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Snares Penguin on The Snares Island

Subantarctic Discovery

Roundtrip Dunedin - Example 15 Day Cruise aboard Douglas Mawson
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Embark on a 15-day Subantarctic Discovery Expedition Cruise roundtrip Dunedin, New Zealand aboard Douglas Mawson to explore the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Australian and New Zealand Subantarctic Islands. Discover the rugged beauty and rich wildlife of Stewart and Ulva Islands. Observe endemic birds like the brown kiwi and flightless weka, and enjoy the flowering rātā. Experience the majestic fjords of Fiordland before joining Zodiac cruise, spotting Snares crested penguins and Buller's albatross. In Campbell Island, walk through megaherb moors to see nesting southern royal albatross. Explore rātā forests, spot mollymawks, and learn about Auckland Islands’s history. This trip offers a rare chance to explore the pristine subantarctic islands and their diverse ecosystems.
Coastal beauty of DunedinStewart Island, New ZealandLake and mountains in Milford Sound, South Island, New ZealandSouthern Royal Albatross at Campbell IslandRock Tor Above Rugged, Islands Rakiura, Stewart Island, New ZealandTwo Yellow Eyed Penguins in New ZealandSnares Penguin on The Snares Island
  • Cross the Drake Passage to explore the White Continent
  • Encounter the diverse wildlife that calls the Antarctic Peninsula home
  • Enjoy Zodiac excursions, shore landings, and optional polar plunge activities
  • Attend lectures and capture memorable moments in the pristine wilderness
Activity Level: Variable
Activity options vary depending on destination and operator. Activity level is determined by the range and intensity of activities you choose to participate in. Discuss with your Trip Planner which options are best for you.

Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Arrive Dunedin

Arrive in Dunedin, where a representative meets you and transfers you to your pre-voyage hotel. If you are already in Dunedin, please head directly to your hotel. This afternoon, visit the hospitality desk in the lobby to collect your luggage tags and label them with your name and cabin number. The team confirms embarkation details, answers any questions, and provides information on dining and last-minute shopping.

In the evening, enjoy light refreshments at the Welcome Reception and Pre-Embarkation Briefing, meeting your fellow expeditioners. Afterwards, spend your evening exploring Dunedin, dining at local restaurants, or strolling along Otago Harbour.

Assigned accommodation: To be advised.

Day 2: Dunedin | Embarkation

This morning, enjoy breakfast and check out. Ensure your cabin luggage has tags clearly labeled with your name and cabin number. By 11:00 am, bring your cabin luggage to the hotel reception, either before or at check-out. Your luggage will be stored and transferred directly to the port for clearance and placed in your cabin ahead of your arrival on board. Keep any valuables or personal items with you throughout the day.

Spend your morning exploring Dunedin at your leisure.

Settle into your cabin, designed for your comfort. Explore the luxurious vessel. Set sail, join your expedition team on deck before enjoying a delicious dinner and toasting to the voyage ahead.

Day 3: Stewart Island (Rakiura)

Stewart Island (Rakiura) is the northernmost of the New Zealand subantarctic islands and a sanctuary for many rare and endemic species. Plan to visit the quaint fishing village of Oban, the southernmost settlement in New Zealand, where humans are outnumbered by brown kiwis (southern tokoeka). As you wander along the beach, keep an eye out for blue penguins (korora) and yellow-eyed penguins (hoiho) waddling along the rocky coast, and New Zealand white-capped albatross soaring overhead.

In the afternoon land on Ulva Island to experience New Zealand as it may have been centuries ago, before humans arrived. A series of successful pest eradication programs have made the island a sanctuary for endangered and endemic birds, including some 18 natives. Meander through cool forests of ferns, mosses and ancient conifers, where birdsong abounds. Scan the understorey for the elusive endemic South Island Rifleman (Tītipounamu), Yellowhead (Mohoua) and South Island Saddleback (Tieke).

Day 4: Fiordland (Te Rua-o-te-moko)

Delight in the company of inquisitive cetaceans as you cruise the deep glacial sounds of Fiordland. Rug up and find a spot on deck as travelers wend their way through the many uninhabited islands scattered across the area. Bottlenose dolphins, playful fur seals and humpback whales are frequent visitors, and keen observers may be rewarded with a rare sighting of the Fiordland crested penguin (tawaki).

Day 5: Snares Islands (Tini Heke)

The cluster of craggy islands and islets that make up the Snares is the most untouched of the antipodean subantarctic groups. Despite their relative proximity to New Zealand’s South Island, the Snares have remained free from introduced land predators, making them an invaluable sanctuary for millions of shearwaters, petrels and other seabirds.

