Culture, Wildlife, and Spectacular Scenery Aboard the Silver Explorer

Overview

New Zealand’s remote location has made it home to a distinct biodiversity of animal and plant life. This journey aboard the Silver Sea will take you from north to south, with visits to islands, geysers, hot springs, fjords, mountains, and culturally-rich towns along the way. Learn about Maori history and traditions, visit Napier, one of the Art Deco capitals of the world, and explore Fiordland National Park with its majestic carved peaks, dramatic waterfalls, and resident pods of dolphins, penguins and seals. The country is teeming with amazing wildlife—penguins, whales, and hundreds of bird species—which you’ll observe and learn about with the Silver Sea’s experienced Expedition Team. From the food and wine hub of Auckland to the architecturally rich city of Dunedin, New Zealand’s varied coastal landscapes are like no other on the planet.

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.

Itinerary

Day 1, Dec 11, 2020
Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland is called the City of Sails, and visitors flying in will see why. On the East Coast is the Waitemata Harbour—a Māori word meaning sparkling waters—which is bordered by the Hauraki Gulf, an aquatic playground peppered with small islands where many Aucklanders can be found "mucking around in boats." Not surprisingly, Auckland has some 70,000 boats. About one in four households in Auckland has a seacraft of some kind, and there are 102 beaches within an hour's drive; during the week many are quite empty. Even the airport is by the water; it borders the Manukau Harbour, which also takes its name from the Māori language and means solitary bird. According to Māori tradition, the Auckland isthmus was originally peopled by a race of giants and fairy folk. When Europeans arrived in the early 19th century, however, the Ngāti-Whātua tribe was firmly in control of the region.

Day 2, Dec 12, 2020
Tauranga (Bay of Plenty)

The population center of the Bay of Plenty, Tauranga is one of New Zealand's fastest-growing cities. Along with its neighbor, Whakatane, this seaside city claims to be one of the country's sunniest towns. Unlike most local towns, Tauranga doesn't grind to a halt in the off-season, because it has one of the busiest ports in the country, and the excellent waves at the neighboring beach resort of Mount Maunganui—just across Tauranga's harbor bridge—always draw surfers and holiday folk.

Day 3, Dec 13, 2020
White Island

White Island is an active stratovolcano in the Bay of Plenty. It is New Zealand's most active cone volcano, and has been built up by continuous volcanic activity over the past 150,000 years. It was discovered by James Cook in 1769 and has been in a continuous state of releasing gas since then.

Day 4, Dec 14, 2020
Napier

The earthquake that struck Napier at 10:46 am on February 3, 1931, was—at 7.8 on the Richter scale—the largest quake ever recorded in New Zealand. The coastline was wrenched upward several feet. Almost all the town's brick buildings collapsed; many people were killed on the footpaths as they rushed outside. The quake triggered fires throughout town, and with water mains shattered, little could be done to stop the blazes that devoured the remaining wooden structures. Only a few buildings survived (the Public Service Building with its neoclassical pillars is one), and the death toll was well over 100.The surviving townspeople set up tents and cookhouses in Nelson Park, and then tackled the city's reconstruction at a remarkable pace. In the rush to rebuild, Napier went mad for art deco, the bold, geometric style that had burst on the global design scene in 1925.

Day 5, Dec 15, 2020
Ship Cove / Picton

The maritime township of Picton (population 4,000) lies at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound and is the arrival point for ferries from the North Island, as well as a growing number of international cruise ships. It plays a major role in providing services and transport by water taxi to a multitude of remote communities in the vast area of islands, peninsulas, and waterways that make up the Marlborough Sounds Maritime Park. There's plenty to do in town, with crafts markets in summer, historical sights to see, and walking tracks to scenic lookouts over the sounds. The main foreshore is lined by London Quay, which looks up Queen Charlotte Sound to the bays beyond. High Street runs down to London Quay from the hills, and between them these two streets make up the center of town.

Day 6, Dec 16, 2020
Day at Sea

Days at sea are the perfect opportunity to relax, unwind and catch up with photo edits or reading. Whether you are birding in the Observatory Lounge, whale-watching from one of the observation decks, or treating yourself to a spa treatment, these blue sea days are the perfect balance to busy days spent exploring shore side.

Day 7, Dec 17, 2020
Cruising Milford Sound

New Zealand fiord country along with Fiordland National Park is one of New Zealand's premier attractions. Incredibly beautiful, wild and remote, the region is an intriguing combination of rugged mountain ranges, dense rainforest, solitary alpine lakes, sparkling rivers and splashing waterfalls. Much of Fiordland is virtually unexplored wilderness and still the habitat of rare birds. As the ship cruises the beautiful Doubtful, Dusky and Milford Sounds, experience the majestic fiordland of South Island's western coast. Captain James Cook sailed along this coast in 1770 and again in 1773, when he anchored at Dusky Sound for a rest and ship repair. Doubtful Sound is one of the region's most majestic fiords. It is ten times larger than Milford Sound. As the ship cruises into Hall Arm, gaze at vertical cliffs and mighty waterfalls plunging over sheer rock faces. In fine weather, mountains and greenery are reflected in the protected waters of the fiord.

