around the North and South Islands will allow you to drop anchor in the remote bays, navigate channels, fjords, and rivers and call into harbors both large and small. With the added advantage of Zodiac landing craft and an expert expedition team you’ll be able to land in otherwise inaccessible places, making the most of New Zealand’s extraordinary natural attractions.
Note: This cruise is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the ship operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the cruise line.
Day 1, Jan 16, 2018
Milford Sound / Embark
From Queenstown, drive through the stunning scenery to reach remote Milford Sound and embark MS Caledonian Sky later in the afternoon.
Days 2-4, Jan 17-19, 2018
Enjoy three days to explore the incredible wilderness of fjords in the southwest corner of the South Island. This is an area rich in history: Captain Cook landed here on the HMS Resolution in 1773, and it offers majestic scenery and abundant wildlife. It is only accessible by sea, making it the most remote region of New Zealand. The schedule may include Milford Sound, Astronomer’s Point, Doubtful Sound, and Dusky Sound, but the final itinerary decisions will be made by the Captain and Expedition team based on weather conditions. Zodiacs will be used daily either to shuttle from the ship to a landing site or as transport to explore the fjords beyond the ship's anchorage position.
Day 5, Jan 20, 2018
Ulva and Stewart Islands
New Zealand’s third island is well off the usual beaten tourist track. It is a wonderfully tranquil place, and the scenery of untouched bushland is stunning. Enjoy a morning on the small Ulva Island, where Zodiacs bring you ashore for a choice of walks with local guides. Explore the dense vegetation and keep an eye out for the amazing birdlife. This afternoon, land at Oban on Stewart Island and have the chance to wander among the shops and see the museum or join a drive along some of the 15 miles of sealed road to some of the beauty spots including Observation Rock with views over Iona and Ulva Island and the beaches lining the east coast.
Day 6, Jan 21, 2018
Arrive this morning in Dunedin and enjoy a guided tour including the gracious 19th century buildings and the beautiful botanical gardens, the oldest in New Zealand, which contain over 6,800 plant species. Alternatively, choose to drive to the Otago Peninsula to visit Penguin Place, where you'll learn about the breeding and conservation program of the rare yellow-eyed penguins as well as the Royal Albatross Centre at Taiaroa Head. This afternoon is free for independent exploration or maybe choose to join the optional excursion on the Taieri Gorge Railway through the rugged and spectacular scenery of inland Otago.
Day 7, Jan 22, 2018
Akaroa, meaning “Long Harbor” in Maori, was founded by French whaling Captain Jean Langlois on his ship Cachelot in 1838. He returned in 1840 with 60 settlers on the Comte de Paris to create a French colony. You'll spend a full day in Akaroa and there will be a choice of excursions including a dolphin watching trip using local boats to explore the scenic coastline and search for the rare Hector’s dolphin, or a guided historic walk in Akaroa and through the native bush of the Garden of Tane. There may be a chance to visit a working farm in the countryside outside the town. You will hear about the history of the farm, have demonstrations of sheep shearing, and see the working dogs in action as well as enjoying tea in the farm grounds. Or if you prefer, you can simply wander in the town and enjoy the local atmosphere.
Day 8, Jan 23, 2018
Today you'll be in Kaikoura, a famous whale watching area due to its nutrient-rich waters. The combination of very deep waters and the mixing of cold and warm waters brings the nutrients to the top. After breakfast, there will be opportunities to join a whale watching cruise looking for sperm whales, pods of dusky dolphins, and common seals. Spend the afternoon exploring the town independently, join a nature walk, or maybe take a trip on one of the birdwatching cruises. There is an abundance of birdlife in the area including great albatross, banded albatross, shearwater, petrels, prions, and shag.
Day 9, Jan 24, 2018
Step ashore on New Zealand’s North Island and enjoy a full day in the nation’s capital. You'll explore Wellington on a morning guided walk seeing St Paul’s Cathedral, the parliament buildings, stroll through the Botanical Gardens, and spend time in the excellent Te Papa National Museum of New Zealand. Return to the vessel for lunch and enjoy a free afternoon to explore the city at your own pace.