Rug up, hop into a Zodiac and experience the bustling coastline of the Snares from sea level. Keep watch for endemic Snares crested penguins and Buller’s albatross (toroa) with their distinctive black and yellow beaks. You may spot sea lions dozing in grassy glades, or perhaps catch a glimpse of the tiny Snares Island tomtit flitting amongst tree daisies.

Embrace the spirit of exploration as your expedition team designs your voyage from day to day, bringing decades of experience to selecting the ideal sites based on the prevailing weather, ice conditions and wildlife opportunities.

Day 6-7: At Sea

After several busy days of subantarctic exploration, relax and unwind your way, perhaps meeting newfound friends at the bar, treating yourself to a sauna, or editing some images in the comfort of your cabin.

Join your expedition team in the lecture room to hear about the fascinating human history of Macquarie Island and learn how to identify the unique and charismatic creatures that call it home. Of course, the best place on board is out on deck, in the company of petrels and albatross soaring effortlessly with the wind.

Day 8-9: Macquarie Island

As they sailed towards Antarctica, Mawson and his men encountered ‘an exquisite scene’. Macquarie Island (known affectionately as Macca) rises steeply from the Southern Ocean in a series of emerald summits: a beautifully fierce, elemental landscape teeming with life.   

Keep your binoculars handy because this subantarctic refuge is home to 3.5 million breeding seabirds, including no less than four species of penguin! Alongside boisterous colonies of tuxedoed kings, charming gentoos, robust rockhoppers and endemic royal penguins, you’ll find three types of fur seals and a large proportion of the world’s elephant seals. Layer up and head out on deck to experience the sound, sight (and smell!) as you approach one of the largest concentrations of life in the Southern Ocean.

Remember to keep an eye out for Macca’s kelp forests—these remarkable underwater ecosystems are quite mesmerising as their fronds sway back and forth on the water’s surface.

In addition to being a globally recognised and protected wildlife refuge, Macquarie Island played an important role in Antarctic history. It was here, in 1911, that five men disembarked Mawson’s Aurora and established a radio relay station which would transmit the first communication from Antarctica to the outside world.

Day 10: At Sea

Leave the grandeur of Macquarie Island - and southernmost destination - behind, but the voyage is far from over. There’s still plenty of time to enjoy the magic of the Southern Ocean and the seabirds that call it home. Grab a cuppa and duck into the lecture room to learn about the unique wildlife and historic sites ahead and meet your new travel mates in the bar to reminisce on your experiences so far.

As you approach Campbell Island it’s worth heading out on deck to watch for the rare Campbell, Salvins and white-capped albatross, which may accompany us as we sail their home waters.

Day 11-13: New Zealand's Subantarctic Islands

First visited by Māori navigators centuries ago, these islands are of great significance to Ngāi Tahu, the indigenous peoples of New Zealand’s South Island. Their natural beauty and astonishing biodiversity have now been recognised globally, but few have had the privilege to visit these far-flung shores, which are now yours to explore.

Day 14: At Sea

As your journey draws to a close, take some time to reflect on the experiences of the past two weeks. You may like to review your photos, jot some notes in your journal or simply relax and soak up the ambiance on board as you farewell your travel mates . . . until next time!

We hope you become ambassadors for the great Southern Ocean, advocating for its conservation and preservation, and share your experiences with your loved ones, so they might visit and become ambassadors themselves.

Day 15: Dunedin | Disembark

  • 1 Breakfast
After breakfast, farewell your expedition team and fellow passengers as travelers continue their onward journeys, hopefully with a newfound sense of the immense power of nature.

Note: At the conclusion of the voyage, it is not recommended to book flights departing prior to 12.00 pm on the day of disembarkation in case there are delays.


