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Explore over 7,000-kilometres of New Zealand’s spectacular East Coast on this breathtaking 13-day expedition cruise from Auckland to Milford.
Tucked away at the bottom of the world, New Zealand is a country of stunning and diverse natural beauty: tropical beaches, snow-capped mountains, sparkling fiords, raging rivers and active volcano zones. Whether you’re into nature and hiking or indulging in fine food and wine, New Zealand has no shortage of things to see and do. Luckily for you, this thrilling cruise leaves no stone unturned on an epic journey from north to south.
Commencing in Auckland, this immersive cruise aboard the Coral Geographer explores New Zealand’s spectacular coastline, vibrant and charming east coast towns, and the deep and quiet fiords of Southland. You’ll receive a warm Maori welcome at a traditional Marae, and sample some of ...
Commencing in Auckland, this immersive cruise aboard the Coral Geographer explores New Zealand’s spectacular coastline, vibrant and charming east coast towns, and the deep and quiet fiords of Southland. You’ll receive a warm Maori welcome at a traditional Marae, and sample some of the country’s best food and wine in the Art Deco capital of Hawke’s Bay. You’ll retrace the path of Captain James Cook in the Marlborough Sounds, discover the history of Ship Cove and walk a section of the famous Queen Charlotte Track. You’ll also spend time on Stewart and Ulva Island, with opportunities for endemic bird watching and a chance to hike the Rakiura Track. Your journey culminates with an exploration of Fiordland’s most beautiful Sounds – the astonishing and rarely-visited Dusky and Doubtful Sounds, Thomson Sound and the majestic Milford Sound.
This once-in-a-lifetime expedition cruise includes 12-nights aboard the Coral Geographer on a twin share basis. Catering to 99 passengers, this luxurious vessel is purpose-built to take you closer to unspoilt vistas in comfort, style and safety. Her shallow draught and manoeuvrability allow her to reach some of New Zealand’s most remote and rarely visited coastlines, while her tender vessels enable you to venture even further. She even has 6 bridge deck suites with horizon bathtubs.
All meals are included onboard. The approach to cuisine is about simplicity and generosity, creating dishes bursting with flavour made from fresh ingredients sourced locally and sustainably wherever possible. Activities and experiences are also included as per the itinerary. An expert crew are at your service at all times.
Do New Zealand – and do it right – on this immersive 13-day expedition cruise from North to South. The diverse landscapes and exciting experiences will capture your heart.
Vessel & Cabin Type Please refer to the 'Vessel, Cabin & Fares' section below.
Dates or itinerary don't fit? We are specialising in bespoke "tailor-made" luxury or private journeys. Please contact us for a "tailor-made" itinerary for your perfect adventure.
This tour is eligible to earn ONLYLUXE reward points.
Commencing in Auckland, board the Coral Geographer at 3:30pm for a 5:00pm departure. Settle into your cabin and get to know the vessel as you cruise into the Hauraki Gulf, with its string of islands guarding the harbour, including the iconic Rangitoto Island – a dormant volcano. Take in the sights while enjoying the Captain’s Welcome Drinks and meeting the crew and your fellow passengers.
Explore the raw beauty of the world’s youngest geothermal site on a guided, ecology-focused adventure among the craters of the wonderous Waimangu Volcanic Valley. This exciting geothermal attraction has a very unique ecology, with rare botany and plenty of fascinating geothermal features.
See the hypnotic steam rising from the Echo Crater, marvel at the fizzling Frying Pan Lake (the world’s largest hot spring) and take in the beauty and dazzling blue of the Inferno Crater hot lake. The newly forming silica terraces are also a highlight. At any stage during your walk, you can jump on board a courtesy shuttle that regularly circles the valley back to the Waimangu Visitor Centre.
Arrive at Gisborne, the gateway to Eastland, with its beautiful coastline, art deco buildings and rich history. Captain James Cook first came ashore in New Zealand here in 1769, and the European settlers met with the local Maori tribes on the banks of the Tūranganui River. Old Maori traditions also record this region, specifically Titirangi Hill as the point of arrival for the first Maori canoe to arrive in the area.
Come ashore for a tour of the small township of Tolaga Bay, where you will be welcomed at the Hauiti Marae. Enjoy a traditional Maori welcome and the Kapa Haka cultural show, with a guided viewing of the cultural landscape. Take the opportunity to visit the historic Tolaga Bay wharf before returning to the vessel.
