Wilderness Cruises Around New Zealand
There's a lot of water in and around New Zealand. And many ways to enjoy it. One of the easiest is on a small boat or small ship cruise, regardless of whether you want to explore at sea or on a lake. And if you are arriving or leaving New Zealand by cruise ship we can choose an itinerary that will have you up close and personal with the local wilderness environment.
The options are far-reaching and exciting, so let's start at the top. The Bay of Islands is a magical spot where you can join half day through to multi-day cruises, either staying in the confines of the larger bay or heading out along the coast. Moving south to Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf offers many cruise options, with most leaving from the seaward end of the city's main street. The east coast of the North Island has cruises leaving from harbours on the Coromandel Peninsula and the Bay of Plenty. Inland many of the larger lakes also offer cruises, and these are a great option for anyone who doesn't like the motion of the sea.
The Marlborough Sounds, at the top of the South Island is made up of myriad waterways, each with a story to tell. Further south there are also many small to midsize cruise options, either on the inland lakes or the deep, mysterious waters of Fiordland. Stewart Island, a smaller island off the bottom of the South Island, has some startlingly beautiful coastline to be explored. And finally, there are several cruises a year that head down to the sub-Antarctic Islands deep down in the Southern Ocean latitudes. These are absolute bucket list trips for many but need to be booked well ahead of your arrival in New Zealand.
We'll help you find something to suit wherever in New Zealand you are planning to travel. Below is a summary of the main cruising options - take your pick of the style of cruise you want to do and we will find a suitable experience for you - email us for more info.
Bay of Islands
This large sparkling bay on the top right hand side of Northland is home to 144 islands. Most are uninhabited apart from seabirds, fish, some sheep and a few scattered beach houses. It is an idyllic place where you can paddle between islands for a day or stay overnight. Or take a scenic cruise out to the Hole in the Rock and nearby islands. The historic Cream Trip takes you to outlying islands to deliver mail and supplies to those who live there, then heads along the coast to Cape Brett. This trip follows the original route of the supply service that started 90 years ago. Most of these cruises allow time to stop and swim on a beach or boom-net out on the open water. Yacht charters and cruises are also available if sailing and its many quiet anchorages appeal. Keen fishermen can also join a scheduled fishing cruise or charter a larger boat and head to sea to catch marlin or tuna. These are often overnight trips.
Hauraki Gulf & the Coromandel Peninsula
Made famous by the America's Cup challenges in the early 2000s, the Hauraki Gulf is also a local boaties' paradise. Literally thousands of locals own boats and they all enjoy cruising the islands and waterways of the Hauraki Gulf. And as a traveller you can also get to many of these places with the cruise operators out of Auckland city. Head off to Waiheke Island and its art and wines for a day, or climb the volcanic cone on Rangitoto Island. Cruise a little further up the coast to visit the very special predator-free wildlife sanctuary that is Tiritiri Matangi Island. Wander up to the lighthouse, watch some of the rare and unusual birds you'll see in the bush, or join a guided walk and learn as you go. You can also take a boat across from Auckland to the Coromandel Peninsula, saving a 2-3 hour drive. Once at Coromandel you can stay a few days and rent a car, or join a local tour, and explore this very beautiful peninsula with its gorgeous beaches, lush forest and quiet little bays.
With a coastline of almost 1,500 kms, starting in Cloudy Bay to the east and ending in Tasman Bay on the west, the Marlborough Sounds is a vast collection of waterways. Opening off the tempestuous Cook Strait in several places, it can be a wild, invigorating place. At other times it can be as calm as a lake, shining blue in the sun. Each of the two main waterways - Queen Charlotte Sound and Pelorus Sound, and lined by hundreds of tiny bays, many only having sea access. D'Urville Island, out on the western edge of the Sounds, is also a fabulous place to spend time. To experience the Marlborough Sounds at their best, join an overnight cruise and wake in the morning to the sound of native birds in the trees onshore. There are also several day cruises where you can join a Mail Boat and deliver supplies and mail to residents of these isolated spots, and there are also a number of fishing charters, either single day or overnight trips throughout this vast region. There's a long history of Maori and early European visits and settlements throughout the many bays and these can be visited on various nature cruises. Visit historic places, see dolphins, sea birds and predator-free island reserves.
Fiordland & Further South
Similar to the Marlborough Sounds, Fiordland is a large area of deeply dissected valleys filled with sea. But that's about where the similarities end. Fiordland is intense, with big weather, massive mountains, deep water, an interesting ecology, and a haunting isolation. It's a fabulous place to spend time. There are a number of options to get you out on the water, from half day cruises to 7 days or longer. Some of these day trip are on the big catamarans out of Milford Sound and Manapouri, while the longer trips are on small expedition type boats and bigger vessels. Some of these trips are purely sightseeing while others allow scuba diving, fishing, kayaking and hiking. Stewart Island lies off the bottom of the South Island and is a 1 hour ferry ride across Foveaux Strait. The island has a small town and not much else, but has vast areas of native forest, empty beaches, wild hills and intriguing wildlife. There are several operators offering small boat cruises, usually just for the day as the weather is very unpredictable in these waters. And there are a few opportunities each year to join a longer cruise around the island's coast. And further south still, there are small ship expedition cruises leaving New Zealand each year for the sub-Antarctic Islands, including Campbell Island the Auckland Islands. These are highly sought after and need to be booked well in advance - ask us for more info.