Farther north lies Milford Sound. Far from any populated area, Milford Sound is famous for its grandeur and spectacular beauty. It is perhaps the best example of New Zealand's renowned classic landscape of steep granite peaks framing glacier-carved inlets with mirrored reflections on dark waters. Dominating the scene is Milford's landmark, the triangular pinnacle of Mitre Peak. Along the sheer cliffs, several waterfalls tumble more than 500 feet (154 metres) into the sheltered Sound. Only a few moored boats and a scattering of buildings at the head of the Sound break the unity of mountains, forest and water. This spectacular beauty and unspoiled setting is yours to enjoy as the ship cruises Milford Sound.

Day 8, Dec 18, 2020
Cruising Dusky Sound

Despite being discovered by Cook more than 240 years ago, Dusky Sound is one of the few truly untouched destinations left on earth. Found on the southwest corner of New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park, Dusky Sound has the auspicious title of “titanic mason” given to it by the Maoris, as no other explanation seems to fit; it is almost impossible to comprehend the sheer breadth of geological events that created this seemingly perfect sculpture, as the sheer cliffs that rise vertically upward from the ocean dwarf the ship. This incredibly beautiful fiord offers many magical wildernesses and stunning scenery that bathe in “Lord of the Rings” grandeur. A breeding site for Fiordland Penguins, Dusky Sound is an important ornithological area too, with a wealth of birdlife to be found here. This remote, untouched region is also home to a wide range of sea life, as the fresh and salt water combine to create an extraordinary aquatic environment.

Days 9-10, Dec 19-20, 2020
The Snares / Bluff

The Snares Islands are among one of five subantarctic island groups in New Zealand are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The islands are home to endemic birds such as the Snares penguin, the snipe, and the tomtit. The North East Island is a premier breeding site for sooty shearwaters.

The most southernmost town in New Zealand, Bluff (or The Bluff as it is locally known) is perhaps the most European of all the settlements in the country. Called Campbelltown until 1917, the city was officially renamed after the 265 meter conical hill that towers above it. One of the farthest corners of the British Empire, the inaugural Royal Tour of New Zealand by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, concluded at Bluff in January 1954. Nowadays however, it is the Bluff oysters that are the stars of the show. Reputed to be the best in the world, these local heroes are what have really put Bluff on the map and are celebrated every May with a lively festival honouring Ostrea chilensis (that’s Latin for Bluff oyster). But gastronomy aside (and it is mostly oyster related), Bluff offers the adventurous traveller much in the way activity.

Day 11, Dec 21, 2020
Dunedin (South Island)

Clinging to the walls of the natural amphitheater at the west end of Otago Harbour, the South Island's second-largest city is enriched with inspiring nearby seascapes and wildlife. Because Dunedin is a university town, floods of students give the city a vitality far greater than its population of 122,000 might suggest. Its manageable size makes it easy to explore on foot—with the possible exception of Baldwin Street, the world's steepest residential street and home to the annual "gutbuster" race, in which people run up it, and the "Jaffa" race, in which people roll the namesake spherical chocolate candy down it. Dunedin, the Gaelic name for Edinburgh, was founded in 1848 by settlers of the Free Church of Scotland, a breakaway group from the Presbyterian Church.

The city's Scottish roots are still visible; you'll find New Zealand's first and only (legal) whisky distillery, a statue of Scottish poet Robert Burns, and more kilts, sporrans, and gillies than you can shake a stick at! The Scottish settlers and local Māori came together in relative peace, but this wasn't true of the European whalers who were here three decades before, as places with names such as Murdering Beach illustrate. Dunedin has always had a reputation for the eccentric. Wearing no shoes and a big beard here marks a man as bohemian rather than destitute, and the residents wouldn't have it any other way. The University of Otago was the country's first university and has been drawing writers ever since its founding in 1871, most notably Janet Frame and the poet James K. Baxter. Dunedin also has a musical heritage, which blossomed into the "Dunedin Sound" of the 1970s and '80s.

Highlights

Highlights

Visit the geothermal area of Wai-o-Tapu with its hot springs, mud pools, and famous Lady Knox Geyser
Zodiac to White Island and cross the crater floor of New Zealand's only active volcano on foot
Taste wines in Napier, New Zealand's oldest wine-makeing region known for its award-winning red wines
Birdwatch on Motuara, an Island Bird Sanctuary free of predators
Explore Fiorland National Park, a World Heritage Site with breathtaking views of Milford Sound
Watch for Fiordland and Little Blue Penguins, Humpback, Minke, Sei, Fin, and Pilot whales

Details

Length: 11 days
Cost From: $7700  
Arrive: Auckland, New Zealand
Depart: Dunedin, New Zealand
Lodging: 10 nights aboard a 144-passenger expedition vessel
Meals: All meals aboard ship included (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Walking, Wildlife & Natural History, Photography, Whale Watching, Small Ship Cruising
Trip Level:

10-day cruise, cultural explorations and walking tours
Cruise collection 2020 brochure

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