Arrive in Queenstown, New Zealand, and transfer to your hotel. Spend the afternoon at your leisure before gathering in the evening for a welcome reception and dinner.
Choose one of three excursion options for your day, each of which were 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.
In the morning, take a scenic drive to Milford Sound and board the Oceanic Discoverer. Part of UNESCO World Heritage, 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.
New Zealand’s deepest fjord is a nearly uninhabited wilderness of breathtaking beauty. During a day of expedition cruising watch for New Zealand fur seals, bottlenose dolphins, and the rare Fjordland crested penguins. 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.
Breaksea and Dusky Sound’s luxuriant rain forests, wooded islands, and waterways are home to many bird species, including bellbirds, tuis, and the kereru, a large native wood pigeon. 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.
Peaceful Stewart Island is home to fewer than 500 inhabitants. 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, the ship follows the eastern coastline to Dunedin.
Arrive in port in the 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.
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 Center. Or, explore the volcanic landscape of the nearby Bank Peninsula, and watch for the world’s rarest marine dolphin in the local waters.
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. 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.
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. 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.
Relax onboard as you sail through the Tory channel and continue up the eastern side of the North Island.
When an earthquake and its subsequent fires destroyed much of Napier 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.
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 a guided, easy hike and witness bubbling fumaroles, hissing steam vents, and bright yellow chimneys of sulphur crystals.
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.
Disembark in Auckland in the morning and discover the charms of the 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. In the afternoon, transfer to the airport for your independent onward travel.