Hawke’s Bay is also New Zealand’s Art Deco capital, with the city of Napier rebuilt in the architectural style of the time following the devastating 1931 earthquake. In Napier, you will find many fine wineries as well as fabulous restaurants, bars and cafes. The boutique shops are a must-visit, as is the Sea Walls collection of magnificent murals painted on more than 50 walls around the city. Grab a map and walk or ride around the city to see them up close.
Two tour options are available here. You can tour the city to uncover its remarkable architecture and history – from the earthquake and rebuilding, through to the growth of the vibrant wine industry, and finishing with a flight of wines at New Zealand’s oldest winery, Mission Estate Winery. Alternatively, enjoy an excursion to the world’s largest mainland gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers, with spectacular views of this dramatic coastline.
Cruise across the Cook Strait that separates the North and South Islands to arrive at the magnificent Marlborough Sounds. The ancient river valleys that form the Sounds make up 20% of New Zealand’s coastline. The webs of sunken channels are surrounded by forest-cloaked peaks and vineyards, all of which present a breathtaking view from any perspective. This lush region produces much of New Zealand’s seafood, and 80% of its wine. The fertile soil in this region supported the country’s first known Polynesian settlement in the late 1200s AD at Wairau Bar.
In the late afternoon, follow the path of Captain Cook to Ship Cove, where he spent a total of 120 days. It is here that you will drop anchor to ring in the New Year. Enjoy a special feast featuring a selection of Marlborough Sounds produce and world-renowned wines.
Spend New Year’s Day exploring the fiord-like Queen Charlotte Sound (Totaranui) and surrounds. Discover the dolphins and seals of the Sound, with marine spotting from the Xplorer, and enjoy wonderful birdwatching on walks through Motuara Island birdlife sanctuary. Guided by your expedition team and lecturers, there will be options to hike a section of the spectacular Queen Charlotte Track, the finest and most diverse coastal track in New Zealand (shorter walks also available).
The history of the region is also brought to life with further time in Ship Cove, where informative storyboards tell the story of Captain Cook’s time here. Finish the day with a scenic cruise up the length of the Sound before departing for your next destination.
Spend the day explore the snow-dusted Kaikoura Ranges, renowned as possibly the best whale watching destination in the world. This is one of the very few places it is possible to observe the Sperm Whale! Aboard a small, specialised vessel, you will explore the ocean in search of these amazing mammals, as well as fur seals, dusky and Hector’s dolphins and other migratory whales.
Kaikoura means ‘to eat crayfish’, and you will have the opportunity to taste the delicious local seafood. You will also have the opportunity walk through this small town to visit the museums, galleries, and cafes, before joining the expedition team on a guided walk over the peninsula to marvel at the spectacular scenery.
Sail into the long harbour of Akaroa, formed by the beached volcanic crater that makes up the Banks Peninsula. The village of Akaroa has the unique identity of being the only French settlement in New Zealand, and its charming cottages and French street names still carry that identity today.
Ringed by the pastoral rolling hills of the Peninsula, the scenic village was once a bustling whaling outpost. Here, you have a choice of two included excursions: a harbour cruise with a local operator to spot marine wildlife or a visit to a traditional hill country farm operated by 7th generation descendants of the earliest French settlers on Banks Peninsula.
You will also have free time to explore the scenic village and visit cafes showcasing fabulous French cuisine. Barrys Bay Cheese, for example, has persevered with original methods for over a century. During milking season, every second day, you can watch their award-winning cheeses being made through the gallery window.
If you’re feeling energetic, the expedition team is also happy to lead you on a variety of short walks to attractions such as Newton’s Waterfall.
Continue onto Dunedin, founded by Scottish migrants in 1848. One of New Zealand’s first 3 cities, Dunedin was built on the riches of the gold rush, and this legacy lives on in one of the best collections of Edwardian and Victorian architecture in the Southern Hemisphere. Gothic church spires, ornate mansions, grand buildings, intriguing alleyways and picturesque gardens are woven through the city central, which is full of bustling cafes, shopping boutiques and outstanding street art.
You will have time to explore the city at your leisure. You might visit the famous Speight’s Brewery, the Otago Museum, the Dunedin Public Art Gallery or New Zealand’s oldest botanical gardens. There will also be a choice of included excursions with local operators – choose between a coach tour of the Otago Peninsula’s most scenic beaches and Dunedin’s highlights, or a railway journey through the rugged and spectacular Taieri River Gorge.