Douglas Mawson

Dates & Prices

My Preferred Start Date

Per person starting at
$15,295 2-3 travelers
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Aurora Stateroom Single
Cabin size: 9.85m2 (106ft2) There are two Aurora Stateroom Single cabins featuring portholes, all with private en-suites. Located on Deck 3, they're close to the mudroom and loading platforms.
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Aurora Stateroom Superior Single
Deck 3 Cabin size: 15.18m2 (163.4ft2) Deck 7 Cabin size: 10.97m2 (118.1ft2 ) There are four Aurora Stateroom Superior Single cabins featuring portholes, all with private en-suites. Located on Decks 3 & 7.
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Aurora Stateroom Triple
Cabin size: 22.57m2 (242.9ft2) There are two Aurora Stateroom Triple cabins featuring portholes, both with private en-suites. Located on Deck 3, they're close to the mudroom and loading platforms.
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Aurora Stateroom Twin
Cabin size: 15.37m² - 15.97m² (165.4ft² - 171.9ft²) The Douglas Mawson features two Aurora Stateroom Twin cabins featuring windows, all with private en-suites. Located on Deck 3, they're close to the mudroom and loading platforms, perfect for adventurers who are looking for a comfortable base that's close to the action.
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Aurora Stateroom Superior
Cabin size: 13.97m2 - 16.17m2 (150.4ft2 - 174.1ft2) With a bit more room to stretch the legs, the Aurora Stateroom Superior are perfect for polar adventurers who travel with plenty of gear. Located on Deck 7, the Staterooms feature french balconies, floor to ceiling windows, en-suite bathrooms and a comfortable desk area.
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Balcony Stateroom Category C
Cabin & balcony combined size: 21.07m2 - 26.77m2 (226.8ft² - 288.2ft2) There are three cabin categories of the Balcony Staterooms. These are classified as A, B or C depending on the cabin size.
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Balcony Stateroom Category B
Cabin & balcony combined size: 21.07m2 - 26.77m2 (226.8ft² - 288.2ft2) There are three cabin categories of the Balcony Staterooms. These are classified as A, B or C depending on the cabin size.
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Balcony Stateroom Category A
Cabin & balcony combined size: 21.07m2 - 26.77m2 (226.8ft² - 288.2ft2) There are three cabin categories of the Balcony Staterooms. These are classified as A, B or C depending on the cabin size.
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Balcony Stateroom Superior
Cabin & balcony combined size: 27.77m2 - 36.27m2 (298.9ft2 - 390.4ft2) With a bit more room to stretch the legs, the Balcony Stateroom Superior cabins are perfect for polar adventurers who travel with plenty of gear.
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Junior Suite
Cabin & balcony combined size: Up to 41.47m2 - 41.87m2 (446.4ft2 - 450.7ft2) The four Junior Suites take in some impressive scenery from their vantage points on Deck 7. When you aren't enjoying a landing, you can relax in the suites' separate lounge area, or just watch the world float by from the private balcony.
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Captain’s Suite
Cabin & balcony combined size: 45.22m2 (486.7ft2) The largest of all our rooms, the singular Captain's Suite will take you to the polar regions in ultimate style and comfort. Complete with large lounge area, balcony, walk-in wardrobe and en-suite, you'll need to get in early to secure this suite.
  • 13 Breakfasts, 12 Lunches, 13 Dinners
  • 14 Nights Accommodations
  • Accommodations as listed
  • Ground transportation as listed
  • Activities as listed
  • Meals as listed
  • Access to a 24-7 Emergency line while traveling
  • Comprehensive pre-departure information
  • Beer, House Wine, and Soft Drinks with Dinner 
  • Educational Lectures and Guiding Services from Expedition Team 
  • Complimentary access to onboard expedition doctor and medical clinic (initial consult)
  • Port Surcharges, Permits, and Landing Fees
  • Captain's Welcome and Farewell drinks including four-course dinner, house cocktails, house beer and wine, non-alcoholic beverages.
  • A 3-in-1 waterproof polar expedition jacket
  • Complimentary use of Muck boots during the voyage
  • All shore excursions and Zodiac cruises
  • All airport transfers mentioned in the itinerary.
  • On-board accommodation during voyage including daily cabin service
  • One night hotel accommodation including breakfast, in Dunedin on Day 1
  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal Expenses
  • Flight costs (please request a quote)
  • Additional excursions during free time
  • Fuel and transportation surcharges (when applicable)
  • Passport and Applicable Visa Expenses
  • Airport Departure Tax - Airport arrival or departure taxes
  • Alcoholic beverages and soft drinks (outside of dinner service), laundry services, personal clothing, medical expenses, Wi-Fi, email or phone charges
  • Hotels and meals not included in itinerary
  • Optional activity surcharges
  • Reciprocity and Vaccination Charges
  • Passengers traveling with Aurora Expeditions are required to be covered by a reputable travel insurance policy that includes baggage loss, cancellation & curtailment of the holiday, medical, accident, and repatriation/emergency evacuation coverage worth at least $250,000 USD.


When to Go

Good to ideal period to travel, and many people choose to visit at this time.


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Our guide and driver were very good with their knowledge and were very helpful with our questions. It was a very pleasant visit that would have been impossible to do on our own. Hotels and restaurants were fantastic. The special places we got to go to, like the kitchens, were great. Enjoyed the entire trip!
Meyer Smolen

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