Day 10, Jan 25, 2018
After a morning at sea, arrive in Napier and join a walking tour of the beautiful city that will include its charming Art Deco buildings, some decorated with unique Maori motifs. Alternatively, join an excursion to the gannetry at Cape Kidnappers, home to a reserve of saddle and black reef gannet colonies, where you are able to get amazingly close to the birds.
Day 11, Jan 26, 2018
Arrive later in the afternoon at White Island. Weather permitting there will be a landing to explore the active volcano here, identifiable by the plume of steam continually spouting from its crater. The sights are surreal: the main crater with towering walls, steaming vents, and hissing fumaroles, glittering yellow sulphur crystals, bubbling mud pots, and a spectacular steaming lake. This call is well off the usual cruise routes and Zodiacs will bring you ashore.
Day 12, Jan 27, 2018
Tauranga for Rotorua
From the ship's berth in Taurang, drive inland to the famous thermal springs at Rotorua. Discover Wai-O-Tapu, meaning Sacred Waters, an active geothermal area with colorful hot springs, steaming ground, and boiling mud pools. Marvel at the incredible palette of vibrant hues displayed in the pools, lakes, and craters, and enjoy the melodic sounds of birds singing in the native forest. From here you'll visit a local Maori Marae where you will enjoy a traditional Maori welcome and lunch before returning to the ship in the late afternoon.
Day 13, Jan 28, 2018
Discover the vibrant, cosmopolitan city of Auckland fringed by two sparkling harbors. Enjoy a morning city tour including a visit to the Auckland Museum overlooking Waitemata Harbour and housing an excellent collection of Maori artifacts. Explore at leisure during the afternoon.
Days 14-15, Jan 29-30, 2018
Bay of Islands / At Sea
Discovered by Captain Cook in 1769, this area is the cradle of European civilization in New Zealand and has important historical significance for both Maori and Europeans. On a morning tour you will visit the Waitangi Treaty house, where in 1840 the treaty was signed between the Maori and the British crown. You then continue to Kerikeri where the Maori first welcomed missionaries in 1819 and see the oldest buildings of New Zealand dating from the 1820s. During the afternoon enjoy some free time to explore the charming, historic town of Russell. The following day is at sea, cruising off this remote area of New Zealand. Watch out for marine and birdlife from the open deck and enjoy enlightening talks by the expedition team.
Day 16, Jan 31, 2018
Explore the western port of New Plymouth, with the whole day in this pretty city sandwiched between the sea and Mount Taranaki. A tour will visit the highlights of the town including the spectacular Te Rewa Rewa Bridge and Pukekura Park, one of the premier botanical gardens in New Zealand. You will have a chance to explore the diverse landscape of formal gardens, bushwalks, and lakes. Alternatively, drive to Mount Egmont and join one of the walking trails ranging in difficulty for all levels of fitness. You will be joined by naturalists who will keep you informed on the flora seen en route. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure to explore further or remain at Mount Egmont and enjoy a longer hike.
Day 17, Feb 1, 2018
Abel Tasman National Park / Nelson
Return to the South Island where there will be a choice of excursions today. Either choose to disembark after breakfast at the remote harbor at Golden Bay to visit Abel Tasman, New Zealand’s smallest national park. This marine reserve offers some marvelously scenic coastal walks and cruises with excellent wildlife opportunities including seal colonies and numerous aquatic birds including penguins. The tour will end in Nelson where you will re-embark the ship, which will have sailed during the day. Alternatively, enjoy a morning at sea and during the afternoon explore Nelson, which has for many years attracted resident artists inspired by the region’s exceptionally beautiful geography with coastal, forest, and valley landscapes. Join an excursion of the area’s highlights that include the World of Wearable Art Museum, with its acclaimed visual exhibits, and also the Classic Car collection. During the evening, enjoy an onboard winetasting of some local wines.
Day 18, Feb 2, 2018
Anchor off Resolution Bay in the morning where keen walkers can enjoy a longer hike over to Ship Cove along the Queen Charlotte Track, enjoying fantastic views over the archipelago of islands. Or, you can go ashore a little later at Ship Cove where Captain James Cook spent much of his time in New Zealand. During the afternoon, sail out of the Marlborough Sound and south along the coast to Lyttelton.
Day 19, Feb 3, 2018
Lyttelton for Christchurch
Disembark this morning and transfer to the Christchurch airport for departure on homeward-bound flight.