Make your way down New Zealand’s east coast to the southern tip and beyond. Here, you will find Stewart Island (Rakiura), New Zealand’s third largest island, situated 30-kilometres (19mi) across the Foveaux Strait. Over 85% of the island is national park and a haven for brown kiwi (tokoeka), which outnumber humans on the island and are active day and night. Blue and Yellow-eyed penguins are also seen waddling among the rocks.
In the evening, look up to learn why the Māori refer to Stewart Island as ‘the land of glowing skies’. The Aurora Australis must be seen to be believed!
Venture over to nearby Ulva Island to discover a predator-free bird sanctuary. With a local guide, explore pristine beaches and forests and look out for dozens of native bird species including South Island Saddleback, Yellowhead, Rifleman and Stewart Island Robin. You might also spot a few fur seals lazing on the shore.
After the tour, there will be free time to explore the village of Oban and embark on a guided Xplorer cruise to the historic Prices Point Whaling Station. Established in 1926, the Norwegian-owned base was used as a repair site for whaling operations in Antarctica’s Ross Sea until 1932.
If you’re feeling energetic, there will also be an opportunity to walk a section of the iconic Rakiura Track, before heading off to Bluff for a brief stop ahead of the cruise to Fiordland.
Delve deep into the fantastical world of Fiordland National Park. Once described as the Eighth Wonder of the World, this UNESCO World Heritage-listed site is characterised by 14 fiords carving through just 215-kilometres (134mi) of coastline. These fiords were carved by glaciers over thousands of years, and you will see waterfalls cascading down the sheer cliffs, rainforest cloaking the steep ridges, and granite peaks reflected in the deep, shimmering waters.
Enter Fiordland at the dramatic Dusky Sound (Tamatea). Inaccessible by road, Dusky Sound is the largest and most complex of the sounds. It is also a designated Important Bird Area for the Fiordland Penguins that breed here. Explore the islands and inlets by Zodiac and look out for fur seals in Luncheon Cove. You may also have the opportunity to visit the site where the scientific team from HMB Endeavour set up their equipment.
In the afternoon, retrace Captain Cook’s journey through the Acheron Passage to Breaksea Sound (Te Puaitaha). It is easy to imagine the small wooden Endeavour being dwarfed on all sides by the steep sided fiords and encircled by the blanketing silence of the fog-cloaked peaks.
Cruise through Thompson Sound (Te Awa-o-Tū) and Blanket Bay into Doubtful Sound (Patea), the deepest and widest fiord in the national park. The stillness and silence of this fiord is compelling and unforgettable, broken only by birdsong and the distant rumble of waterfalls.
Tonight, enjoy the Captain’s Farewell Drinks.
Your journey culminates in the majestic Milford Sound (Piopiotahi), New Zealand’s most stunning natural attraction.
Cruise beneath Mitre Peak, which rises over 1692-metres (5551ft) above sea level. Its triangular silhouette rises opposite stunning Stirling Falls, falling from the top of a 162-metre (531ft) high cliff between two towering ridges into the inky dark water. You may have a chance to feel the spray from the waterfall. According to Maori legend, it will make you ten years younger! You will also visit Harrison Cove and Bowen Falls.
At 8:00am, it’s time to say goodbye. Disembark and transfer by coach to Queenstown. The coach arrives in Queenstown at approximately 1:30pm.
NOTE: The itinerary is indicative. No two expedition cruises will be the same, with each expedition crafted by the experienced Masters and Expedition Leaders. Throughout the expedition we may make changes to the itinerary as necessary to maximise your expeditionary experience. Allowances may be made for seasonal variations, weather, tidal conditions and any other event that may affect the operation of the vessel. We suggest that you do not arrive on the day of embarkation or depart on the day of disembarkation due to any changes that may occur in scheduling.
Please enquire about vessel and cabin type. Please refer to the 'Vessel, Cabin & Fares' section below.
The start point is Auckland, New Zealand .
The finish point is Queenstown, New Zealand.
New Zealand has a largely temperate climate. While the far north has subtropical weather during summer, and inland alpine areas of the South Island can be as cold as – 10°C (14°F) in winter, most of the country lies close to the coast, which means mild temperatures, moderate rainfall, and abundant sunshine.
Because New Zealand lies in the Southern Hemisphere, the average temperature decreases as you travel south. The far north of the country has an average temperature of about 15°C (59°F), while the deep south has a cooler 9°C (48°F) average. January and February are the warmest months of the year, and July is the coldest.